by Leslye Joy Allen, Copyright © 2016. All Rights Reserved.
On Easter Sunday morning, 27 March 2016, I received a rather cryptic text message from Facebook. It read as:
“Facebook Safety Check: Are you affected by the explosion?
Reply SAFE if you’re ok or OUT if you aren’t in the area.”
I got nervous. I went online to look up if there had been any explosions. I did not find anything on the Internet that said anything about a recent explosion. I found older stories about bombings and terrorist attacks in other parts of the world from last year, but not one for Easter Sunday in 2016. Then I really got paranoid…
I rarely use my smart phone for anything other than an occasional phone call. I almost never use apps—don’t exactly trust them—and I was slightly worried that this Facebook text might be some hoax going around to see how many people would respond to such a strange message. If I respond, I thought, I am going to end up with some computer virus…
Reluctantly, I replied “OUT” to the Facebook text. Whoever (or whatever) sent the text would know that I was not in or near this explosion wherever it was, I thought to myself.
I checked the Internet again in about an hour. The news reports began coming in, stating that some group of Muslim terrorists was claiming responsibility for an explosion in Lahore, Pakistan that killed a minimum of 72 people, and injured over 300 people who were celebrating the Christian holiday of Easter, which commemorates the resurrection of Jesus (Yeshua), the Christ. The murder of Christians by Muslims would again frame much of the news coverage. The religious narrative would—at least superficially—be a Muslim versus Christian narrative. That narrative is messed-up…
I have never visited Lahore, Pakistan. Yet, one of my former professors was born there. Indirectly, my association with him, a man who I consider a mentor and good friend, has introduced me to many people located in or from Pakistan. I am proud to say that I have given academic advice and encouragement via my Facebook inbox to many young men in Lahore who are either going to college or planning to attend graduate school. So, Facebook, for what it is worth, obviously assumed that I, an African American woman who is from and located in the United States, might actually be located in or near Lahore, Pakistan. This time Social Media’s interpretation of who (or even what) I was taught me a lesson via an obvious scan of my Facebook Friend list…
I am not Muslim. The natives of Pakistan that I personally know and those I am in contact with are all Muslims. They are Muslims who constantly pray for peace, and who condemn the heinous acts of extremists and terrorists, and who also speak out against racism and sexism and religious intolerance. The American news media, however, has conveniently forgotten to tell Americans that the splinter group that broke away from the Taliban, named “Jamaat-ul-Ahrar,” killed as many Muslims as it has Christians. In fact, the majority of those Pakistanis who died in the attacks on Easter Sunday in Lahore, Pakistan happened to be Muslim.
CNN’s provocative and rather misleading headline was “In Pakistan, Taliban’s Easter Bombing, targets, kills scores of Christians.” To be sure, scores of Christians died in that awful attack. Yet, to ignore the random acts of violence by groups like this (including ISIS or ISIL) that have, honestly, killed more Muslims than Christians is to perpetuate a religious narrative that can get us all killed, have all of us turning on each other instead of talking to each other.
If you have half a brain, you know that to single out any group of people as the sole source of your problems is to also invite a group (any group) outside of that definition to do all manner of harm to you. This all reminds me of the time when one of my history students hipped me to a video where all of a particular department store’s security guards were watching all of the store’s African-American customers. Yet, while those same security guards were scrutinizing the Black customers, there was a small band of White patrons who were shoplifting at the store.
I am only a historian and academic. Yet, I am one who knows that when people do not do their research, when they fail to look below the surface, when they do not think outside the box, when they succumb to easy answers and easy stereotypes because those stereotypes make them feel safe or superior, all of us suffer. With an Internet that contains volumes of information—some tainted information, and some that is accurate—there is really no excuse for you or I not knowing anything and not questioning those easy answers that our bought-and-paid-for media and politicians and pundits hand to us on a regular basis.
Do not be a fool. Do your work. Do your research. Now some people reading this will be upset or annoyed by my comments. Religion for many people is, after all, a cultural, national, and often racial marker. After all, the first terrorists my people knew were so-called Christians wearing sheets, lynching and torturing Black bodies and burning crosses on Black families’ lawns. I would hate to think about my ancestors enduring that on Easter Sunday. Àṣé!
Leslye Joy Allen, Copyright © 2016. All Rights Reserved.
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