I seldom find anything more heartwarming than displays of unity. It is genuinely nice to see solidarity manifest. However, what I find truly problematic is shows of solidarity that are inspired by a superficial movement and that highlight that an issue is only relevant in a certain context.
I am referring to the recent attacks in Paris and the stances taken by world leaders, the press, and people on social media.
It is either a disengenuous political statement about terrorism that rings hollow, or an unequivocal proclamation that some acts of terrorism are more equal than others. This, to me, is a serious problem.
The attacks in Paris, to be perfectly clear, were atrocious acts of terrorism. But acts of terrorism do not occur in vacuums. They are products of complex political, social, and economic climates. France has been rocked twice in 2015 - in fact, this was the subject of my most popular post with over a thousand views. We're dealing with Je Suis Charlie, the reprise.
The question to ask has to be: why has France been targeted twice?
The answer is surprisingly straightforward: France has an awful track record for integrating minorities. And this is not a new problem. France has a large, disaffected population of largely North African immigrants. Islamophobia is a massive problem in France, fueled by the War on Terror as well as the recent refugee crisis. This happened to be largely related to my MA thesis.
Unequivocally, France has been committed to the rhetoric of fighting terrorism, not backing down, closing off borders, and ultimately punishing moderate muslims as well as radicals. This was certainly true before the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, but certain political movements have further pontificated these values (like le Front national), furthering the xenophobic movement in France. (Consider for example that these attacks do not happen in moderate European states like Germany).
To take a "stand with France" is necessarily supporting these values of xenophobia, however intentional. It's not easy to hear. Especially when we consider that the expressions of this nature are unique to the attack on France, not to other acts of terrorism that have been confirmed in the past week alone - Nigeria, Lebanon, and Syria. It's plain and simple selective outrage.
What can we be doing instead? Acknowledge the value of all lives. The catastrophe in France is an expression of the same conflicts occuring in other parts of the world that are much more challenging for us to sympathise with. Let's be fair about violence: attacks of this nature, if we are to be appalled, necessitate that we are always appalled by them no matter where they happen.