The global outpouring of support in the aftermath of the Parisian terror attacks has been overwhelming. World leaders were making statements late at night. Famous monuments all across the globe had the French flag projected onto them in signs of solidarity. Sporting events thousands of miles away held moments of silence.
At least 42 people were killed from twin suicide bombings in Beirut, Lebanon. None of those things happened.
If you scroll down your Facebook feed right now, the chance are that many of your friends have changed their cover photo or profile picture into something to do with the French flag. Facebook has added the convenience of being able to do this with a click of a button. If you know somebody who is from or in Paris, you might’ve seen them ‘marked safe’ on Facebook. Facebook introduced the Safety Check feature in 2014, and the Paris terror attacks mark the first time it’s been used for an act of terror.
Facebook hadn’t done anything like this the night before, when there were twin suicide bombings in Beirut.
I understand that Paris is much closer to England than Beirut is. I understand that the number of people who were killed in the Paris attacks is significantly more than those in Beirut. Hostages were taken, drawing out the crisis. Bombs could be heard outside the stadium while France and Germany were playing football.
I also understand that France is in Western Europe and Lebanon is in the Middle East. I understand that France is a country where the majority of the population is white, and Lebanon is a country with a majority population that is Arab. I understand that Paris is a city that evokes images of glamour, fashion, luxury, and wonder. Beirut doesn’t exactly excite the imagination in the same way.
Personally, the bombings in Beirut have hit a bit closer to home. My two immediate neighbors in my flat are both Lebanese. One of them told me that, even on his social media, there were a lot of people echoing the ‘prayers for Paris’ sentiment while turning a blind eye to the terror attacks that happened in their country, in their capital city.
At the time of writing this article, the #1 trending topic on Twitter is #TodosSomosParis. Translated, that means ‘we are all Paris’ and the sentiment is of solidarity, of standing together. When suicide bombs blew up in Beirut, nowhere close to as many people showed the same support. Look at the difference in mentions of Paris & Beirut on Twitter, it’s staggering.
There is a subtext to this, one that’s a bit hard to swallow. We are all Paris after an act of terror in the city, but were we all Beirut when an act of terror occurred there the night before? The world pours their heart out for Paris, but Beirut’s victims are met without much discussion of the fact. Terrorism is largely associated with the Middle East. A majority of terrorist acts are done in the Middle East. By that logic, aren’t most of the victims of terrorism Middle Eastern?
Send prayers to Paris. That should absolutely not be condemned. But send prayers to Beirut, too, because terrorism is just as tragic when it happens to Muslims in a Middle Eastern country, as it is when it happens to white Europeans. As wonderful as it is that the world is standing with France in mourning and solidarity, the fact that the people of Lebanon are not given the same sympathy is equally sad. The underlying message is that Parisian lives matter more than the ones in Beirut.
Arabs, Arab Muslims especially, deal with the residual effects of terrorism all two often. Radical extremists make up a very small minority of Muslims, yet people associate Muslims with terrorism. Arabs are the victims of acts of terrorism, whether it’s in Palestine, Syria, Turkey, or Iran. There was a suicide bombing at a funeral in Baghdad, yesterday. Eighteen people were killed. Those families deserve just as much sympathy as the ones in Beirut, or the ones in Paris.
When, as a whole, the world springs into action after terrorist attacks in Europe, yet turns a blind eye to the terrorist attacks in the Middle East, the Middle Eastern people can make one inference. European lives are the ones to be mourned, not theirs, and seemingly only terror attacks in Europe and North America are worth the globe sending prayers their way.
This is not to condemn anybody for acts of support and solidarity towards the people of Paris. Realize, though, that while the message you send might be of support to some, it’s received differently by already marginalized groups of people.