By Theresa Vande Burgt
On Friday November 13th, horrific events occurred in Paris which were felt around the world. Four separate attacks occurred in the French capital, which left over 129 people dead and the country of France in a state of emergency.
These coordinated attacks were felt around the world and immediately gained enormous mass media attention.
However, the attacks on Paris were not the only horrific incidents to have occurred that week. Just the day before, a deadly bombing took place in Beirut, Lebanon, which left 43 dead. This event was covered by various media outlets, but coverage was largely left out of public interest until after the events in Paris.
When news began to spread of the trauma faced in Paris, the public took to social media to express their varying opinions. The biggest reaction was the heartbreak and sympathy people felt for those affected by the attacks. Right away hashtags and pictures of the Eiffel tower trended across various social media platforms. Several celebrities shared their thoughts of love and prayer for the people of Paris, and for all of Friday night there was little else talked about.
Facebook immediately changed their features in reaction to the attacks. People were able to change their profile picture to the French flag in order to represent their solidarity with Paris, and a safety check was enabled so that people could see which of their friends in Paris were safe.
This was, of course, an understandable reaction and it is touching to see this kind of public outcry and standing together for peace. However, while all of our hearts are with Paris and the victims who deserve all of the love being sent to them, it is questionable as to why this kind of reaction does not happen for equally horrific events in places such as Beirut and Syria.
“While I understand why people changed their profile pictures, I think that it becomes more about the likes than the support for Paris” says Lakehead student, Alison Jursa. “That’s great, and I understand expressing grief and sympathy, but how many people who changed their profile picture donated to relief funds?”
Along with the positive reaction of public support, there were also the negative and offensive reactions that always accompany an incident such as this. As soon as the attacks occurred, and before any sort of confirmation on the nature of the attacks were released, the hashtag #Muslims hit social media. People were very quick to point the finger and express their racist opinions.
Beyond social media, the backlash of Friday’s events affected people in a very real way. In Ontario alone, there were several reports of hate crimes against Muslim people and their places of worship. In Kitchener, a mosque was set on fire, and in North York, a Muslim woman was assaulted after picking her children up from school. These are only a sample of the multiple incidents which occurred.
While the world stands with Paris, and rightfully so, the world forgets to stand with the rest of it’s neighbors. Not just the victims of horrific bombings and other attacks, but the victims who face prejudice because of the people who use their religion in an extremist way. Our reactions to these events should not be exclusive and they should not be short lived.
Even though the social media attention may have died down some, this is an incident that is still ongoing. Since the initial attacks, the French government has conducted thorough investigation into those behind the attacks, and the perpetrators have all been either arrested or killed. In our home country, the reaction to this event has sparked quite the conversation about Canada’s involvement in the Middle East war efforts. Our new Prime Minister stands behind his initial decision to withdraw military efforts from Iraq and Syria. This debate has Canadians reacting differently and strongly on various platforms.
In this devastating and frightening time, it is important to remain vigilant, compassionate, and strong. Varying opinions and decisions may cause uproar and disagreement, and a critical approach should always be taken when regarding situations of this nature. However, we cannot let fear and animosity tamper with our humanity and empathy for all those suffering around the world.