Friday marked a day that will never be forgotten by France, and perhaps, the rest of the world. On November 13th, 2015, Paris lost at least 129 innocent lives, among 19 different nationalities. The coordinated attacks claimed by the Islamic State (IS) militant group occurred around 9:30pm, striking a concert hall, a major stadium, bars, and restaurants. The results have been truly heart wrenching.
Staff Writer: Alexia Agouridis
Each of the lives lost mattered, whether they were a son, daughter, mother, father, brother, or sister. It is truly sickening what has occurred, and for this reason, I refuse to name the specific individuals who carried out these attacks and fulfill their wishes to be immortalized and glorified.
The attacks in Paris will produce ripple effects in nations around the world. Countries have already begun discussions on increased air strikes in Syria and closing borders to the three million Syrian refugees in desperate need of asylum. This plays an important role in Canada, where newly elected Prime Minister Trudeau has promised to bring 25,000 refugees into the country by the end of the year and is already facing massive opposition from Canadian government and citizens alike.
This opposition comes from fear of terrorists posing as refugees, which although possible, is extremely unlikely. It is suspected that one of the individuals responsible for the Parisian attacks posed as a Syrian refugee, entering the Greek island of Leros with an unverified passport. It should be highlighted, according to BBC, that this is yet to be proven as fact. Even if true, this threat can be mitigated with stringent screening and security checks. Closing our borders to thousands of innocent and desperate migrants is not a solution.
The events that took place in Paris have horrified us, maybe because of the death toll, the media coverage, or for some of us- it hits very close to home. Each and every one of these reasons is a valid cause for our fear and sadness. None of the lives lost in Paris should be disrespected or dismissed, but this event has triggered a different sort of response that deserves its own discussion.
The massacre in Paris has ignited global questioning about why the media and world only seems to care about western lives. Why did we not blink when at least 40 civilians were killed the day before in Beirut, Lebanon by the same terror group that devastated Paris? Why did we not change our profile pictures to the Kenyan flag when terror group, Al-Shabab, gunned down almost 150 students at Garissa University in April? These are only two examples of how we, and the media especially, have selectively chosen which lives matter to us.
It is truly bitter that we must reduce our compassion, sadness, and discussion of one tragedy to focus on another, but the truth can only be seen when these events are juxtaposed against one another to highlight reactionary differences. It is apparent that the media plays a huge role in the events that we are aware of and care about, but the media cater to viewers, and to maximize profits, they must adapt to viewer preferences. Only when society truly believes that all lives matter will the media shift its focus to the world, in its entirety.
Maybe the future will bring us a world that does not diminish the value of one life over another. We should not have to take focus away from Paris to highlight another tragedy and vice-versa, because each human life should be worth the exact same, regardless of race, language, religion, and location. I sincerely hope that society changes its perspective so that with future tragedies, both ourselves and the media will not put unequal weights on equal lives. All lives matter.
We must not let fear and hatred overcome our humanity. Islamophobia has increased in the days after the Paris attacks, with high profile individuals, such as billionaire Rupert Murdoch, claiming that all Muslims should be held responsible for the acts of ISIS and other terror organizations. An account from New Yorker, Alex Malloy, describes how his 25-year-old Muslim cab driver was left in tears after nobody would allow him to drive them after hearing about Paris. Even a Muslim woman was attacked in Toronto while picking up her children from school, simply for wearing a hijab.
Society must understand that these terrorist groups, such as ISIS, Boko Haram, and Al-Shabab, have as much connection to Islam as the Westboro Baptist Church has to Christianity. It does not mean that these people are symbolic of the entire religion simply because a violent act is done under the farce of religious belief or symbol. Less than one percent of the 1.6 billion Muslims alive today believe in extremism and radical violence to achieve their means, and the rest of the population cannot be punished for these acts.
The world, including Muslims and non-Muslims alike, must work together to end the reigns of terror that these organizations impose, and must prevent confused and isolated minds from joining these groups- we must be united. As stated so eloquently by Martin Luther King Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”