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Opinion

July 5, 2016

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Whose lives matter?

Why does the international community not stand in solidarity with those who died in Turkey, Bangladesh and Iraq? Why is the same solidarity not extended to these victims as was done in Orlando, San Bernardino, Brussels and Paris?  

Western arm-chair audiences are psychologically conditioned, with almost Pavlovian precision, to feel satisfied with hackneyed half-hearted assurances from Western politicians, whilst millions of refugees risk life and limb, kith and kin and yet remain languishing at the precipice of Europe’s ever-closing borders.

The rise in anti-minority hate crimes in the aftermath of Brexit is also apace with alarming alacrity. Such hatred undermines the West’s moral authority as  ‘lesson-givers’          when their own backyards are heaving with fascist far-right fundamentalist racists. Assuming that all Brexit  ‘Leave’ campaigners are racists is as puerile as thinking that all Muslims are rabid terrorists.

Media coverage purposely underplays hate crimes, which is a move beyond bias towards pure propaganda. That racism has risen post-Brexit is undeniable.

One week of political unrest and thousands seek to depart from the UK – as opposed to five years of the worst modern war in Syria and some still wonder why Syrians are leaving their homeland.                      

The superiority clichés of ‘might is right and might is white’                  divisively drive a wedge between communities,           exacerbating the worst of    Trumpism and Faragism,     a political zeitgeist gaining traction from fear by appealing to our basest instincts. Such exclusionary selective notions of solidarity wreak more marginalisation than any military misadventure of reorganising the map for convenient regime change. Speaking of   ‘military misadventures’       , at the dawn of the Chilcot findings, let us see if anyone is declared a        ‘war criminals’.

Unlike the unspeakably horrid terror assaults at the Orlando night club or Paris Bataclan, terrorism in Istanbul, Dhaka or Iraq is considered unworthy of week-long investigations. UEFA, the football organisation, even denied a        ‘moment of silence’ for the Istanbul airport victims.       

Social media users displaying pictures of a Turkish or Bangladeshi flag background are far and few between. Why should the Eiffel Tower not be lit red and white with the Turkish flag? Where are the fusillade of celeb Facebook status updates and tear-jerking tweets about the massacres in Dhaka, Istanbul and Iraq? 

Where are the ‘Je suis Istanbul’ or ‘Je suis Dhaka’ incantations? When are global leaders congregating in Istanbul and Dhaka for funeral memorial services? So far, human empathy is yet to evolve from stale diplo-speak statements of the glaringly obvious.

When a devastating assault like Paris or Orlando occurs, the world is forced to mourn (rightly so)     yet when psychopathic suicide bombers blow themselves up or kill in Bardo, Bangladesh, Beirut, Bamako, Baghdad, Ankara or Istanbul, no one flinches, it only merits momentary cursory news coverage.

The populists, pseudo-intellectuals, mouthy preachers of our moral exasperation, political pundits have stage-managed to outmanoeuvre our better judgement by broadcasting        naïve   cognitive dissonance: when Westerners are killed by terrorist attacks it’s a tragedy when “they” (Arabs, Africans, Turks) are massacred by terrorism, it’s but an ill-fated normality in a destabilised region.

Such biased conjecture assumes servile generalisations about the Arab, African and Muslim world – contending that violence there is an inherent measure of life. Such insular Orientalist tribalism, an ethno-centric bigoted biased worldview, and the ignorance it brews are an uninviting symptom of our moral double-standards.    

Millions in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan, Syria and Kashmir are innocent law-abiding citizens caught in the quagmire of daily terror and stereotypical labelling. History will eventually shake out the        truth,  but till then let us  sympathise with these people, offer them the media coverage they deserve. Some lives should never matter more than others.

Over the years, partly by default and partly by design, there has developed an unhealthy hierarchy of valuing lives.

It is upon the journalists of today to remain true to themselves, and treat all people as ‘equal’ rather than an Orwellian ‘some are born more equal than others’. Arabs and Africans are being slaughtered silently, capturing much less sound bites than the most brain-dead of celebrity scoops.

This is not some Utopian pacifist plea towards a ‘victimhood’ mentality, but a realist mind-shift to help us contain radicalism. Minorities are our greatest ally in countering extremism. As long as we remain dismissively unsympathetic to them, it will be increasingly tough to overthrow the Isis death cult.

To rid the world of extremism we need a more nuanced, balanced, inclusive, community-centred media coverage, where all minorities, of all hues and religions, are equal shapers and stakeholders.

The writer is a freelance contributor.

Email: [email protected]       

Twitter: @ozerkhalid

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