While remembering Paris, let’s not forget many more victims of terror left unmourned

Yonden Lhatoo argues that a life is a life, whether in Paris or Palestine, and terror must be condemned in all its forms in every corner of the globe

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 November, 2015, 7:18pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 February, 2016, 11:41am

Like most people around the world, I’m stunned and outraged by the terrorist attacks in Paris.

I’m also struck by the outpouring of sympathy for the victims as people across the globe express their solidarity with the citizens of France.

Truly, we are all connected to each other through technological advances that allow empathy to transcend geographical distances and divides, and comfort can be offered across the miles by just the click of a mouse or the tap of finger on a smart phone.

The flood of Facebook users updating their profile pictures to reflect the colours of the French flag is a shining example of this.

But what I find troubling is how, in this day and age, some lives are still considered more valuable than others, and the horror suffered by one city is felt by all, while that of another somehow pales into insignificance.

Just a day before the Paris attacks, two Islamic State suicide bombers slaughtered more than 40 people in Beirut. The victims were mostly Shiite Muslims, and there was no global condemnation of their horrific murders. Because it was “business as usual” in Beirut, I suppose.

Again, there was no global outpouring of grief when, a month before that, nearly 130 people were killed by terrorists who bombed a peace rally in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

An even more abominable atrocity was largely ignored in September when Saudi warplanes backed by the West bombed a Yemeni wedding, massacring more than 130 civilians, mostly women.

The US government’s silence over that slaughter of innocents could be linked to the fact that President Barack Obama has signed more than US$100 billion worth of arms deals with the Saudis. I guess fairness must be bad for business.

I could go on with this list.

Nearly 150, mostly students studying for their exams, gunned down in their classrooms by al-Shabab terrorists who attacked a university in Kenya in April.

Up to 2,000 wiped out in the Nigerian town of Baga in January by the animals who go by the name of Boko Haram. Most victims were children, women and the elderly who could not flee in time when the Islamist militants stormed their town, firing rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles.

Notice the common denominator in all these acts of terror? Most of the victims were Muslims.

The fact is that Muslims in Muslim-majority countries are the biggest demographic when it comes to casualties of Islamic extremism.

It may seem that the West is the main target of Islamic fundamentalists with their twisted ideologies and demented notions of religion but tell that to the millions of Muslims fleeing war and terror in the Middle East and North Africa.

Think about it as you absorb the mainstream narrative post-Paris that Islam is to blame and succumb to the fear-mongering that Muslim refugees flooding into Europe from the Middle East will perpetrate further terror against the West.

Watch as all this feeds into the hateful, anti-immigrant rhetoric of Europe’s growing far-right movement and manifests in the further vilification of Muslim citizens, fuelling reprisal attacks against them.

It will, in turn, breed more resentment among downtrodden and alienated Muslim communities in the West and provide a bigger recruitment pool for murderous terrorist outfits like Islamic State.

As for the disproportionate response to the loss of lives depending on where it happens, it’s easy to blame unfair media coverage. But don’t forget journalists tailor news coverage according to the demands of their audiences, which are now clearly quantifiable through the use of analytical tools showing what readers, listeners and viewers are interested in.

Let’s keep that in mind as we condemn the bloodshed in the French capital in tricolour through our Facebook profiles.

A life is a life, whether it’s in Paris or Palestine.