By Yusuf Morales
ZAMBOANGA City–The world’s spotlight is now on Paris, after experiencing a tragic blow nearly a year after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. This has brought many people to sympathize and empathize with the French. Facebook even allowed people to post a watermarked flag of France superimposed on the pictures of Facebook users.
There are many angles to this story. First, is the double standard perception towards reportage, that when the non-Western countries, specifically Muslim and indigenous populations experience violence and cultural and ethnic cleansing, the world seems to turn a blind eye. But when a western country like the US, or France gets attacked, the whole world suddenly mourns. This is further exaggerated if the perpetuators are colored, or Muslim.
The second angle is the demonization factor. Much as I do not want to cite Samuel Huntington, but there is still a pre-existing paradigm that despite being in a globalized society, there is still a sense of unwelcoming over certain elements of regional culture. A global culture in order to be global must be welcoming and accepting of differences, of becoming open spaces of inclusivity and sensitivity. This goes both for global and local media, to be able to broadcast and highlight both local, regional and international events whether of economic successes such as the Apec summit, or the Palestinian genocide and the Burma ethnic cleansing to mobilize not only sympathy but also global support and mobilization.
Seyyed Hossein Nasr says that the ethos of modern society is that there is more emphasis of social premiums on individuals than on the collective society as a whole. This has worsened in today’s post-modern society, a society wherein Shaykh Hamza Yusuf has described as having a culture of extremism in western society. A society that encourages extreme sports, even extreme dietary culture like vegetarianism or veganism, one that encourages extreme lifestyles, of open marriages and open-ended relationships. This has been in the eyes of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, towards the degradation of western society and one-sided values, thus having one-sided perspectives, seeing the bombing of Beirut of the beheading of Hazaras in Afghanistan or the daily genocide of Palestine and Rohingya as not crucial while the Paris incident has been mourned by the world.
Not to sound callous but are Sandy brook, Boston Bombing, the Charlie Hebdo and recent Paris incidents the only worthy news items worth shedding a tear for? It is an irony that when the Paris incident happened, a lot of Filipinos changed profile pics but never reacted to Lumad killings and preferred a very distant incident. The global psyche of callousness is so deafening it has become so fearful.
On the other hand, we are asked, who are to blame for the actions of a small minority of Muslims who have wreaked havoc on the world? It is but time that the world and the west “man up” for the geopolitical ironies that has happened.
The Arab spring has become the Arab winter. Everyone was happy that democratic demonstrations in the Arab world, supported by the West, would bring down the tyrants whom the West helped set up in the first place. Now the pride of North Africa, Libya is in civil war, Egypt has yet to recover from the crisis of Morsi and Sisi, Tunisia has yet to stand up, and all of these countries have extremists flowing in, supported by foreign money with promises of “democracy” replacing tyranny. Syria and Iraq are no strangers to this, and have fallen prey and victim to the “puppetries” in the hopes of dislodging Assad as hey have dislodged Saddam. But now they face a monster, one that they may have to man up that they have created, and have brought menace into their societies.
To declare that the refugees brought the menace to Western soil is an irony, the menace crept into Arab lands because of Western intervention.
Democracy and power to the masses is a very admirable concept, but it has to be natural, one that is homegrown and raised by the people themselves, when it is grafted by ideas of foreigners who do not understand the soul of a people, would wreak more havoc than becoming the balm to cure its ills.
As the theatre of war will expand, these extremists would have landed in Southeast Asian shores. Many social media posts decry their existence already. And we may have to confront them. Then how do we confront an ideology that is against inclusivity, against accepting differences, against accepting deviants and the West?
Then we shall see like in the Middle East, the sky fall, from bombs, from tears and wails from suicide bombings, from terror attacks and kidnappings.
Before this happens, what are we to do, so that we may have even a spectre of chance to succeed?
We have to make our national culture one of inclusivity, true inclusivity in education, in governance, in culture, in language and in the people themselves, not simply bylines or motherhood statements but true programs that resonate the state’s sincerity to unify as a people, to be inclusive as to allow the people of different areas to govern themselves in the pursuit of self determination, to recognize the indigenous culture of our diverse peoples and enrich it to make them mainstream and accept them, so that no culture is left behind and that each Filipino feels he is proud to be one.
For if we do not, then when the religious and political extremists would continue to wreak their havoc, having enough manpower, “to die another day.” For “the world is not enough” for anyone who has the zeal to wreak havoc in the pursuit of his goals.
(Yusuf Morales is the Muslim Affairs Coordinator of the Social Development Office of the Ateneo de Zamboanga University. His interests are Sufism, Southeast Asian Islam, Islamic Philosophy and Theology. History of Religions and Social Development. The author has written articles on Islam and Muslims.)