Thanks to the power and effectiveness of social media, reports about events taking place at any corner of the world reach us in just seconds. It has become much easier for the disenfranchised to make their voices heard and to draw world’s attention to a host of issues through various social media platforms. If used appropriately, social media could prove to be an effective tool for setting society into action and above all in the right direction.
Of course, there is no dearth of people who use social media to spread hatred and radical ideas but this writer wishes to focus on the positive aspects of social media, its strengths and effectiveness and as to how it could be used to stir public conscience. It concerns people who use social media as a means of waking people up, but who lack perseverance.
Observers may recall how social media came to prominence, particularly thanks to Michelle Obama, when Boko Haram, the Nigeria-based terror organization, kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in April 2014. The whole world rose up, politicians discussed the subject and commentators wrote about it in their columns; people used social media day and night in an effort to have the girls returned. Some three months have now gone by, and the escape of 54 of the young girls from the clutches of Boko Haram has received little coverage. The remaining girls are still in the custody of Boko Haram, which has recently affiliated itself to the self-ascribed Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State for Iraq and the Levant). But this is a story that has lost popularity for many and the voices raised are weak. Nothing much has changed in Nigeria; Boko Haram is still kidnapping people and spilling blood.
Remember Abdul Quader Mollah, leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, who was sentenced to death in Bangladesh. A wide social campaign was started to have the execution halted. The sentence was postponed because of the campaign, but when the voices on social media began falling silent again, this encouraged the government to execute the old man. Time has passed, and everyone has gone back to his or her usual routines as if this filthy system in Bangladesh had come to an end. Nobody seems interested in the fact that 14 members of the same political group have also been sentenced to death. People with no right to life inside a degenerate system have been forgotten, just like the others.
The Central African Republic (CAR) also became a hot issue on social media in the wake of the killings of Muslims in cold blood; do not be surprised that nobody is discussing it now. Despite the peace talks at the 23rd African Summit, 70 more Muslims were slaughtered at the beginning of this month, and 14,000 people had to flee to neighboring countries in one week. The CAR has been all but forgotten on social media yet innocent people are still living in the midst of a terrifying civil war.
The death toll in Syria, where violence is perhaps at its worst level, has now begun being cited as a monthly statistic; very few groups are now trying to make their voices heard and to find a solution to Syria any more. Babies are shown being dragged from the rubbles on the mainstream media, and social media simply shares monthly statistics. How many people do you think know that around 273 barrel bombs have been fired at Aleppo alone since the start of Ramadan?
The same thing applies to communities such as the Rohingya Muslims, which has suffered this tragedy for decades. We saw the truth about the Rohingya Muslims when the Myanmar junta, which had been largely closed to the outside world, was replaced by a semi-civilian administration in 2011. The world became aware of the slaughter in 2012 by this means, and was stunned to witness the genocidal savagery being meted out to the Muslims of Myanmar. Certainly there are admirable people trying to raise awareness of Rohingya on the social media but no large communities supporting those people in a determined manner have ever emerged. So the situation in the region has not changed; the Rohingya Muslims are still stateless, deprived of their human rights and living under oppression. Major ASEAN countries, the global Muslim community and the superpowers are still silent.
This is certainly not the end of the list; nothing has changed in Iraq; in Africa, which has long been fighting hunger, AIDS and now an unprecedented Ebola outbreak; not in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen, countries that are facing numerous drone attacks and internecine warfare. The only thing that has changed is the focus of people’s interests on social media. The reaction to violence, oppression and injustice must not be limited to just a few hours or days, particularly when the violence is persistent and worsening.
Those who say, “What good can I do?” are mistaken. People have to make their voices heard on matters to which states and governments cannot find solutions. People coming together in alliance can have a more powerful effect than NATO or the United Nations (UN). Silence is equivalent to supporting evil, even if the person has no such desire. The voice of the majority prevents those who commit evil keeping themselves concealed and is also a form of prayer but that voice must be powerful and constant against every form of wickedness. Subjects that trouble us when we first hear about them must not be allowed to die down over the course of time. However, we can only take effective action when we are rid of the mindset that regards the rivers of blood and death in the Middle East and Africa as mere statistics, and when we feel the responsibility for every life lost. We must be determined, perseverant and constant on this subject. A voice we raise to the world may one day lead to systems changing for the better. Let nobody forget that this is a prayer; it will happen if God so chooses.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Arab News & Bosnia Times: