Why I didn’t change my Facebook photo after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris

Posted on 19. November 2015

by Adnan Rahimić

1-adnan-rahimicPersonally, I will use every world’s event to express my opinion about it, whether it was positive or negative event. Although longing to have only positive thoughts expressed in the article, photos, FB status, sadly negative events are much more present and current.

It hasn’t even been a full year since I wrote my reaction to the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, and now, after the city has been wounded once again by terrorists, I feel a need to react as well. And it’s like déjà-vu; the killing, the bombings, the fear and prejudices… I have seen too much of it, starting with the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The intro

During the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s, people didn’t have that many opportunities to publicly support or challenge, and react to events. There were no smart phones with apps for recordings; no web blogs, news portals, forums or social pages they could use to express their opinions publically and have it widely discussed by audiences across the world. The media (TV, radio, and print) and its journalists were the only “messengers” of the news. Most of them had a “coloured” view, with particular interest, depending on which country they came from and their political preference. Today, everyone can react, record the event, share it with the world and cause a reaction. Or just to be “breaking news” for several days.

Every person who is human will be sad about the tragedy that happened in Paris this Friday. The colour of the French flag on Facebook profiles show the respect and empathy toward Paris and its citizens. Personally, I was relieved when I saw that some of my dear French friends checked as safe on Facebook.

So, why I didn’t change the profile picture, too?

Well, in the coming days some celebrity will make a mess, a new pop star will rise and as the holidays are coming, more new news will take centre stage and all this will be yesterday’s news. All your support and sorrow for Paris’ people will be washed away as well. Like the colours of the flag.

Not often a dictator is quoted, but in these circumstances, Stalin’s quote matches perfectly: “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”

Sadly, based on previous experiences, such as the Charlie Hebdo attacks last January, last Friday’s events will eventually become a statistical fact, used in reports, mutual accusation for who was responsible and finally as a part of history taught in schools. Why am I sure in this? Because, it is the same with other events that passed so quickly through our media; some were given a little bit more attention than others, because they happened close to home and not “somewhere far away”. Have we been equally compassionate for the victims in Lebanon? In Istanbul? Did you have the same reaction to the bomb attacks in Yemen? Did you change your profile pics into a US flag after every (and all too frequent) gun attacks at the American universities and schools? In memory of the thousands of people killed in Syria every day? Boko Haram killing students in Nigeria? The Russian tourists killed in a plane crash? Ukraine events? Palestine bombings? Afghanistan sufferings? Modern child slavery in Asia?… The list goes on. Some of you probably have. Most of you didn’t. Your profile pic should be changed on a daily basis, if not hourly.

Although it’s great that Facebook allows us to show compassion in the event of a tragedy, my fear is that such a biased distinction between events that are ‘worthy’ of mass facebook mourning, and those that are not, only deepens the division between people. The sufferings of different nations are not equal. Changing your profile picture into the colours of a flag when something happens in Europe (or more likely Western Europe) and ignoring others will not help us to fight terrorism. Instead, we will just deepen the gap between countries and turn people against each other.

What can we do instead?

We cannot act as a separate civilisation, put borders around ourselves and create a walled-off sanctuary, not caring about the crimes and events that happen thousands kilometres away. We are all people, and religious or not, we are all one civilisation. The sooner we realise that we must be united in today’s time, the better strategy and actions we will be able to produce. We cannot influence the politicians and their policies directly. We cannot stop the West to buy oil from the Middle East and fund ISIL, who uses the money to organise new terroristic attacks. For the war that is led by several people and that causes thousands of innocent victims to pay instead. We don’t have to take up weapons, and register to fight at the frontlines.

But we have our own ammunition – our words. And we have the weapon: social media. We have to use it to write down our sane thoughts, opinions, in order to calm down everyone who feels vengeful towards the ‘other’. We have to put a stop the intolerance and xenophobia, based on a belief that the acts of individuals who claim to protect the Prophet and true Islam are representative of every Muslim in the world. I will recall of one of my earlier articles: “why should anyone feel the need to avenge the Prophet? Every Muslim should know that the Prophet bore up and faced even more mockery, insults, assaults and rejections during his life on Earth without a need for hiring cold-blooded murderers to defend his honour. It was the act of these terrorists that made a mockery and satire of all religions, especially of Islam.”The same sentences apply again.

We are now the loud voices, and we, as true Europeans need to react with articles and stories that focus on the good in people, and maybe even stop greater events like the recent one. We have to counter populistic discourse in France and other European countries by explaining that there’s a huge difference between being religious and radical religion.

This should be our “change-of-the FB-photo” reaction.

France was a country that opened its borders for hundreds of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s refugees; their journalists reported from this war-torn country; many French soldiers died in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the interventions that finally ended the war. I chose not to change my FB photo in support of France. I chose to write this article as a sign of support and remembrance for Paris, France and many others who will go from breaking news to history.

What would you do? What can you do?