By Shaheera Syed
We advocate for freedom of expression but we are against freedom for practicing religion. We chant slogans of liberty, equality and justice but we slander, disrespect and mock anyone who doesn’t adhere to what we believe in.Hypocrisy.Hypocrisy.It’s everywhere!
The seemingly endless bigoted, offensive and biased anti-Islamic commentary of people like Judge Jeanine or Bill Maherin the wake of the recent attack on Charlie Hebdoare enough to boil the blood of even a pacifist. Dramatic voices on live television screaming that ‘we need to kill all those Muslims’remindme of the post 9/11 media coverage in whichpolitical pundits effortlessly painted the entire Muslim population with the color of terrorism escalating the already fuming fire.
Fourteen years after the tragic incident, one often wonders why the media hawks never as rigorously demanded the disclosure of the 28 redacted pages from the Senate report on the 9/11 attacks. The non-disclosed pages, which according to its lead author Bob Graham, “point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as the principal financier” of the 9/11 hijackers.
We cannot talk about higher moral principles if the rules of the game are changed every time the mighty are in thin waters. I don’t support terrorists who take law in their own hands and kill innocent people. Over the last thirteen years, Pakistan, a Muslim majority country,has borne an estimated loss of $102.51 billion as a result of the war on terror. My countryhas lost more than 50,000 lives in this madness.This includes the cold-blooded murder of 132 students at the army run school in Peshawar last month.
Hence, I humbly request the over-zealous Islamophobicsupposed experts on the issue to take the Muslims from under the microscope and for once, try to look at the entire picture. This may include fighting against the unchallenged stereotype of lumping togetherthe Middle East, Arabs, and Muslims, as if they are the same thing, in mainstream US media, entertainment and television (Lana Afour, Aljazeera) or to give equal coverage toCharlie Hebdo’s firing of the French cartoonist Maurice Sinet in 2008 for making an allegedly anti-Semitic remark.
The selective coverage of news, distortion of facts, out of context portrayal of information and mockery aimed to hurt cultural and religious sentiments can’t be justified under the slogan of freedom of expression. Rather, it gives birth to a kind of mental tyranny repressing and terrorizing reasoned thought based on factual and objective information.
It is only fair that beacons of light advocating for free speech should be subjected to the same amount of scrutiny as Muslims. Once we do that, the hypocrisy becomes more apparent than ever. Political leaders talking about freedom of expression include, Barack Obama – who demanded that Yemen keep the anti-drone journalist AbdulelahHaider Shaye behind bars, or Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of a country that was responsible for the killing of seven journalists in Gaza in 2014, or Bibi was joined by Angela Merkel, chancellor of a country where Holocaust denial is punishable by up to five years in prison, and David Cameron, who wants to ban non-violent “extremists” committed to the “overthrow of democracy” from appearing on television.
The recent attack at the satirical magazine has brought the global rift between leftist and rightists, east and west in the limelight again. The scar remains widely exposed constantly being infected by the poisonous coverage of recent events by the print and social media. We realize that the powerful forces in the world have the resources to win the war of narratives. But it is intolerable to talk about extremism and ignore the day-to-day basis discrimination against the biggest Muslim population in Europe including the burka ban in France or downplay the horrific consequences of drones, sanctions; Israel’s mass killing of innocent Palestinians or the death of 6 million in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
For how can the freedom of expression gurus react over what happened in Paris but seldom, if ever, speak up against the deaths of thousands of people in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Palestine and Yemen. How can they dissect every terrorist yet never demand a justification from the US, EU and NATO for the spilt blood, invaded territories and the organized terror in the conflicted regions.
If we keep playing the blame game then we’ll always remain fixated on the apparent problem and will be never able to understand the root cause of terrorism. The worldwide protests will be reduced from the struggle for free expression to only proving that based on their profession and geographic locations, some lives are more important than others. And the hypocrisy of such an outcome will always laugh at us on our faces.
The author is a graduate in Public Administration from NUST School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Pakistan.