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FRANSEN: Ignorance in current events inflates issues with violence

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elena color sidedSometimes you see or hear something that literally stops you in your tracks. It’s almost comical when your shock causes you to run into someone or fall on your face. This can be made even more hilarious and embarrassing when it happens while on a treadmill.

This was my exact response to seeing CNN coverage of the Germanwings plane crash last Wednesday. Media coverage has centered on co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, who is believed to have intentionally crashed the plane and kill 149 other people. Generally, I ignore CNN because it is an information overload, some of which is completely useless. But this time it grabbed my attention with the tagline that officials did not yet know the religion of the co-pilot.

I was almost literally floored. Since this early report, the investigation has moved away from this line of thinking, emphasizing instead the mental and physical state of Lubitz. However, for me and likely many other viewers, this point planted a seed that could continue to grow in a negative way.

CNN’s point seemed like an attempt to covertly remind people that religion matters and, while it was never said, the religion in question was Islam. In the post-9/11 era, Islam has become a trigger of fear and this type of latent coverage illustrates the Islamophobia which thrives in the Western world.

Whenever something bad happens nowadays, religion tends to be a question asked by the media. It is as if society needs to know this attribute to decide if someone is part of a bigger phenomenon or an isolated incident. What follows is the vilification of Islam and often people identified as Middle Eastern and North African. Greater ignorance is thus perpetuated as a coping mechanism, as we deal with yet another horrific incident.

We try to understand the root of these events of terror and how they affect us, sometimes taking the wrong route to provide a sense of comfort. Mistakes are usually made as we reduce people and acts of violence to a religion made guilty by association to people who choose to be violent.

The complexities of traumatic events and their participants are what matters and need to be explored in a context where violence seems overwhelming and impossible to stop.

Last week, five Marquette professors within the College of Arts & Sciences gathered to discuss January’s Charlie Hebdo Attack, contextualizing them in history, sociology, political and religious frameworks. The panel offered various perspectives on the incident and “Islamic Radicalism,” ultimately resolving that the act was not in the name of a religion but instead a terror act rooted in negative experiences with Western ideology and power. The faculty found it important to consider numerous factors involved in the attackers’ decisions to act in a violent matter and that it could not just be attributed to one thing.

This is incredibly important to acknowledge, not just in the reporting of violent acts, but also in attaining a better understanding of the world. People need to recognize that, within global society, with increased access to information through the Internet and the connections it allows, it is important to encourage broader knowledge rather than relying on past conceptions that ultimately can influence future acts.

To keep international relations moving forward, the use of demoralizing tropes needs to end. There may be unforeseen incidents in the future, but recognizing a larger collection of narratives is important to addressing them sufficiently.

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