Apr 17, 2019

Earlier, I was helping my teammate Aanne with her story on the Notre Dame fire. At the time, it wasn’t solely on the cathedral that was set ablaze. After all, two age old structures caught fire today: the Catholic Notre Dame of France, and the Muslim Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. She had found many, many stories from reputable sites to use as sources for the former, and barely any for the latter. And so I started helping her, and together we pored through all the sites and social media updates on the situation, sifting through the pieces that were unreliable or made-incoherent by Google Translate. I can tell you right now that there were so many pieces from people around the world (even from people who admittedly have never set foot in France) on the Notre Dame.

In contrast, while the contained fire at the Al-Aqsa Mosque has received some traction, it hasn’t received the same kind of worldwide attention that the Notre Dame fire had. International publications that were sending out live updates on the Notre Dame fired had nothing on the Al-Asqa Mosque. In the end, frustrated by the lack of international newswire pieces, she centered her article on the Catholic cathedral instead.

 

So let’s talk about the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The sacred Muslim temple is over a thousand years old—it was first erected in 705 and continuously rebuilt and restored multiple times over the years. It’s seen through earthquakes, caliphs, regimes, and crusades; if walls could talk, the Al-Aqsa’s could give a clear account of Jerusalem. It’s incredibly sacrosanct: the land on which it sits was name-checked in the Quran as the place where Muhammed found sanctuary in. For all its historicity, the mosque is considered the third holiest site of Islam. And for its place in Islam and in the holy land, the mosque has become central to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In case you can’t see where I’m getting at, the Al-Aqsa Mosque is as culturally and historically significant as the Notre Dame, if not more so. I can see why French Catholics wouldn’t care about the Al-Aqsa Mosque as much—I’ve read enough of Victor Hugo’s pontificating to know how much the Frenchs value their culture over others’—but not why the rest of the world is seemingly remaining silent about the mosque while it publicly grieves over the cathedral. Or rather, I know why, but I don’t like it.

Here’s a bitter pill to swallow: Western tragedies are more important than the tragedies of literally anyone who isn’t white and living in a first world nation. Whenever two tragic events happen at the same time, the one in which white people and/or their culture is hurt always takes precedence. I’m not saying that their tragedies are insignificant either: they so obviously are significant events. However, it’s unfair that these tragedies aren’t treated equally. For example, think of a tragic event in January 2015 and you’ll probably remember the Charlie Hebdo attacks that killed 20 before you remember the Boko Haram massacre that killed 150 people. In April 15, 2013, five were killed and 264 were injured in the Boston bombing. On the same day, 75 were killed and 356 were injured in bombings across Iraq.

The bias for white stories is very clear. We Filipinos know about the tragedies that befall the Western countries because of globalism, but we can’t really say the same thing for them. The focus on the fire that burned through Notre Dame and not the Al-Aqsa Mosque just proves that the people telling the stories favor one kind of story over the other.

 

Featured photo courtesy of Al-Jazeera

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