With the tragedy of Paris still raw in people’s minds, it has been a difficult week on social media. From sickening footage of the killing sprees to heart wrenching messages from grieving loved ones to the world, no one has been able to escape the horrors of what has happened. During the days following these tragic events, I felt as if finally social media had united to do something right – show unity in the face of adversity. Thousands of heartfelt messages were strewn across Facebook pages, people were sharing their disbelief and solidarity with these shocked and broken countries who had been viciously attacked. People, it seemed, were becoming far more aware of the damage ISIS had created.
However, as these messaged flooded Facebook, so did other, more hateful, comments. It was then I realised how easily the powerful presence of social media could turn sour. Petitions suddenly sprung up from nowhere demanding that we shut our borders away from “them” – the outsiders, the refugees, the migrants. Words such as “Muslim scumbags” began to crop up, with cartooned pictures of Muslims carrying guns and shooting poor, innocent white people. The “us and them” complex suddenly filled my screen. People weren’t talking about “us” and “we” anymore, it was becoming an issue of who are “they” and how do we get rid of “them.”
(Photo Credit: www.patheos.com)
In a week that has shocked the world, the frightening escalation of people’s ignorance and hatred has been upsetting. A prime example is the social media man hunt for a Canadian man named Veerender Jubbal whose selfie was broadcast across Facebook, claiming he was one of the Paris suicide bombers.
The photo was even published in a Spanish Newspaper, La Razon, as a legitimate photo of one of the bombers. The disturbing manipulation of the photo (shown above) – his iPad is turned into the Quran, his shirt covered by a bomb jacket – epitomises the frightening power of ignorance. This young man’s personal photo was brutalised in order to fit a perception of evil. However, this man is a Sikh. He is wearing a Sikh style turban.
The attacks have also led to a growing tide of racism against the Syrian refugees, even in publications such as the Daily Mail, which issued a Nazi-esque cartoon earlier this week depicted refugees as rats – an ugly insight into the racism swirling the internet.
(Photo Credit: www.independent.co.uk)
I think the fear comes from being afraid of what we do not understand. We need to always be seeking to educate ourselves on diverse viewpoints and cultures. We must remember that ISIS does not speak for the Muslim community – extremists groups do not represent their religion.
We mustn’t forget where fear-mongering has got us in the past and how our inability to show acceptance and tolerance has only ever led to violence. Let’s not allow Paris to become a pretext for war.