Is it terrorism itself or the cities where terror strikes that is more appalling?

Published: November 14, 2015

Around the world, people are reacting to the news of the attacks. These candles were left in San Francisco, California. PHOTO: REUTERS

Around the world, people are reacting to the news of the attacks. These candles were left in San Francisco, California.
PHOTO: REUTERS Paris terror attacks kill more than 120; France declares emergency state. PHOTO: CNN A victim lies on the ground covered by a white sheet outside of the Cafe Bonne Biere in Paris, on November 13, 2015 following an attack. PHOTO: AFP

The country’s capital was rocked by the deadliest terror attack it has seen in over 20 years. Dozens have been reported dead with some calling it a “satanic attack” and the world has not shed a tear.

Yes, you have not posted or tweeted about it. You did not come up with any hashtags or express any condemnation. You just, perhaps, accepted it as a harsh reality and moved on because the capital was Beirut not Paris.

The night before Paris was attacked, Beirut lost more than 40 lives and you moved on. You are not just the common Twitterati, you are the international media empire, you are the world leaders, you are the humanitarian organisations, you are the celebrities and sports stars, and all of you refused to shed a tear for Beirut.

Paris, on the other hand, at least has the comfort that it has all of your support in these trying times. The bomb which explodes doesn’t discriminate when killing people around it but we, ‘dignified humans’, have the audacity to discriminate between victims of terror.

Is it terrorism itself which is more appalling to us or is it the cities where terror is striking the more notable fact?

This is not the first time that you have shamelessly exhibited this selective empathy. Earlier this year, when Charlie Hebdo was attacked, we saw world leaders marching down the streets of Paris in solidarity. How many of those world leaders visited Kenya, when a massacre took place in Garissa University just three months later. The victims of terror may be traumatised but they are not blind. They can see and they can feel. They are not numb to our ignorance.

It is ridiculous that the world is becoming more polarised not just because of terror attacks but also by our reaction to these attacks. Our selective empathy is so criminal that I am confused if we are aiding the terrorists or are the terrorists aiding us in polarising the world.

It is said that terrorism is contempt for human dignity but is selective empathy worse than terrorism?

If my heart will continue to express shock on an attack in Paris, New York or London but will accept terrorism as a norm in Lebanon, Damascus, Baghdad, Sana’a, Karachi and Nairobi, we will be showing more contempt towards human dignity than the terrorists. If we as an international community swear to never forget the attack on the twin towers 15 years on but we deliberately choose to ignore the on-going apartheid and subsequent killings in Palestine, we are being worse than the terrorists. At least there is some consistency in the acts of terrorists.

Condemning the attack on Paris alone will not address this issue. Terrorism and oppression anywhere and everywhere will have to be condemned with equal measure. This not a white lives versus brown lives debate or a non-Muslim lives versus Muslim lives debate – this is an empathy versus apathy debate. This is a debate about how our conscience reacts selectively to tragedies. All terror attacks cannot be called human tragedies because we failed to consider all victims of terror as humans.

President Obama commented on the Paris attack saying,

“This is an attack not just on Paris, not just on France, but an attack on all of humanity and the values that we share.”

Who are the “we” who share these values? Are these just the citizens of Europe and North America?

What are these “values” which Obama says we share? Is it sacredness which is attached to only certain lives?

Obama’s words are as superficial as the US’s counter terrorism policies which funded ISIS, used drones, invaded countries for false intelligence and imprisoned innocents in Guantanamo. All terror attacks cannot be called human tragedies because we as humans have failed to consider all victims of terror as humans.

Actions speak louder than words and our actions have proven that the term “humanity” does not refer to all humans anymore and that there are no share values.

How can I tweet #PakistanWithFrance when Pakistan refuses to even stand with itself. Less than a year after the barbaric Peshawar Attack, Taliban sympathiser and a terrorist himself, Abdul Aziz has openly threatened to start his perverse radical campaign again. He is again dwelling a government mosque to spread hate and terror and we cannot seem to do anything about it besides “beefing up security”. Terrorists continue to sit and thrive in our capital and remain untouchable and we carry on with our lives expressing our support for other capital cities.

In the wake of these recent terror attacks on Paris, our ignorance continues to rule the day as many who are sympathising with Paris have started to blame the recent inflow of refugees into Europe as the cause. No one would care to reflect that these refugees escaped from their countries due to such deadly attacks which continued to mount and rise as the world refused to shed a tear or even post a hashtag when hundreds of thousands were being killed and the homes of these refugees were being burnt to the ground in Syria and Iraq.

I mourn for you Paris, because you are stuck between two of the most destructive forces in the world. Your attackers include terrorists and your supporters comprise of ignorants. A beautiful city like you does not deserve such ugly luck but due to our collective ignorance, we have already allowed many beautiful cities to be reduced to ashes since the start of this century.

Bon courage, France and bon courage, World.


