During school hours a couple of weeks ago, four Taliban members entered Bacha Khan University and left 20 dead and at least 50 wounded in their wake. This was the latest terror attack in Pakistan, one extremely reminiscent of the Peshawar attack in December of 2014, which left 141 dead – 132 of which were children.
Less than 48 hours after the attack, the news was hard to come by. CNN’s front page and World news section did not feature news of it. There was no report of the attack on Fox News. Although the New York Times provided multiple articles, they are not found unless actively searched for. Even Al Jazeera, which usually provides news on terrorist attacks that are usually relegated to being footnotes due to their taking place in non-Western countries, provided very little information.
In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that my parents subscribe to Pakistani news channels on their cable service and my family members who lived in Pakistan expressing outrage and shock over the tragic event, I’m not exactly sure if I would’ve ever learned about this news, as I live in the Western world.
There were no filters of the Pakistani flag so people could opt to show their solidarity on Facebook. There was no option to check in as “safe” for the many Facebook users in that nation. Very few people on my newsfeed posted about the news. It wasn’t a popular trend on Twitter. It was not a trending article on Buzzfeed. And there is no article showing the faces of the victims, memorializing them for all of eternity on the internet.
No national landmarks were draped in green and white to show mourning and solidarity.
There was no “Pray for Pakistan.”
The world, it seems, kept going on as if it didn’t have a clue.
It was, and has been, all too similar to the discrepancy of outrage we saw from across the world over the Paris terrorist attacks – with the majority of the condemners conveniently forgetting the terrorist attacks that had occurred in Lebanon the day before. Selective outrage, it seems, has not only come to be the norm in the globe’s response to terrorist attacks, but an identifier of who matters – and who doesn’t.
In 2010, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, N.Y., revealed through it’s research that during the period from 2006 to 2008, only 2 percent (12 of 661) of terrorist victims were from the West, and the remaining 98 percent of those killed were inhabitants of countries with Muslim majorities. From 2013–2015 (and more than likely well before that), the top five countries that suffered the most losses in terrorist attacks have been Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Syria. Terrorist attacks in the top ten countries, which include no Western nations, have accounted for over 80% of deaths caused by terrorism – obviously constituting the majority of terrorist victims.
Of the terrorist attacks that occurred in 2015, it is extremely interesting to see which ones are sensationalized – and which weren’t.
Does anybody remember Boko Haram’s massacre – in which they took around 2,000 lives?
Where is the outrage of countless Iraqis and Syrians who have died at the hands of ISIS?
Where was the international outcry then? Where is the international outcry now?
Many people have pointed to political agendas ultimately being the cause of discrepancies in response.
But what else is there?
It is very clear through the discrepancies within the outrage, solidarity, and condemnation of the media and world, that, when it comes to being victims of terrorism, brown bodies of African, Middle Eastern, and Asian descent don’t matter as much as white, Western ones do. When it comes to being victims worth being noted as breaking news or the motivation behind international outrage at Isis, the Taliban, or Boko Haram, brown bodies do not fit the bill.
Hell, they don’t fit the bill even when they are Muslim victims in the West. This was seen clearly in the case of Ahmed Merabet, one of the two police officers slain in the Charlie Hebdo shootings, who was often overlooked and overshadowed to give attention to the other victims. Furthermore, Lassana Bathily, the Muslim clerk who saved many customers during the Porte de Vincennes seige, was often explicitly left out of the news depictions of the terror that had ensued during the event.
Also, as it has become clear through the international attention and outrage that not only are Western bodies and victims have more worth than those that are non-Western, another fallacy has come to be the norm. Western countries, it seems, can only be the true victims of terrorism. The suffering to be allowed due to the loss of human life in terrorist attacks are explicitly reserved for the West and it’s victims. In the Muslim-majority countries that suffer the most terrorist attacks, terrorists and their victims are treated as an everyday occurrence – thus ultimately desensitizing the West to the suffering and loss of brown bodies.
And what does this all mean? Why is this worth talking about?
All of this portrays our weakness as a larger, global community. Our responsibilities to each other, as human beings, should not come with a discrepancy – nor be reserved for a select community. We not only fail ourselves and each other when we condemn cherry-picked terrorist attacks that focus on non-Muslim and Western lives, but we also fail in the fight against terrorism. When we focus on the lives of concert-goers in Paris but don’t even bat an eye at the Pakistani students slain at their desks in college, we fail, because we alienate the very people we need in order to eradicate terrorism. When we use specific terrorist attacks in order to turn around and take our revenge on Muslims in the West through hate-crimes or to condemn all Muslims and their faith, we fail.
Selective outrage is our biggest failure. It is through our failure that we let the terrorists win.
And as one humankind, we cannot afford to let that happen anymore.