No tears for Nigerian terror victims

The double standard is alive and well and living in France for the moment. While world leaders walked in a mass march in Paris to protest against the killing of 10 members of the staff of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, three police officers, and four Jewish shoppers by Muslim extremists, Nigerians were conducting a body count after massacre of hundreds of women, children, and elderly men by Boko Haram in the town of Baga in Borno state. This slaughter was reported in the global media, but there were no high level protests, no marches, no pledges of solidarity or aid from First World leaders.

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan sent condolences to France but did not address the terrible massacre in his own country, demonstrating that the double standard operates on the domestic front as well as the international scene. The conclusion is: French lives are far more precious than African or Third World lives. The different reactions over the French and African cases constitute an extreme example of the double standard that has prevailed on the international scene for decades. The “Third World” is seen both in the West and the Third World as a violent place where hundreds, even thousands of civilians, die violently every year. Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims have been constant victims of the double standard. 

Palestinians resisting Israeli occupation are branded “terrorists” as are Arabs and Muslims seeking to end the rule of despotic leaders supported by the West. Outrage among young Arabs and Muslims over the double standard has contributed significantly to the rise of jihadism in the Arab and Muslim worlds and among Muslims living in the West.

The double standard could be highly dangerous if globally publicised events like the attacks in Paris prompt other angry young men and women to launch fresh attacks in Western capitals. So far, home grown jihadis like the three men who carried out the attacks in Paris have been few and far between. The other widely publicised instance of home grown terrorism was the bombing of London transport on July 7, 2005, carried out by men of Pakistani origin.

"Terrorism" experts have been warning that Western jihadis returning home from the war in Syria and Iraq could also carry out operations against perceived antagonists, public facilities and media, like Charlie Hebdo. The double standard becomes doubly dangerous when paired with the refusal by Western leaders to recognise that their policies toward Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, are the main motivators of jihadis. After al-Qaeda launched its operation in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, politicians and media outlets claimed the perpetrators took such action because “they hate us and our way of life.” No explanation was given for this hatred. “Palestine” was a forbidden word even though al-Qaeda founder, Osama bin Laden, placed US support for Israel first on his list of motives for the operation.

After the London bombings, then British Prime Minister Tony Blair dismissed any linkage between Western policies and that event. For decades, Palestine was regarded by many Muslims as the primary symbol of Arab powerlessness and weakness. The 2003 US war on Iraq gave rise to similar feelings in a new generation of frustrated individuals and prompted the brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, prime movers of the Paris outrages, and their associate Amedy Coulibaly to strike in the heart of French capital. 

Young and impressionable 12 years ago when the US invaded Iraq, the Kouachis formed a network to recruit jihadis to fight the US. Although the brothers did not go, Said did travel to Yemen to learn Arabic and obtain weapons training from the local branch of al-Qaeda.Muslim alienation

In response to the Paris attacks, France has focused on security. The government has deployed 10,000 troops at potential jihadi targets, promised constant surveillance of known militants, and seeks to boost cooperation among intelligence agencies. These measures can only have limited results. France and its allies have to tackle the causes of Muslim alienation and anger by putting an end to double standards on social and political levels. 

Countries threatened by jihadism have to provide decent housing, education and vocational training for minority citizens, currently marginalised and ignored. Western politicians suborned by pro-Israel interests and lobbies have to press and even sanction Israel until a Palestinian state emerges and insist that the US adopt fresh strategies for Iraq and Syria with the aim of ending the war there. 

Finally, Western governments need to compel Saudi Arabia to halt its export of its extremist and puritan Wahhabi ideology which inspires jihadis. The West must punish leaders who promote, fund and arm jihadis,  including Turkey which has fuelled the war in Syria and Pakistan which sponsored the men who slew 164 people in Mumbai in 2008. For too long, the double standard has given friends of the West leeway to mount terrorist operations while sanctioning antagonists, like Iran, which eschewed such operations years ago.

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