Lesson from Paris

munaThe bloody events in Paris last week claimed the lives of dozens of people and injured scores of others, provoking anger and panic. Despite the large number of news reports and analyses about the terrorists, the perpetrators of the crime and the loss of innocent lives, the sanctity of the dead in France and respect for the grief their parents and friends were maintained. No photos were published of the bodies or faces of the dead, nor did their parents come in front of cameras screaming and threatening reprisals. It is a culture that we do not know in the Middle East. It is a lesson from Paris, the capital of culture.

Why were no pictures or videos about the dead and wounded in Paris published, while their bodies were ripped apart? Why did they refrain from running any images, especially since these are tragic, shocking and painful pictures? The answer is simple – it is related to cultural differences that we don’t know anything about in the Middle East.

On Middle East TV channels, hardly a day goes by without a news bulletin buzzing with images of killed and dead people, regardless if they are terrorists who caused the killing of innocents or people who were killed in the bombings. The screams of parents are news headlines. Some presenters even conduct interviews with terrorists, as if they deserve compassion and sympathy.

These souls were important to their families and loved ones, and the French government could have taken advantage of this tragic event and filled the media with images of the dead and wounded to market what they want, as Arabs usually do in these situations. Isn’t this what the Arab media did, especially in the past period, with a lot of Syrian refugees fleeing their country?

The French respect their dead and respect the privacy of each individual in their community. They also tend to protect the humanity of the society and individuals to avoid seeing harsh scenes that have negative effects. This is a lesson of culture – I wish we know better than to market our miseries and failures.

When a painful event occurs here, photos of the event immediately become a topic on all tools of social media. Some will rush to publish or re-publish them without any heed of the rights of the victims or their families. Even the so-called intellectuals and educated people will be involved in this brazen act when forwarding pictures of the injured and the dead without consideration of the psychological impact on their loved ones, as well as the recipients of these images.

It’s a culture of respect for the dead and their pain – a culture we do not know in the Middle East, as we enjoy publishing pictures of the dead and wounded even if they were involved in road accidents. We do this brazenly without respect for their privacy. Worse, when publishing pictures of terrorists and their families, we are trying to find an excuse for their crimes.

Respect for privacy during and after a painful incident is indeed a different culture we have here in the Arab society. I call on myself first, then others, to take cues from Paris’ sad lesson and not send any image related to the killing or wounding of innocent people in order to preserve and respect their privacy. France is teaching us a great lesson even in hard times like these.

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