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Opinion: A Chilling Response to a Terrible Tragedy | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A soldier escorts schoolchildren from the Army Public School that was under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, Pakistan, on December 16, 2014. (Reuters/Khuram Parvez)

When news of the school massacre in Pakistan’s Peshawar first broke, it seemed exaggerated and unreal. One’s mind is sometimes incapable of believing such events are possible, or rather immediately rejects the notion that someone has decided the time has come to murder children in cold blood.

The students of the Peshawar military-run school were not mere bystanders. They were not killed by crossfire during a battle, but were deliberately chosen as the target of the attack, and thus they were pursued into their classrooms, under their seats, everywhere they tried to hide.

Did the madmen of the Taliban really think that murdering these little souls is their way to heaven?
Is there anything worse for a parent to realize that their children’s most important gathering place&38212;their school&8212;has become their little ones’ graveyard?

The first few minutes, and then hours, passed as we waited for Arab media outlets to follow up on the Peshawar tragedy—in light of the fact that, first of all, it is a human catastrophe, and, secondly, a Muslim one, thus worthy of dedicating live feeds to report on it.

However, this didn’t happen. The Arabic-language media’s reporting of this crime was disappointing, and I switched to following up on the incident on the world’s different satellite channels.

Yes, news of the incident was broadcast in Arab news segments, daily newspapers, and websites, and the degree of interest in it varied. But, in general, this tragedy did not receive the attention a crime of this magnitude deserved. It was not only media outlets who did not respond as they should have done, but also Arab and Muslim public opinion, which was very cold regarding this incident, not to mention indifferent and numb. On Twitter, for example, the Peshawar school massacre did not appear on the list of trending hashtags. The souls of 150 children killed in the name of Islam did not become material for Arab discussion, even as the rest of the world stood in solidarity, while global media outlets covered its extensively. Some even began to criticize the Western media’s interest in the case and categorized this coverage as Islamophobic.

For some reason, the horrible tragedy of the Peshawar students killed by the Pakistani Taliban failed to interest the Arab media and public opinion as it should have.

Of course, the reason is not necessarily linked to the massacre, but lies in that a defect within us. We scream and lose our temper over a caricature here and a song there, yet were not outraged that an organization like Pakistani Taliban killed dozens of children.

The possible interpretations of the lack of interest in this tragedy are themselves tragic. These are Muslims who killed Muslims, so there’s nothing that interests us here. For us to be outraged, the murderer must be a non-Muslim. Perhaps, also, if the murderer had been Muslim and the victims non-Muslims, we would have cared about what happened to, say, Yazidi children or about what happened in the Russian school of Beslan 10 years ago.

The stark truth is that those who kill Muslims are themselves Muslims. This is an irony that does not seem to upset us.