By Marina Souliman
Friday the 13th rings in the ears of people as an unlucky day. On November 13, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) carried out several attacks worldwide, validating that superstition all over the world. Over 129 people were killed and over 300 injured in several coordinated attacks across Paris. Besides pain and mourning, the Paris terrorist attacks sparked emotions of anger and confusion across the globe due to the lack of coverage on other terror attacks in non-western countries.
Terror attacks occur constantly but none have made such a ripple in our social media or day-to-day interactions. In April, Garissa University in Kenya was attacked by al-Shabaab, a radical Islamist group, killing 147 students. In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, news links about the Kenya attack resurfaced on social media making some believe it was a current attack. According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, an article reporting on the university attack gained four times as many clicks after the Paris tragedy than when the attack actually happened.
This raises the question of why a tragedy in Kenya wasn’t paid as much attention in comparison when it originally happened. The western world is not aware of what is going on around elsewhere. Due to our perception of terror attacks in third world countries and our general detachment from other countries, we do not pay enough attention.
It’s not only we who are suffering but so many more. Paris is a representation of the European countries and, ultimately, an incursion is also an attack on the western world as a whole. But, any aggression is an attack on humanity and the world must pay attention and intervene to lessen the amount of lives being taken away.
Our mentality is that there always have been and always will be terror attacks in the Middle East and Africa, yet that should not deviate our attention away but attract more. And, in many cases, it has. For example, in April, there was a vigil in Paris for those who died in the Kenyan attacks. It’s true that at times the world can be empathetic by bonding together to fight against terror, but what must really be changed is our permanent perception.
A day before the attacks on Paris, Beirut faced a double suicide attack that killed over 40 people, and in January, an ambush in Baga, Nigeria left 2,000 dead. Neither gained much attention from the western world until the Paris attacks and neither triggered the safety check function on Facebook, a service that allows users to connect with friends and family during a disaster.
Facebook has gained criticism as many realized that they opened the safety check function for Paris and not any other current attacks. With this criticism, Chief Executive Officer of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, released the statement: “You are right that there are many other important conflicts in the world. We care about all people equally, and we will work hard to help people suffering in as many of these situations as we can.”
Not only did Facebook acknowledge their mistake, but they are also taking action to fix it. This is an example of how we need to go about this issue from now on and even recognize the steps that are already being taken. In the days after the attacks, there were several more worldwide that were reported on social media. Although they did not gain as much social media attention, they did get reported on extensively and reached worldwide newspapers.
With only a few vital steps, each of us can become more aware of the world around us, and double standards of terrorism can be combatted. Seeing that all tragedy is a human issue and must be addressed is the only way to change our mentality, but it must be done on a personal level which will essentially grow into a societal norm.