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Selective grief and Western Privilege

The Paris attacks of Friday 13th sent shock waves around the world, as the French capital fell victim to second terrorist attack in the same year. While it is exceptionally distressing when such events claim the lives of unsuspecting people, is our selective grieving justified in the face of other similar attacks in other countries around the world?

On Thursday 12th November, two suicide bombings claimed the lives of 41 people in a busy shopping street in Beirut, the biggest terror attack in Lebanon for 25 years. Yet these have been eclipsed by the Paris attacks that happened the following day, which have garnered a greater show of solidarity by the World.

On Thursday 12th November, two suicide bombings claimed the lives of 41 people in a busy shopping street in Beirut, the biggest terror attack in Lebanon for 25 years. Yet these have been eclipsed by the Paris attacks that happened the following day, which have garnered a greater show of solidarity by the World.

The day before the Parisian attacks, two suicide bombers attacked a busy shopping street in Beirut in Lebanon, killing around 41 people and seriously wounding over 200 other innocent bystanders. Islamic State claimed responsibly for these attacks, in an area which is mainly a Shia suberb and a Hezbollah stronghold.

The events in Paris and Beirut were orchestrated by the same people, yet the former seems to be meriting more attention and solidarity by the Western world. Rightly so, Lebanese people are asking the West where is their Facebook ‘safety Check’, where is the Lebanese flag profile filter, and where is our #PrayforLebanon hashtag?

I have to say that I agree with this argument. The incidents of last Friday clearly highlight how influenced we are by the media, and how we actively choose to allow it to dictate the way we perceive certain events. I cannot fathom why we should pray for Paris and not pray for Lebanon. Both events are as equally despicable and heartbreaking to hear about.

Yet we do live in a world of ‘Western Privilege’, where it appears to be easier for us to show solidarity with fellow Westerns than with victims from less developed countries. Perhaps the main reason is that Paris feels more familiar to us than Lebanon, so in some way we manage to empathise more with the victims of this tragedy than those victims of a city that seems culturally alien to us.

This is part of a trend that has been well embedded into our mindset; if you analyse the terrorist attacks that happened in the recent months, most people will mention the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris, and the Sydney hostage crisis in December 2014. These have been extensively covered in the media, and they each merited their custom social media solidarity hashtags.

Yet the same cannot be said of the suicide bomber that killed 19 people in a funeral in Baghdad this same month, or the 100 people killed by bombs in Ankara, Turkey during a peace rally, or the scores of worshipers that were slaughtered in a Yemeni mosque, or even the 224 passengers of Metrojet Flight 9268 they was struck in the Sinai Mountains in Egypt. All these acts were claimed by Islamic State, yet their coverage was not as inflated as that of the Paris attacks of last Friday.

It makes you wonder why we always preach for equality amongst our fellow human beings, yet then we unknowingly and indirectly choose which lives are more valuable on the basis of how we rationalise certain tragedies.

We should take this time to reflect on the countless victims of terrorism that are not publicised, and therefore appear to not qualify for much of our solidarity. It is time to put our western privilege aside and #Prayforall, not just for the Paris victims.

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