Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
Published On: Sat, Nov 14th, 2015

#PrayForParis – when compassion is selective

It is only now that we realize the seriousness of ISIS’ rampage. As the threat is approaching our borders and security, we condemn it. We distance ourselves from it; we weep and express solidarity with the people of France and Paris. But behind our sorrow lurks a colossal hypocrisy.  

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Three-year old Haidar lost both of his parents during the suicide attacks in Beirut, Lebanon.

My mobile phone flashes continously. Notification after notification. Headlines covering the terrorist attacks. Live broadcasts all night long. Sadness and disgust. Hashtags and prayers.

I awake to a Facebook feed coloured in the Tricolour. Suddenly we are all Frenchmen. Our values, freedom and democracy are threatened. The unity and love is heart-warming. At the same time, I cannot help but marvel at the hypocrisy and double standards that lurk behind our grief and fear.

On Thursday, 43 innocent people were killed and about 200 were injured in two consecutive suicide bombings in the Lebanese capital Beirut. ISIS quickly took responsibility for the deadliest attacks in Lebanon since the Israeli invasion of 2006. Who in the West shed a tear for Haidar, the three-year old toddler who saw both of his parents burn to death inside their car? In the hospital bed, where he is being treated for his injuries, he opens his eyes to never again see his mother Leila and his father Hussein. Who paid tribute to Adel who went to his death by preventing the third terrorist from triggering his explosives and thus doubling the death rate? Lebanon is indeed an unstable country, but there is no war. People there live in ways similar to us. They work, party, sleep and love life just like we do.

ISIS is not a new phenomenon. For a couple of years now they have cold-bloodedly executed, tortured, raped and terrorized the people of the Middle East, right before the eyes of the West. Syrians, Kurds, Assyrians, priests, imams, women and children; few have escaped their savagery, but it is only when Westerners are beheaded in live broadcasts that the safeguards of democracy awake and promise retaliation.

François Hollande speaks of revenge and determination; only now should terrorism be destroyed – but not everywhere, only in France. David Cameron draws parallels to common values and suffering; we should now stand up for democracy – but not everywhere, only in the UK. Barack Obama stresses that the attack on Paris is a threat against humanity; we should protect our fellow human beings and freedom – but not everywhere, only in the United States.

The Paris attacks is everyday life in the Middle East and humanity extends far beyond the borders of the West, regardless of what Obama likes to think. Who lights a candle for the children of Syria, the women of Iraq and the elderly of Yemen – all of them victims of ISIS’ cruelty? Who stands up for humanity, all of humanity? Not only the white and the rich. Who weeps over a divided world where the distance between people is increasing and solidarity and unity are nothing more than empty words?

Today we learned that we are in no way united against terrorism as we for so many years have wanted to believe. We condemn and mourn only if it affects us, our lives, our security, our skin colour. The truth is that we are all human beings, but our worth and right to life is determined by our geographical origin and socio-economic opportunities. The truth is that our sorrow and compassion is selective.

Yesterday’s act of madness against the French capital should indeed be condemned. It is completely unacceptable that innocent people, regardless of nationality, fall victims to such relentless violence. But in this desperate hour it is tempting to think of George Orwell’s famous quote on equality in his book “Animal Farm”. It is no longer bearable to live the lie of human equality because all humans are indeed equal, but some humans are more equal than others.

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