Last Friday, the 13th of November 2015, one of the worst terrorist attacks in Europe in last decades took place in France. At least 129 people were killed by supporters of the so-called Islamic State terrorist group in Paris. Undoubtedly this terrorist attack has to be condemned by the international community and by people all over the world.
During the attack and also days after, the events were presented on international TV constantly. The media kept reporting, often without any journalistic value, all irrelevant things that were going on, or even not going on. The whole attack was present in the minds of people and everybody was affected. The real terror of the Islamic State followed an imaginary terror created by our media. In solidarity with France and the victims, people started laying down flowers at the French embassies and people expressed their solidarity also on the Internet. Google added a black ribbon to its page, YouTube changed its icon to the French flag and people on Facebook changed their profile picture to the French flag.
Of course the expression of solidarity is a noble thing. But from another, more rational, perspective, we have to question this and ask if this is not a form of hypocrisy. While the Western mass media reported 24 hours a day about the terrorist attacks in Paris, it did not report in the same way about the terrorist attacks that happened just days before.
Two kinds of terror
On Thursday evening members of the Islamic State killed 41 civilians in a suicide attack in Lebanon. And last Tuesday 23 civilians were killed, when the terrorist group al-Nusra front (al-Qaeda) shelled the university district of the Syrian city Latakia. The Western media and especially the German media either failed to report about these recent events at all or kept promoting a dubious and obscure view of what happened. One of the very few media outlets in Germany that actually wrote a short article about the terrorist attack in Latakia was the German state run international broadcaster “Deutsche Welle”. In its article about the shelling¹ it reported on 23 killed, but later added that the British “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” (SOHR) only counted 2 deaths. The “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” is actually one run by one man who lives in Britain. Deutsche Welle then continued by saying that the Syrian National News Agency: “said that “terrorists” [in quotation marks!]were responsible for the shelling,” and said that “this [terrorists] is the name that the Syrian state media gives to rebels who fight in the civil war.”
In fact, the al-Nusra front has recently been declared a terrorist group by many states. And of course carrying out a short research would have proved that the information delivered by the SOHR was wrong and that a total of 23 people were actually killed. But spreading the truth did not seem to be the intention. Strange times when Deutsche Welle goes on to defend terrorists.
None of the attacks – the one in Syria and the one in France – were targeted against military or governmental institutions or personnel. In both terrorist attacks civilians were targets of terrorism. But from the viewpoint of the Western media one of the attacks seemed excusable, because the “terrorists” were allegedly rebels fighting against an “unjust dictator”. Therefore the Beirut attack was seen as somewhat legitimate although the goals of both attacks were to kill civilians.
This skewed perception of global and local events by the Western media upsets more and more people. While one terrorist attack creates hysteria and a big wave of solidarity, the other one is ignored or even legitimated by the Western mass media and politician. The Syrian ambassador to the UN correctly stated after the last terrorist attack in France: “Now they call them terrorists because today they are killing French people. But when they used to kill Syrian people, they were considered jihadists.”² Syrian people are rightfully asking: Why do we have, in the eyes of the Westerners, less value than other humans?
Charlie Hebdo’s hypocricy
When the terrorist attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo happened there was a very similar wave of global solidarity. People declared „Je suis Charlie“ without even knowing anything about the magazine or ever having read it. Again this terrorist attack was of course unjustifiable. But one should not declare blind solidarity. Charlie Hebdo with its Western style of „black humor“ actually violated the human dignity of people. When NATO bombed Yugoslavia, it was Charlie Hebdo that made fun of the victims. Just several weeks ago, when the Islamic State downed the Russian civil airplane, killing 224 people, the magazine was publishing a series of cartoons mocking the victims. But despite this, Russians laid flowers outside the French embassies in Moscow and Saint Petersburg and were in deep sorrow following the terrorist attacks in Paris. Is Charlie Hebdo just very black or outrageous in its kind of humor? Are they now going to publish cartoons mocking the victims of Paris terrorism? Certainly not. This means then that they are racist. It seems that some Europeans apply different moral values when dealing with their own and dealing with a different people, be they Russian, Serbian or Lebanese.
European versus non-European Victims
As a social phenomenon it is clear that we see an attack on our family more dramatically than on somebody who is not from our family. And we see an attack on people from our country more dramatically than on people from other countries. The degree of how such things affect us has to do with how near to our environment they happen. But is it OK to offend other people who are mourning?
The problem lies deep within the roots of European society. On the surface we managed to overcome the great evil of racism and colonialism. There are only a few openly racist people left. But there is a far more dangerous threat. While the open racism is not occurring any more very often and openly in society, cultural racism still does. And especially amongst those, who are say that they are against racism. As Europeans we usually tend to give our opinion, our way of living, our freedom or our victims of terror, a higher value than other people. We don‘t see ourselves as equal in a world of different people, but as superior.
If we want to stop terror then we must overcome our Eurocentric view of world. This view is one of the roots of terror.
Europe‘s home brewed problems with terror
The terror in Paris came from our long-time allies in Syria, allegedly fighting for Western democracy against the Syrian state. Secularists were always a small minority amongst the rebels in Syria. And the final goal of the Syrian rebels was always the creation of a fundamentalist theocracy, which is hundreds of years backward. This is also the reason, why the majority of the Western backed “Free Syrian Army” fighters, switched sides and joined the Islamic State. If Syrian president Dr. Bashar al-Assad says now, while expressing his condolences to the victims, that: “in France happened, what happened in Syria for the last 5 years,”³ then perhaps we should think twice if we consider him a madman bombing his own people. And when Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi said in 2011 that it was al-Qaeda that started the uprising in Libya, we should think carefully about his words. Why didn‘t we take his words seriously and instead helped these pseudo-Islamic jihadists to take over Libya? Why do we continue to do the same with Syria and in other Arab countries? Is it our Eurocentric view and arrogant position that we are always right in our analysis, that leads us to the conclusion that they are always wrong?
The terror in Paris is a backlash of the terror that the West supported in Syria for almost 5 years now. If we as Europeans are serious about our expressions of sympathy with the victims, then we should think about our policies when it comes to Syria. It is foremost our governments and the French government, together with the United States and the Gulf countries, who are arming rebel groups in an internal conflict. They did not care about who they were arming. Their only goal was getting rid of a government, which they – because of their own economic interests – categorize as a rogue state.
It is clear that our governments did not care about the future consequences of their acts. Syria warned us many times. In 2013 Bashar al-Assad said: „Just as the West financed al-Qaida in Afghanistan in its beginnings, and later paid a heavy price, today it is supporting it in Syria, Libya and other places and will pay the price later in the heart of Europe and the United States“ ⁴. Why didn’t we learn after Afghanistan and 9/11?
When we are changing our Facebook profile picture to a French flag, we should think if a Syrian flag would be more fitting. France amongst other countries supported the jihadists in Syria and is responsible for spreading terrorism.
Maybe we should finally stop running around with condolences and stupid flags on our Facebook profiles and start demanding answers from our government officials. These officials, who are really responsible for the armament of the Free Syrian Army and later the Islamic State. It is about time. We owe it to the victims – in Paris and in Syria.