My fiancée recently posed a question to me:
‘Why are people totally outraged by the terrorist attacks in Paris, London or Orlando but seem almost apathetic to the regular massacres in Istanbul, Jerusalem or basically anywhere in the Middle East these days?’
More queries followed…
‘Don’t people care?’
‘Do they think white lives matter more than non-whites?’
‘Where are the flag profile pictures of Iraq, or Syria, or Turkey, Yemen or Israel?’
Sadly the only explanation I could form (which made me even sadder) was that most people in our social environment are simply desensitised to violence in areas of the world that we perceive as violent. A suicide bomb in Baghdad isn’t news anymore to us. It has become a blip on our Facebook newsfeed that we barely register.
Moreover, if every reputable news outlet covered every single attack from around the world, the entire paper/website would be just filled with pictures of explosions, fallen civilians, crying children and worse. You can check here to find out how many terrorist attacks have happened in 2016 alone.
Spoiler alert: It’s several every single day.
The sad reality is that we’re no longer outraged by these events because we simply expect these attacks to happen now.
And today I found myself depressingly not outraged or shocked by the attack in Nice.
I am upset? Yes.
Did I immediately contact my father who was in Nice yesterday to make sure he was safe? Abso-bloody-lutely.
Has it affected me enough that I feel the need to write an article about it? Yes.
But was I surprised that another terrorist attack has happened in France which has seen attacks every month this year already? The answer is sadly no.
Please don’t misunderstand me, this attack is tragic. The fact that it took place on Bastille Day, a day that celebrates the beautiful motto of France: “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” (Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood) sickens me to my core. It spits in the face of everything that the modern French republic was founded upon.
Yet all most of us can be bothered to muster up in response to these crimes against humanity is an obligatory #prayfor(insertcityhere) twitter hashtag or a casual French flag back-drop profile picture for a few days… Then we forget about it and go back to playing PokemonGO or watching trailers for the next Marvel movies.
There’s a very special commandment in the Torah which has always had immense meaning to me. It’s from parashah Kedoshim:
“לֹא תַעֲמֹד עַל דַּם רֵעֶךָ”
Essentially “Do not stand idly by while the blood of your neighbour is shed”.
People of the world, if you are so outraged by Orlando, Istanbul, Nice, London, Paris, Madrid et al, then actually do something about it!
Engage in dialogue with your local community and propose ideas to cultivate understanding and peace with others.
You could participate in interfaith groups which help to celebrate our differences and reduce the dangerous sentiment of ‘Otherness’ that is becoming dangerously more prevalent in our society.
Organise and partake in peaceful protests that champion the liberal, democratic identity that can and will defy extremism.
But please, don’t just stand there.
Voltaire famously exclaimed “I detest what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.
Now is not the time for defending the rights of hate speakers and extremist ideology, but the time to challenge it. It is only by doing so that their narrative can be defeated.
We must recognise the problem and tackle it head on. As author Maajid Nawaz recently elucidated after the Orlando massacre:
On a personal, community and national level, it is of upmost importance that we support and strengthen those influencers who pursue and promote the path of peace and tolerance.
Adding to this, we must challenge and deprive villains of their platform to spout their hatred. And if all else fails, not be afraid to utilise our extensively developed legal system to forcibly prevent their wicked voice from reaching the masses.
We must put pressure on the likes of theocratic regimes in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria etc and world famous Islamic educational bodies such as the University of Al-Azhar to throw our and ostracise preachers and so-called scholars who use scripture to justify and promote violent behaviour. We must be intolerant of intolerance wherever we find it.
It is our duty as a human being whether Jew, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or Atheist to not stand idly by and let this harmful cancer spread.