Posted on 4. July 2016
I was born too late to be part of an era of great adventures and exploration of new worlds, and I was born too early to be a part of a generation that witnessed space travel. Instead, I’m part of a decade and century marked with wars, hate towards the unknown, xenophobia, racism and homophobia. We risk dangerously sliding back; making the same mistakes of the past and disregarding its lessons and warnings.
I haven’t changed my Facebook profile picture to French or Belgian flags after the terrorist attacks in those countries, and I won’t be changing my picture to the Turkish flag either after the recent terrorist attacks in Istanbul. I will mourn the innocent and condemn the terror in the same way I have always done – using my words to explain the truth and to tell a story.
The Istanbul airport terrorist attacks proved once more that non-Western terrorist attacks receive less media coverage than those in the West. The attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport happened in a country whose population is majority Islamic; a country beloved not only by Muslims, but by people of different religions, travellers, and writers. It happened during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a period of fasting and refraining from negative thoughts during the day.
People are debating online about these recent events. There are many opinions, thoughts, accusations and comparisons, there is the central question of who mourned more, and for whom? To whom did the media devote more column inches and coverage? In one of my previous articles, I commended the Facebook action that allowed us to show compassion in the event of a tragedy by simply changing one’s profile picture to a flag. However, did the rest of the media give enough coverage to tragedies in East Europe and the Middle East (victims of the same enemy)? Did the rest of the media call for people to mourn victims in those regions?
Such a biased distinction between events that are ‘worthy’ of mass Facebook or media mourning and those that are not, only deepens the division between people; it signals that the suffering of different nations is not equal. Mourning an attack in 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. Different criteria and different relationships toward victims and terrorists are the best seeds from which new terrorism grows, terrorism that became Islamic and nothing else.
Some say that the attacks are political, not religious. I support this viewpoint strongly: terrorist violence serves narrow political interests. However, how can it still be that people connect Islam with ISIS and its terrorist acts? Is it simply because of the ‘Islamic’ in the name? What more proof does anyone need that ISIS equates to terrorism, whose victims are largely Muslims, and that their interpretation of Islam is one that is twisted? This violence is not ordered by religion – as the official story line is supposed to go. In fact, it hates Islam and Muslims, even as it cloaks itself in that name with the intent to fool jumpy clueless observers.
And what will happen? Clueless observers will follow the media, and the media will offer the best, scandalous story, weaving ‘the beautiful lie’ instead of telling the ‘ugly truth’. But the ugly truth will eventually erupt in the mainstream as seen in recent events: violence and racism (especially towards black people in the United States), homophobia (the 12 June gun shooting in Orlando), and xenophobia (the recent UK referendum result in favour of a ‘Brexit’ was won on the back of a campaign based on hate towards foreigners). The ugly truth is that terror has many forms. But the ugly truth is being hidden by right-wing politicians, like Trump or Wilders, who are publically flaunting xenophobia and who will soon be aiding and abetting a toxic narrative against ours, supporting the terror that is happening all around the world.
We must not allow this division in the world. We must not allow politicians to divide people into ‘us’ vs ‘them’. If we accept intolerance, hate speech and conflating an entire religion with terrorism, we are becoming blind. We will be blind to new terrors that might happen, and being blind hinders our ability to stop them. By closing our eyes and covering our ears from events that are geographically far away from us, we are inflicting a new terror upon society; we are creating a beautiful lie that these horrors are far away from us and that we are safe, when in reality the ugly truth is really closer to home.
Stop stigmatizing and unite in the fight against the common enemy: terror.