Is calling someone a martyr simply a way of mourning or does it have symbolic power to fuel cycles of aggression and violence?
I think of that Pakistani girl on HONY who called her father a martyr after he disappeared.
But what about those Palestinian youth, whose bodies are paraded across the West Bank after coming into conflict with the Israeli military? Their faces are plastered on posters across the street while others in similar marginalized circumstances watch with sympathy for their dead brother/sister’s cause.
Mourning or symbols of defiance and/or violence?
I think, ultimately, calling someone a martyr is a way of rationalizing anger and frustration. For some it is just a way to mourn the individual’s death, to find solace in some religious notion of them now ‘being with God’ and sticking up for their beliefs.
But when that personal mourning crosses the line into the symbolic realm, anyone can add their meaning to it. That includes cults and extremists, along with grieving mothers and fathers.
The word martyr is a melting pot of meaning that is being disseminated to rouse up different opinions and agendas. A martyr for Islamic extremism, a martyr against American imperialism, a martyr for so called ‘justice’…
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Following the Paris attacks, I am outraged.
I understand the apologist’s stance. We have had expert after expert suggest that in a globalized world the conflict in the Middle East is not contained in a border and that every action (increased aggression and spheres of influence in the ME) provokes a reaction.
But I also understand the response of Western states–by bending to policy changes we forgo a standard of Ethics (capital E ethics here, bye bye relativism) and undermine a nation’s sphere of influence for good (and bad). Of course Islamic extremists undeniably detest Western spheres of influence. I get it. Colonial and post-colonial aggression has fucked up a lot of histories and aspirations for nationhood/power. I understand all of these viewpoints.
But a new day cannot occur when we continually have the scars and memories of history etched on our backs and implode them like violent bombs on the innocent. To forget past grievances is not weakness. It is strength, it shows that you care enough about creating a peaceful new day.
Of course, I’m not trying to convert extremists to rethink their stance in this piece of writing (although I do believe pen is mightier than both the sword and machine gun).
I’m reaching out the apologists. I’ve been one, I know some, I’ve encountered others in academic discussions. My case is spawned by a simple understanding. No one should have an AK47 pointed to their head, or be blown up mid-air on a plane, or have the person sitting them blow themselves up in a suicide bombing– in France, America, Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkey, or Syria.
No one is a martyr in such a situation. Not the victims or the culprits.
I’m heartbroken, honestly. Not because the Paris attacks happened on Western soil, as so many social media critics seem to imply is the only reason for our collective grief. (This is not a white/black or West/East issue. It was not just French nationals who died.) Our response to this atrocity is not “selective grief” or a display of “Western privileged”–those who suggest so are grossly mis-applying these words and claim to have a monopoly on how others should grieve. I am not willfully blind to the suffering of those around the world. Mourning for Paris does not dismiss or undermine the mourning done by individuals/communities in geographies beyond Europe. I suppose media bias exists in how news outlets focus on terrorism in the West, but it only has an affect if you believe that the images presented on your TV screen are the only valid or true representations of a region or point in time (which I think most people understand to not be the case).
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Overall, I’m sad that we continue to let a lethal ideology exist and we don’t challenge it intellectually, where ever we are in the world (especially those of us in Near East studies disciplines). Don’t be an apologist for terror, you can rationalize it, you can understand it’s cause, but don’t support lines of reasoning that accept or enable it.
I told myself I would not posts rants when I started this blog. But recently I think rants can sometimes capture an emotion that I was feeling.