Editor’s note: this was written on Sunday before the tragedy in Saudi Arabia.
On July 3rd, a terrorist attack was carried out in Baghdad, Iraq, killing at least 165 people and injuring many more. On July 2nd, a terrorist attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh, left 22 dead and 40 injured. On June 28th in Istanbul, Turkey, a terrorist attack killed 45 and left 238 injured.
These attacks are not unique. Iraq has seen many attacks this year. In May alone, three attacks across the country left almost 200 people dead. All of these attacks have been claimed by ISIS, but unlike the November Paris attacks, or the Charlie Hebdo massacre, there was no mainstream outcry. There were few declarations of solidarity. The front page continues to be dominated by petty political feuds in the wake of Brexit, and there is little coverage of the suffering of Muslims in the middle east.
This works to ISIS’ advantage. Their strategy is to divide Muslims and non-Muslims, and when we in the western world ignore the suffering Muslims face at the hands of ISIS and participate in Islamophobia, we are complicit in ISIS’ strategy. That these countries have been attacked during the holy month of Ramadan makes it all the clearer that ISIS stands opposed to Muslims. When politicians and public figures declare that Muslims must take responsibility for the terrorists in their midst, they are ignoring the basic facts of the issue. They are assuming that ISIS only attacks western, non-Muslim countries, and they are assuming that Muslims are not victims before and alongside us.
Western media condones this. It is my view that Western media has consistently ignored the suffering of anyone outside of Europe or North America, of anyone who stands outside of its white racial norms. Even the coverage of the tragedy in Orlando ignored the racial identities of the victims, focusing on the homophobia that inspired the attack. The victims of the Orlando shooting were predominantly Latinx (a gender neutral term to describe those of Latin American origin), and to ignore that is to remove a huge amount of context from the massacre.
This effect isn’t just limited to terrorist attacks and tragedies. The country of Venezuela has been in worsening economic crisis for several years, with huge levels of corruption in the government and crises such as citizens not being able to access basic medication. There has been little coverage of the true scale of this disaster, with most people in the UK being unaware that it is going on. Meanwhile, the economic impacts of the Brexit referendum in the UK are covered extensively, not just locally, around Europe and North America.
There have been accusations of clear racial bias in the news agendas of many media outlets. Some tragedies develop hashtags and catchphrases, a filter to put over your Facebook profile photo. The tragedies prompt global mourning and the tragedies that go ignored create a clear pattern.
It seems as if the West considers the lives of Muslims or Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people less valuable than the lives of white people in Europe or North America. The impact of this is profound, particularly in the battle against ISIS. When we ignore the violence ISIS commit against Muslims, we legitimise their claim that they are an Islamic movement. This draws a clear line between Muslims and non-Muslims, and creates a dangerous environment for us all.