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Op-eds

Mendis ’17: Je suis _____

By
Op-Ed Contributer
Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The world has gone up in arms after two restaurants in the 10th arrondissement, two restaurants in the 11th arrondissement, the French national stadium and the Bataclan Concert Venue were attacked by unidentified assailants. World leaders including President Obama, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping, President of Iran Hassan Rouhani and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron expressed their solidarity and gave their condolences.

Facebook issued a profile picture filter that allowed users to show their solidarity with France. But while the world looks to France and sees a Syrian passport on one of the suspects, Syria itself is falling apart.

While France has closed its borders, 9 million people in Syria have left their homes seeking water, shelter and any available basic necessity. While the world mourns for the 129 people in Paris, it forgets the 45 people in Beirut and the 26 people in Baghdad (only taking into account the present week).

Nevertheless, death is not about comparisons. Comparisons only come in handy when we see continuity between these attacks; when the core of the Paris attacks lies in the atrocities occurring in the Middle East; when a Syrian passport that was used to seek asylum in Greece is found on an attacker in Paris.

During the Nov. 12 attacks in Beirut, both the New York Times and National Public Radio described Borj al-Barajneh in South Beirut as a “Hezbollah stronghold” and “Shiite area.” Rather than providing context, such language contributes to the notion that the deaths of 45 people and counting are justified because they may have supported Hezbollah, were Shiite and thus had no humanity beyond these rigid political classifications.

Instead of expressing grief, solidarity or mourning for a constantly suffering population, Republican candidate for Senate Everett Stern tweeted, “Good news!! I hope Hezbollah terrorists were killed” and linked to a Yahoo News article detailing the suicide blasts in a “Hezbollah” bastion in Beirut. It is in this sense that the world seems to selectively mourn global tragedies. Selective mourning is a product of not only white supremacy as described in American racial terms, but also post-colonial understandings of who is and who is not human. We feel the 45 dead in Beirut were not human; they were Shiite.

France, alternatively, is relatable. It is a white-dominated, liberal, secular democracy — basically the four concepts that determine the extent to which someone is granted empathy.

This issue, however, is not merely a result of perceptions within the West. It is a vicious cycle perpetuated both within and outside Lebanon itself. When Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil tweets, “Lebanon was related to France in ‘nation blood,’ and now we are related in ‘martyrdom blood,’” it is no wonder the world puts Lebanon’s continuous struggle aside in favor of the attack in France.

If a prominent Lebanese government representative cannot respect the country, would you expect non-Lebanese around the world to emphasize the Lebanese struggle? When there are Lebanese who would rather go to Paris than to Dahiyeh or Borj al-Barajneh, would you expect Parisians to even be aware of the attacks in Lebanon?

One of the most tragic aspects of this attack is the different reactions to the violence in Paris and in Beirut. Yes, they were of different magnitudes. But if we added up all the casualties of violence in Beirut in the last 15 years, the death toll would exceed that in France. Nevertheless, the population of Beirut remains complacent, as it is accustomed to such atrocities. France closes its borders and the Lebanese go for another drink.

This internalized expectation of violence is reflected not only in Bassil’s nonchalance, but also in the messages I’ve received from my friends as I am scheduled to return to Beirut next week. “Yalla, come! This is typical! Happens all the time, whatever. At least CU Next Sat is still selling bullfrog cocktails.”

Beirut has in fact not had an isolated bombing this deadly since the end of the civil war in 1990. Regardless, violence should not be normalized to such an extent that our short attention spans forget populations under constant duress.

If France, Belgium and Italy decide to take further measures against the vulnerable incoming refugee population, innocents may turn guilty as they are rejected at the border after a 5,000-mile walk. These innocents include talented university students, artists, engineers and medical doctors. My friend, a Syrian who became a refugee while studying at the American University of Beirut, recently secured a Schengen visa and decided he was going to seek asylum in France. But according to him, “then stuff happened, and now I cannot imagine what the ramifications are going to be for all of Europe.” Such stories are not uncommon.

Please, please, differentiate between the attacker and the person running away from the very same thing the rest of the world is. Please remember that we — in the United States, France and any other Western country — are unsafe because of policies we instigated and supported in the Middle East. We are unsafe because we continue to marginalize our non-white, non-Christian populations around the world and expect them to remain silent in humiliation. We are unsafe because we cannot protect our own citizens in America or our own students at Brown. We are unsafe because we, as a people, are comfortable with the stifling red tape that contains our ignorance.

Note: Let’s not forget Palestine, Jordan’s Salti sisters, Mizzou, Yale, the earthquake in Japan and the daily tragedy that occurs around the world and on our very own “liberal” campus.

Nikhita Mendis ’17 is an international relations and Middle East studies concentrator. She is currently based in Amman, Jordan, but she wishes she were based in Beirut, Lebanon.

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  1. Wherever muslims go, chaos and violence follow. Islam is a medieval death cult, comprising insular, ignorant, tribal subhumans.

  2. Please remember that we — in the United States, France and any other Western country — are unsafe because of policies we instigated and supported in the Middle East.

    Stop victim-blaming.

    We’re unsafe because we don’t worship the “correct” false god. Hell, even other Muslims aren’t safe (good luck being Shia in an Daesh area).

    • ShadrachSmith says:

      Nikhita wants to blame the west for Islamic Jihad? Nope, nope, nope.

      Nikhita can sell that Taqiyya someplace on down the road, because we are all stocked up here.

      Qur’an (3:54) – “The unbelievers schemed, and Allah schemed: and Allah is the best of schemers.” If Allah lies to advance the political power of the faith/faithful, then good moslems should too…so the logic goes…really.