Jibran Nasir

A lawyer and civil and political rights activist. He is the co-founder of Elaj Trust, Pakistan For All and Never Forget Pakistan. He tweets @MJibranNasir (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • zulekha soorma

    How very true. This selective sympathy has led to the conflict the world is now facing. It is a contradictory world with everyone having an axe to grind for their own vested interests. Our government if it does not address the issues to reduce poverty and provide employment and provide safe drinking water and basic healthcare to the population, will be facing anarchy. The very parliament which is supposed to represent the voters does not work to pass laws or to strengthen institutions. The education system and the healthcare system is a shambles and our government is busy building metros and destroying the aesthetics of cities and historical monuments both in Karachi and Lahore. The civil society must raise their voice to stop the rot otherwise the very fabric of society will be destroyed.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Strong stuff…….stuff that was needed to be said.Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Its going to be a long lengthy WE but on Monday , all will emerge as usual to carry on with their lives. It’s eons’ old image of romance / amour will remain intact. Vive la France . Recommend

  • Javeriakhan

    Exactly,terrorism anywhere is terrorism whether newyork,paris,london, syria,jordan,lebonan why discriminate.????Recommend

  • Faizan

    Well said!Recommend

  • Muhammad

    Confused mass of protoplasm!
    World will only stand with when you stand together.
    In Pakistan 70 % killing the 30%.
    You need to to be factually correct not politically correct. Don’t become another Hamza Ali Abbasi. We already have lot of those!Recommend

  • Brutus

    Another shameless victim- hood rhetoric from a typical “born virtuous” Muslim. Why should anyone mourn the death of 40 Hezbollah supporters in a terrorist attack, when they themselves were responsible for innumerable terrorists attacks on other people in the past? Hezbollah is a well known terrorist group. Besides, how much did the Muslim world mourn the terrorist attacks on non-Muslim world? To be true, very little or not at all. Barring few Muslim politicians and so called intellectuals, rest of the Muslim world remained gleefully silent whenever there was an atrocity committed by Islamic terrorists on innocent people. Footage on You Tube is available showing the ordinary Muslim populace in Palestine and other places in the Middle- East rejoicing at the destruction of twin towers in New York and the death of thousands of ordinary Americans. Even in Pakistan many (not all) were seen irrepressibly happy at the carnage that took place on that dreadful day of 26/11. Not a single rally ever been taken out anywhere in the Muslim world, against the Islamic terrorists who were on killing spree in the various parts of the non-Muslim world for decades, and you’ve gall to accuse us of being selective in our outrage? In contrast, non-Muslim people, around the world, protested vehemently against their own governments, whenever they felt injustice is being done to the Muslim people.
    Blaming the US or Europe for civil wars in the Middle-east or elsewhere is just foolish. If a country, nation or a community is so fragile and vulnerable to be instigated to fight amongst themselves, then, it has no right to complain of being victimized by others, rather, it deserves it. Muslims fervently claim to be a homogeneous community,akin to a one body one soul, and yet you are so fragmented, divided and badly polarized that there’s virtually no need for any outsider to waste his energy on splitting you!
    Therefore buddy, don’t pay too much attention to the Umma, just take care of your own country Pakistan, which too is getting “dubla” (lean) in paying too much attention to this Umma thing!!Recommend

  • Salma

    Please understand that the world is resigned to the self destructive actions of the Muslim dominated nations when they kill each other with impunity, as it happens in all of Middle East, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Add to that the draconian laws prevalent in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and of course Pakistan — the blasphemy law. Must I mention explicitly the Shias, Ahmadis, Hindus, Yazdis, the innocent folks of Kalash? But when a different country is attacked, and innocents are killed, it does makes one angry, incensed and immensely sad. Even if one is a Muslim, as I am.Recommend

  • Rhea

    Mr Nasir, there is a small news item in this very newspaper that a mass grave of Yazidi women has been excavated in Iraq, a grave which was due to the ISI atrocities. Will you ask yourself why that is inconsequential to you? Charity begins at home.Recommend

  • Sid

    Explain ignorance. That every major terrorist attacks in world have been committed by people claiming to be followers of Islam ? That madrassahs have being monitored around in world including Pakistan itself for they spread hatred against non muslims and promote violence ? That muslims even the ones born in progressive nation where they have all freedom join violent jihad all over the world. That honor killings is highest amongst muslims if found that their daughters tend to marry non muslims. Is it a lie and ignorance that in many gulf countries the punishment is banished from kingdom if girl marries a non muslim without converting him to Islam. Muslims request special treatments even in non muslim countries where people from other religions do not. Muslims never fought against terrorists in their country. And when non muslims do the job for them they call it Islamaphoebia, intolernce and ignorance. If there is a calamity in Islamic countries muslim sees it as an opportunity to seek asylum in west only to bring the practices what lead to trouble in their country in tolerant countries, where people give up tolerance cause muslims abuse that freedom the most. So is stating facts being ignorant ?Recommend

  • Nori

    Dude, what are u trying to say? On one hand you are saying people are ignoring events in some areas of world and on the other hand you are also mentioning the lack of law by not taking action on terrorists in Pakistan, does it not make sense to you that not taking action on culprits involved in benazirs murder, Peshawar attack and Mumbai attacks is eating away the moral values for the sake of mere religion. The fault lies in us if we cannot self respect for us in international community. Of course Paris is Paris and is not some Karachi or Beirut. France has self respect,is democratic , secular and does not blindly follow religion. The moral you need to know is respect is earned not given and the same applies to your question why world cares more about France!!!!!Recommend

  • Anwaar

    This is an Excellent article …Recommend