‘Empathy’ is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as, “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions; the ability to share someone else’s feelings.”
Empathy is shown by people whose hearts are alive to the cries of humanity. Souls who can relate to another in the name of their common creator, the One True God, who is Alone. He declared Himself Lord of all Mankind, indicating that His Benevolence and Mercy extends to everyone, not just Muslims.
Diving Into The Problem
A few days ago, November 14 to be precise, terrorists attacked the heart of Paris, the capital of France and a country held dearly by arts enthusiasts around the world. A concert hall, stadium, restaurants and bystanders were among the locations where the militants attacked. Almost 129 innocent people lost their lives to this senseless act of terror. The entire world mourned over the incidents, expressing solidarity with the French people and promising of resolute support in their hour of need. Some felt so moved that they changed their profile pictures with a French flag over it. While many endorsed this symbolic display of support, others strongly condemned. A vast majority of Muslims were observed expressing outrage over what they perceived was a ‘selective’ display of humanity.
Why did they think so?
Prior to the Paris attacks, scores of people in Lebanon and Iraq had also lost their lives to terrorism. These incidents were widely published in the corporate media but the kind of attention Paris received, in most ways bringing the world to a standstill, is unparalleled.
To some, the general Muslim resentment seems justified. After all, since 9/11, millions have died in killings executed by Western-led military expeditions in the name of ‘anti-terrorism’. Africa, Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan have suffered innumerable acts of violence and terror, most of which are directly committed by Western military forces and others carried out as ‘retaliation’ by self-proclaimed jihadist groups.
Pakistani Muslims were among the most vocal against this discrimination. “Why so much hoo-ha for France? Don’t Muslim lives matter?” Taunting updates from pseudo-mullah social media celebrities (Omar Imran, etc) also tried to dig up what they called the Western ‘hypocrisy’. Overall, the general argument presented by Muslims is that humanity is selectively practiced by powerful nations.
Their arguments hold merit to some extent but it also reveals growing apathy fostering in their hearts and minds. One would have expected that people who have suffered the most would know what it’s like to be hurt and calm others down but the exact opposite seems to be taking place. Islam teaches us, through The Qur’an and sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) that humanity should be cared for, regardless of their race, caste, religion, colour, language or creed. On the contrary, we get further antagonized and get into what I call the “uber-defensive” mode. This helplessness manifests itself into the easy way out i.e. rage. Since most of us have no logical means of getting our message across, we resort to sarcasm and extremism.
There is something fundamentally wrong in our understanding.
As far as the ordinary people around the world are concerned (not talking about their governments), they renounce terror in all its forms. Many learned Muslims too, denounce violence committed anywhere and everywhere. We go into an inferiority complex, questioning why Beirut, Baghdad, Waziristan, Mogadishu, etc aren’t given the same “treatment” as Paris is. While I personally find it ridiculous to frown upon such mistreatment, I will try to present my detailed arguments in the hopes that readers can grasp the point I’m trying to make.
Undoubtedly, the wars rampaging the Muslim world today were imposed by the Western elite (US and NATO states). However, they are sustained and expanded not by the ones who waged it but by their pet Muslim connivers in Arab Gulf states and Iran (GCC + Iran). It won’t be incorrect to say that the West actually provided leverage to power-seeking expansionism harboured by the Sheikhs and Ayatollahs in the Middle East. The current world disorder is caused by a two-headed monster, GCC and Iran. If you chop off their heads, there might be some regional standoffs but no worldwide plague will remain, the plague of terrorism.
The advent of latest Information & Communications Technologies (ICTs) facilitated hate-mongers in Arab Gulf states and Iran to spread the tentacles of their poisonous political ideologies across the Muslim world in particular and the world in general. I won’t call their activities as “Islamic” because the twisted doctrines they present deviate greatly from the fundamental tenets of Islam. The GCC and Iran (Saudi Arabia and Iran to be precise) are two cancerous cells within the collective Muslim body.
As I was saying, sensible citizens around the world denounce terrorism in all its forms. Many non-Muslims also know well Islam has nothing to do with violence. But we, on the other hand, are deeply compartmentalized: Sunnis within us say that Sunni-origin terrorists are “resistance fighters” but all others (Shia, non-Muslim armies, etc) are terrorists. Similarly, Shias within us say that Shia-origin terrorists are “resistance fighters” but all others (Sunni, Wahhabi/Salafi, non-Muslim armies, etc) are the terrorists. These “ifs” and “buts” which each sect/school of thought has added to ties with militants is what makes us appear dubious and two-faced in the eyes of the world at large. Naturally, an ordinary non-Muslim might perceive us as “idiots fighting among themselves” who are causing damage to the whole world because of their in-fighting.
Why Can’t We Control The Global Narrative?
