Last month, the world mourned the death of many innocent lives gratuitously taken away. Barbaric terrorists have managed to infiltrate two large capitals in the hopes of sending out the same message to the world. The international community, in response, however, heard the cries of one just a bit louder than the other.
On Thursday, November 12th 2015, Beirut suffered from a double suicide attack that claimed the lives of at least 40 people and wounded over 200. The following day, at least 130 people were killed in gunfire and blasts at a Paris massacre.
I am horrified at how what was supposed to be a regular Friday night in Paris, somehow ended in a bloodbath. I am horrified at how 22-year-old South African; Isobel Bowdery had to lie in the blood of innocent people, holding her breath, pretending to be dead in order to survive the brutal attack.
But at the same time, I am also horrified at how 14-year-old Ali Awad was just chopping vegetables at a stand in the streets of Beirut when the first bomb struck and took his life. I am horrified at how during both these events, in an instant, futures were destroyed and families were deprived of their loved ones.
Paris and Beirut were both sites where deadly attacks took place -- but somehow, Beirut feels forgotten. Somehow, Paris received a rapid global outburst of sympathy, support and compassion, while Beirut remains forgotten. And somehow, monuments around the world lit up in the blue, red and white colors of the French flag, while the red, white and green cedar tree remain forgotten.
Mere minutes after receiving updates on my phone about the Paris attack, my social media newsfeeds flooded with flags of France. One by one, I watched as my Facebook friends added the new French flag function to their profile pictures. One by one, I clicked away Snapchat stories that said Des Pray Prières For Pour Paris. And one by one, I received updates from Facebook reassuring me that my friends living in Paris were marked safe from the attacks.
But where was the Lebanese flag function on Facebook? Where was the Pray for Beirut filter on Snapchat? And why didn't Facebook reassure me that my fellow Lebanese friends were marked safe from their attacks? Why was the world and the media so focused on Paris, but so forgetful of Beirut? The answer, I believe, is Euro-centrism.
Euro-centrism is a worldview that places exaggerated importance on the West, and there is no doubt that it stems from European colonization and imperialism. But how ironic is it that the colonization and imperialism of the Middle East is what set the grounds for groups such as ISIS to emerge in the first place? Pretty ironic, I would say.
Nowadays, people way too often buy into Euro-centrism and are ready to accept corporate branding initiatives, such as Facebook's flag function, in the pretense of possessing human compassion. It is dismaying and sad to know that when the world buys into these views, we are affirming that some lives matter more than others. Primarily, Western lives matter more and Arab lives matter less.
The day after the Paris massacre, I received an email from my university's chancellor titled "Our thoughts are with Paris." I scrolled back to my emails from the previous day, assuming I had missed the "Our thoughts are with Lebanon" message. Sadly, I hadn't, because there wasn't one. I was disappointed, to say the least.
I got into numerous discussions with my peers regarding the attention Paris received in comparison to Lebanon. One of their comments resonated with me: "This is the reality of the Middle East, so we have become accustomed to it." Does that mean that we should now dehumanize the deaths of certain people, because that is the reality of their everyday lives?
Why didn't the world grieve for Lebanon the same way it did for Paris? Why did the headlines regarding the Lebanese bombs read "Explosion in Hezbollah" stronghold, as if stating the political background of a heavily populated area would somehow justify the terrorist act? And why did U.S. President Barack Obama label the Paris massacre an "attack on all humanity," while Beirut was not worth the mention?
As heartbreaking as the Paris massacre was, I wish Europeans knew that the night of November 13th has been every single night for the lives of Syrian refugees. But I guess it only matters when your country's flag colors can manage to get plastered on everyone's Facebook page.
If this is people's way of showing solidarity with France, why don't we change our profile pictures to a different country's flag every time people are brutally and wrongfully killed? Why don't we change our profile pictures to the colors of the Palestinian flag every time a group of children in Gaza are murdered? And why don't we change our profile pictures to the colors of the Syrian flag every time a family gets lost and drowned at sea, escaping their hardships at home? A better question is, would anyone have even thought of changing their profile pictures had Facebook not provided us with that option?
On the Arab side of the world, I'm sure many of us wonder when the Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian, Iraqi or myriad other flags will be projected on world landmarks. Standing in solidarity for the unwarranted loss of life doesn't come with a simple clickable add-on option on Facebook. Standing in solidarity for the unwarranted loss of life comes by acknowledging and mourning each of those innocent lives equally and sincerely.