Today, we must try to look beyond the horrific reality the world witnessed a week ago when Islamic terrorists killed 17 persons in Paris. While never forgetting those tragedies, we must also focus on a series of far more massive massacres.
These other human slaughters also happened at about the same time as those in Paris. Yet were barely mentioned by world leaders – and barely covered by America’s media.
In Paris, 44 world leaders linked arms and walked in solidarity down a city street last week to show global determination to fight murderous militant Islamic terrorists. Two terrorists firing assault weapons killed a dozen journalists and others at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a weekly publication that dared to satirize their religion. One more terrorist murdered a policewoman and four Jewish shoppers who dared to patronize a kosher grocery store.
Yet in rural northeast Nigeria, no world leaders showed up after militant Islamic forces of Boko Haram perpetrated what Amnesty International the group’s deadliest attack ever, killing hundreds and perhaps as many as 2,000 civilians. Victims were mainly the elderly, women and children – the innocents who couldn’t run fast enough to escape the attackers.
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In the fishing village of Baga, insurgents fired rockets, grenades and assault rifles, virtually leveling the town. In nearby Maiduguri, they used one other terror weapon of choice: a girl, about 10. They had her walk into a crowded marketplace with a bomb concealed beneath her veil (we'll never know if she even knew what it was). Her bomb exploded, killing some 20 shoppers and obliterating her remains beyond recognition.
Tragically, no global leaders have walked in solidarity for those hundreds or thousands who died. Shamefully, there has been little glare from the global media spotlight in those hamlets half a world away from the glitter of cosmopolitan Paris. The New York Times and Washington Post buried the news on inside pages. ABC and NBC had its anchors read just 23 and 46 seconds of primetime coverage, CBS did much better, airing a correspondent’s report for almost two minutes.
But, of course, everyone was blanket covering the world’s leaders walking arm-in-arm in Paris Sunday. Indeed, even the world’s most prominent no-show got bigtime coverage. Sadly, President Obama had once again made himself seem leader-lite on a world stage (see also: that time Obama famously drew, then erased, his redline in Syria).
Belatedly, Obama’s spokesperson admitted the U.S. should have sent an official of stature to walk alongside the world’s leaders. Undoubtedly, Obama needed to be that day’s American in Paris.
But those world leaders must also realize that they alone will not be capable of leading the world out of this era’s global terror pandemic.
From the Middle East to Europe, the USA and all the way to Australia, our planet is becoming encased in a specific terror that was created and fomented by militants who hijacked the religion of Islam. And it can only be defeated from within – by millions of Islam’s leaders and worshippers. They, and they alone, must take back their religion.
First, they must realize that, while Islam is indeed being defiled today, sophomoric cartoons featuring absurd caricatures of Prophet Muhammad are not what is desecrating their religion. Islam is being desecrated – and Prophet Muhammad is being defiled – every time fanatical Muslims slaughter masses of innocent people. And the millions of Muslims who remain passively silent as this happens are also desecrating their historic and revered religion by not denouncing the lunatics who claim they are mass-killing in Allah’s name.
What the world needs now is for its millions of devout Muslims to take back their religion from its hijackers. As a start, let the world’s Muslims link arms – just as those 44 world leaders did – and demonstrate their determination to stand firmly for their faith, all life and peace.
Here’s where the world’s leaders can help – not by leading, but by serving as the ultimate facilitators. Let them assist Muslim leaders in creating a demonstration project: a real, globe-circling, arms-linked demonstration of unity. Let them help the world’s Muslims to reclaim their temporarily hijacked religion.
Let Islam’s leaders lead their faithful in rejecting all those fanatics whose murderous and terrorist ways are desecrating their religion, even as we speak.
Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.