One cannot disagree with the fact that the West has had a horrendous human rights record, to say the least. Historians will not deny that imperialist armies and crusaders, even the modern Western armies deployed in self-established war zones, have massacred millions of innocent civilians. There was a time when non-Muslims were associated with violence.
After the Cold War and specifically after 9/11, a global impression that Islam is somehow the root of all violence was projected by power-hungry developed countries. They wanted to get rid of what they considered as ‘imbeciles’ sitting upon a treasure trove of mineral resources either through planned social agitation or direct assassinations. Installing puppets also complimented this already grand scheme by causing widespread frustration among their respective citizens. The result was well-calculated: Muslims would be so demonized and intimidated politically, socially and economically, that they would ultimately become agitated extremists and pick up arms against whoever they thought of as their enemy number one.
Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed ‘scholars’ in the Arab world and Iran use every means at their disposal to create cheap geopolitical foot soldiers cleverly indoctrinated through distorted religious (and actually non-Qura’nic) teachings. These “warriors” think they are establishing an Islamic state whereas they themselves are giving a bad name to the religion they profess to follow.
To this day, no Muslim body (OIC, etc) has come to a unanimous conclusion that terrorism is terrorism without ifs and buts. The murder of one person is equal to the killing of all mankind. Pakistan has one opinion, Turkey has another, Saudi Arabia and Iran have others and so on. If I were a non-Muslim citizen of, say, Europe, would I actually show sympathy for such a confused community? I certainly wouldn’t.
It takes great moral courage to show empathy for anyone, even if it is an innocent non-Muslim who is injured or killed because of someone’s wrongdoing. Being empathetic means our hearts aren’t dead. So whether we mourn for the dead just in Lebanon or just in Iraq or just in France, at least we care! At least we still have people whose hearts are still beating for humanity because the blood of an innocent shed in France was also dark red in color, it is the same color in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia, etc.
We are house divided in itself. Therefore it is irrational for us to expect non-Muslims who are, by the way, united among themselves in majority, to treat us equally. If I may dare say this in marketing language, “Muslims have bad PR”. This PR during terrorism on our own state lands gets even more warped.
All Muslim countries today are concerned for their own selves. The Arabs and Iranians continue to fight proxy wars on foreign soil. (No) thanks to them, in this part of the world we’ve seen so much gore and bloodshed that people are gradually becoming “insensitive” to such disturbing scenes. Little surprise why some of us Pakistanis were ‘excited’ to see the Sialkot brothers getting lynched to death or the two bikers burnt to death then dragged near Youhanabad after the suicide bombing in a church.
If we look inside our community, our own people have enthusiastically recorded and uploaded videos of beheadings, killings, suicide bombings and violence. We’re turning into the “Zionists” we curse day and night. When some of us choose to share our grief over loss of human life, we are taunted for being selective. I have seen hundreds of memes by narrow-minded Muslims doubting the sincerity of those condoling with victims of the Paris attacks.
Interestingly, we are aware that the “gora kafirs” manipulate the media to control the global narrative. It is an undeniable fact. Why should we be enraged about it? Why didn’t we become equally proficient or skilled to project a counter-narrative or alternative perspective? Rather than constantly pointing the finger at the West, why don’t we unite together as one nation to send our message across?
We won’t. We are too busy fighting among ourselves. We hate our rival sect/school of thought so much that we’d rather focus all our energies on them instead of addressing common challenges confronting our entire community.
If someone in our friends list or an unknown stranger has expressed solidarity with France, let them. If we really are concerned for the neglected or forgotten victims in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, etc, why don’t we take the initiative to raise awareness about them?
The trouble is, we always use sarcasm or taunts as tools to get our point across. “Oh he’s so concerned for Paris but was sleeping when Muslims were being killed in Beirut”. How can we say the other person was unmoved by the events in Beirut? More importantly, if they didn’t, why should we even persuade someone to focus on a trend of our choice? Don’t people have the right of self-expression?
The most disturbing part of this fiasco is that our efforts are more to degrade the other instead of getting our point across. We want to shame people with profile pictures of the French flag more than we actually want to highlight the plight of innocent victims of terrorism in Muslim-majority lands.
As long as each one of us has even a tiny spark of empathy within, we should be grateful for it. It doesn’t take much to make hearts die. A heart that is alive is a sign of human existence. Let us fear a world in which there will be many men and women but no humans. The world would end if all of us became apathetic. Our job is not to guide people’s empathy toward a particular direction. Our job is to appreciate the little empathy that does exist in the world despite the growing preference for objects over humans. Thus, empathy is a precious universal asset that shouldn’t be subjected to any controversy. No one can claim exclusive ownership of it and neither can anyone control it. If some people have knowingly/unknowingly limited the focus of their concerns to a particular region, it still doesn’t befit us to belittle them.
image credit: wikipedia.