A few questions on mourning and the Paris attacks

I’ve tried collecting my thoughts on the violence in Paris, the concurrent erasure of Muslim death, the inevitable attacks on Muslim women, and the blue, white, and red Facebook pictures that cover my newsfeed now. 

I can’t do it just yet.

I’ve sifted through think piece after think piece hoping to find one that can effectively respond to the automatic demands to “not politicize the tragedy” by talking about anything other than how sad it is. I’ve looked for folks who have already done the laborious work of explaining to all of us that death is already politicized — and why a national response to terrorism that requires mourning be apolitical is not only irresponsible but enables violence. I haven’t found the one(s) to highlight just yet.

So I leave us with a few questions instead, written by the incredibly eloquent Ayah Abo-Basha. Her post is short but it’s the only writing that has come close to capturing my rage, my heartbreak, the fear I can’t let go of for my Muslim sisters, and the heavy disappointment I feel every time I see folks expressing compassion for Paris, but never anyone else. Her post raises questions that should come along with any process of mourning. Questions you should ask before you express solidarity with (only) Paris. Questions you should ask before you change your profile picture. Questions I have few answers to.

Mourning dead bodies cannot preclude questioning when dead bodies are made visible. Or why mourning is being colored in red, white, and blue. And hues of hatred against refugees. When presidents declare, what was assuredly, an ‘attack against humanity’ in Paris but not in Beirut, in France but not in the Central African Republic, not in Yemen, not in Iraq, Afghanistan, nor Palestine–then how is humanity being defined? Who is declared nonhuman? How does our exclusive mourning become a dehumanizing act? To what extent can mourning become violent? 

Refusing to confront these questions is not, as many will argue, a reservation out of compassion or respect for the dead, but rather out of complacency with rendering a certain type of dead invisible and expendable.

Please, do not let our most human of tendencies — our capacity to mourn — become dehumanizing. Prayers for Paris, Beirut, and all the other black and brown bodies that remain local instead of global, shadows at the edge of ‘humanity’.

Header image credit: Jacobin

Mahroh Jahangiri is the Executive Director of Know Your IX, a national survivor- and youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools. She was formerly a junior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and her previous research has focused on the ways in which American militarization, racism, and sexual violence impact non-white communities transnationally. A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, she lives and organizes in DC. You can say hi to her at @mahrohj.

Mahroh Jahangiri is Executive Director of Know Your IX, a national survivor- and youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools.

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