Why I Won’t be Changing my Facebook Picture to the French Colours

If terror is terror, how is Paris different from Lebanon?

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If terror is terror, how is Paris different from Lebanon? (Photo Courtesy: Facebook)

Facebook is now a wall of France’s flag. Everyone who has ever visited the city or dreams of doing it one day is fastest-finger-first changing their profile picture to a background of red, blue and white. What happened in Paris was brutal and we Indians know the smell of terror.

In fact, this time it hit closer than many other geographically-spaced out locations would have – possibly because, for many of us, it’s the city of love, history and nostalgia. (Are you thinking of that iconic selfie under the Eiffel Tower yet?) Our friends were physically fine – they told us as much through the ‘I am safe’ check in on Facebook.

People gather for a national service for the victims of the terror attack at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Sunday, November 15, 2015. (Photo: AP)
People gather for a national service for the victims of the terror attack at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Sunday, November 15, 2015. (Photo: AP)

We can only pray for the ones who did not make it. Some others elsewhere, equally traumatised, didn’t even have this symbolic option.

Within the same 48 hours, there have been attacks in Beirut and Baghdad. There have been casualties. I can almost hear us dismiss Lebanon. “If the Arab world doesn’t care, why should we? Lebanon has anyway been in the midst of a civil war etc.”

It is perhaps irrelevant then that both the attacks – Paris and Lebanon – were by the ISIS. While taking nothing away from the horror of Paris, what I am struggling to fathom is how we have judged one set of lives to be more important than the other.

Baghdad has anyway fallen off our map – along with Saddam Hussein.

If Terror is Terror, How is Paris Different From Kenya?

A woman reacts after seeing her son who was rescued from the Garissa University attack in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, April 4, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
A woman reacts after seeing her son who was rescued from the Garissa University attack in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, April 4, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

I mourn for them all, but to just change my profile picture to the colours of the French flag would make me fall in my own eyes.

It would also teach my children that the death of a hundred students while they were at an university in Kenya, earlier this year, does not matter. It would show my children that the atrocities of Boko Harem are too far removed from their lives. And I don’t want them to think like Mark Zuckerberg, who probably considered them too third world anyway.

So we carried on through a year where the cries of orphans resonated along with the knell of destruction. There were no RIPs, our display pictures stayed happy and shiny. Terror is terror, then how was Paris different?

Why Religion is a Grown-up World, Not Meant for Children

Mourning for Paris and every life lost (Photo: Twitter/<a href="https://twitter.com/XHNews/status/665927607855087616">@XHNews</a>)
Mourning for Paris and every life lost (Photo: Twitter/@XHNews)

Lost somewhere among the reactions to the Paris attacks was a tweet quoting a child. The girl asked her aunt if she should now stop telling other children in her school that she is a Muslim. This girl is just seven. At an age where kids are at the cusp of discovering pop music, they are already learning about a blast at a concert and the huge implications of it on their small world.

Is this the legacy we want to leave for our children and their innocent friends? To me, this anonymous little girl’s maturity is as tragic as the image of little Aylan washed on shore.

Seven is the age of Santa Clausa and Tooth Fairy – an age where homework is the biggest tragedy in their world. Would I want my children to think otherwise? Absolutely not. Religion is a word for the grown-up world.

How then, has humanity changed so drastically in one generation? We were brought up to respect all equally, then how are we faltering?

Teaching Them the Difference Between a Refugee and a Terrorist

Children light candles as people mourn the deaths of innocent civilians in the 13/11 terror attacks in Paris. (Photo Courtesy: Karan Sarnaik)
Children light candles as people mourn the deaths of innocent civilians in the 13/11 terror attacks in Paris. (Photo Courtesy: Karan Sarnaik)

Today my kids’ best friends are Sofia, Rashid and Bella. These children are as lovely and different as their names. Together they sing Arabic and French songs and happily discuss their families. Will this friendship last? They don’t read the news. But they don’t need to. The selective outrage by us, their parents, will send a message clearer than anything else.

We don’t need to look for blame. Our homes are the big divide.

Perhaps social media is also a bigger culprit than we realised. We know how vitriolic it can get, but what we underestimate is its polarising impact. If we can’t differentiate between a terror attack and a refugee, what will we teach our children? How will they learn that no human can be more helpless than the one who leaves his home with his children for the unknown. Yes, militants also in the guise of refugees have sneaked in. Sadly, that is the reality of the world they are inheriting.

So let your children play in the sand or dress up for Halloween. It doesn’t matter if it is not our tradition. If playing dress up takes them away from the blood soaked reality we are plunging into, then let them play it every single day.

But most importantly, teach them to value human life.

Why Mumbai was Never Really ‘Theirs’

The Taj Mahal hotel is seen engulfed in smoke during a gun battle in Mumbai, November 2008. (Photo: Reuters)
The Taj Mahal hotel is seen engulfed in smoke during a gun battle in Mumbai, November 2008. (Photo: Reuters)

The media can keep looking for similarities between the France attacks and 9/11; the reality is, while ‘Paris’ is also ours, ‘Mumbai’ was never really theirs. David Headley was never extradited to India, nor did the West help bring the Mumbai perpetrators to justice.

So publicly sympathise with Paris by all means, but think for a moment how many of us know the colours of the Afghan flag?


Or closer home, when was the last time our Facebook display picture was that of a jawan killed in Kashmir?

(Jyotsna Mohan Bhargava is a former journalist who now divides her time between blogging and being a full time mother. Tweet to her @jyotsnamohan)

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