      • Lordy, Lordy! How I do love Scripture! It so useful at exposing the lie we hear so often, i.e., that “Islam is a religion of Peace.”

    • You mean we don’t prop up dictators who kill their own people ?

      • Of course; history is replete with examples. However, I ask you to consider the following: would Assad have killed more or less Syrian civilians on his own with his rule uncontested than he, the FSA, Al Nusra, Daesh, the US, Russia, and now France have killed combined since the uprising started?

      • Yes, we do! You must mean leaders such as Raul Castro or Ayatollah Ali Khamenei?

  3. ShadrachSmith says:

    9 million people in Syria have left their homes seeking water, shelter and any available basic necessity…

    And not a single Islamic nation has lifted a hand to help.

    Makes you wonder about Islam, huh?

  4. “One of the most tragic aspects of this attack is the different reactions to the violence in Paris and in Beirut.”
    ++
    Really? There is not a day that if we choose to we can read about Muslims killing Muslims. Are we supposed to grieve every time Muslim jihadists act on what the Qur’an instructs?

    Tell me, Nikhita, do you react the same when a psychotic white supremacist is killed in the act of a school shooting as you do when a Muslim jihadist is killed in the act of killing infidels?

    I know. I know. This analogy escapes you.

  5. “Nevertheless, the population of Beirut remains complacent, as it is accustomed to such atrocities. France closes its borders and the Lebanese go for another drink.”
    ++
    OMG! Please someone tell me this is not satire.

    Nikhita, Paris’ goal is not to aspire to be the next Beirut, Damascus, Karachi, Riyadh, Khartoum, Cairo, Baghdad, Darfur, or you fill in the blank of a different Islamic hellhole.

    People like you, people who think unbridled diversity is a step in the right direction should be advocating for immigration of neo-Nazis for there is little discernible difference in the actions of either group.

  6. “Please, please, differentiate between the attacker and the person running away from the very same thing the rest of the world is.”
    ++
    And why don’t you tell us how to do this.

    You do know many of the Muslim jihadists in the past ten years (in both America and Europe) are well educated Muslims? It has been proven wealth and education has nothing to do with Muslim’s affinity for violent jihad against the infidel.

  7. “Please remember that we — in the United States, France and any other Western country — are unsafe because of policies we instigated and supported in the Middle East. ”
    ++

    Is this why 1,000 years ago Muslim jihadists killed off all the Buddhists of what is now known as Afghanistan?

    Is this why Muslim jihadists killed off all the Zoroastrians of the Arabian Peninsula?

    Is this why Muslim jihadists have killed 70 million Hindus over the past 1,000 years in their jihad against southern India?
    ++
    Stop trying to confuse us (practice taqiyya) about Islam’s true colors. Islam was founded by a warrior prophet and is a warrior’s religion. Its Caliphate building began when Mohammed and his followers rid the Arabian Peninsula of infidels and it continues apace today.

    • I’m curious where you get your statistics from? Or did I miss the 1,000 year old study documenting the death of evry Hindu at the hands of a Muslim. I wonder what the control group for this experiment was? Granted that Islam was certainly spread through the numerous wars that occurred during its exiatence, saying that people from other religions were killed off, period, is pretty stupid. Most of these people probably converted to Islam over time, since many of the locals in conquered areas worked within existing Caliphal bureaucracies. I recommend learning a bit more about Islam’s history, and with more of an open mind. It gives perspective, especially when you clearly don’t have a clue what your talking about.

      Best,
      An Islamic historian and archaeologist in training

  8. “We are unsafe because we continue to marginalize our non-white, non-Christian populations around the world and expect them to remain silent in humiliation. ”
    ++
    Is this why Muslims are killing Buddhist monks in Thailand or why Muslims are killing Hindus in southern Asiua or why Muslims wiped out all the Animists in Sudan?
    ++
    The gall of you to publish this article before the Parisian dead are even buried. You should move back to Beirut for good if you find the Hezbollah and their ilk so much more to your liking.

  9. “Note: Let’s not forget Palestine, Jordan’s Salti sisters, Mizzou, Yale, the earthquake in Japan and the daily tragedy that occurs around the world and on our very own “liberal” campus.”

    ++
    The icing on the cake. We knew this was coming…

    There is no Palestine. In fact it is becoming clearer and clearer every day that Israel is no different than Sudan, or Kashmir, or southern Nigeria, i.e., Israel is on the front line of the Muslim jihad against all infidels.
    ++
    Let’s not forget the tens of thousands killed by Muslim jihad against all nations since Mohammed started it 1,400 years ago.

    Visit the website “The Religion of Peace” for a complete inventory of jihadist activity committed since 9/11. The numbers killed and wounded by Muslim jihadists will shock most anyone and shine a bright light on what a serious problem this is and how Paris was nothing more than the latest example of Islam’s 1,400 year long jihad against the infidel.

  10. Man with Axe says:

    “Selective mourning is a product of not only white supremacy as described in American racial terms, but also post-colonial understandings of who is and who is not human. We feel the 45 dead in Beirut were not human; they were Shiite.”

    You know who else thought they were less than human? The sunnis who killed them.

    This “product of white supremacy” is actually universal. We see it in the celebrations among Palestinians when Israelis, or Jews anywhere, for that matter, are killed. We see it in the bloodthirsty killing by ISIS of anyone, really, who doesn’t fit into their narrow definition of human. We see it in the Koranic rules against the kafir. By the treatment of African blacks by Arabic slave raiders in Sudan.

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