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Jordanian lives do matter

Dec 28,2016 - Last updated at Dec 28,2016

Like all Jordanians, I spent last Sunday evening watching and reading the news about the terrorist attack in Karak.

While following the updates, I was trying to understand the human losses — or rather sacrifices — brought about by a group of cynics and misanthropists who reject other forms of life than their own.

I mainly followed local news channels and websites. But I also thought that I should see how Western media outlets would report on what Jordanians were going through, especially because it was partly the Western interventions that opened a Pandora’s box in the region.

Those outlets predictably provided passing coverage of the tragedy. They did not pay as much attention to it as they normally do to terrorist acts that take place in the West.

Here is a random sample of some headlines that they used in their coverage: CNN: “Canadian woman among 7 killed in shootout in Jordan”; BBC: “Canadian among five dead in Karak shooting”; The Guardian: “Up to 14 tourists trapped in Jordanian castle with gunmen” and “Canadian among seven killed with others feared trapped”; Reuters: “Canadian killed in shootout at Jordanian castle, other tourists held hostage”; The Independent: “Canadian killed and tourists believed to be taken hostage in Crusader-era castle” and “Canadian tourist among seven killed during castle stand-off in Jordan”; CBS News: “Tourist, cops killed in attacks at Crusader-era castle in Jordan”; Fox News: “4 police, Canadian tourist killed in shooting attack against patrol”; The Jerusalem Post: “Possible hostage situation in Jordan involving tourists; Canadian tourist killed”; Haaretz: “Gunmen kill five, take tourists hostage in Crusader castle”.

The pattern is self-evident and all too familiar: the headlines agree on a narrative that places a premium on certain groups of people at the expense of “others”.

The headlines above rightly underscore the murder of the Canadian citizen. Similar prominence was given to the other tourists, who fortunately survived the terrorist act unscathed.

Jordanians, on the other hand, receive scant, if any, reference despite the fact that most of the murdered Jordanians sacrificed themselves to rescue the lives of “others”, regardless of their religions, ethnicities, nationalities or skin colour.

The Jordanians who were shot dead or injured are actually referred to using words such as “other”, “patrol” and “cops”, or mere numbers.

The second and third words imply that those who were killed were members of the security forces. In reality, among the nine Jordanians who were murdered, there were two civilians. Many more were injured. 

The implication of the use of those words is that all Jordanians are members of the security forces. Or, alternatively, their lives are less important than the tourists’.

One also notices that the headlines overemphasise the fact that the castle was related to the Crusaders. This overemphasis is indicative of two main underlying threads in the overall narrative. 

First, that obsession suggests that this is an attack on Christianity; that is, the attack is part of a religious war that recalls the Crusades. 

Second, it entails that the history of the castle started with the Crusades, when in fact it had been constructed almost two millennia before they took control of it. 

That factual change demonstrates the tendency of dominant powers to rewrite history in a way that suits their whims. Alas, such an attitude is representative of a “superior” mindset that presumes, wittingly or unwittingly, that “others” and their histories do not matter.

In 2014, the activist movement Black Lives Matter gained traction in the aftermath of the controversial — or gratuitous, as some argue — police shootings of African-American civilians in the United States. 

According to their website, the movement aims to “affirm… Black folks’ contributions to [American] society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression” as a result of which “Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise”.

They stress the fact that black lives should not be easily dispensed with and should be treated equal to other groups, most notably “white” people. 

By the same token, Jordanian lives matter, and Western media outlets need to accept that fact.

Yet, they subtly racialise not only Jordanian lives but also Palestinian, Syrian, Iraqi, Yemeni, Libyan, Rohingya and “other” ones, and make them invisible and inconsequential.

That racialisation will not lessen Jordanians’ perception of themselves as fully human and nothing else.

It is high time that Western media deflated their narrative’s egotistic undertones which are only conducive to further resentment, destruction and carnage.

 

 

The writer, a Fulbright scholar, contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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