Solidarity in Paris Against Terrorism/A Paradoxical Witch Hunt

January 2015 Paris Protest against Terrorism

I chose the image above because it represents the purpose of protest in communities that have been oppressed by acts of terrorism, violations committed for the purpose of inspiring fear and causing political, emotional, and social upheaval.

On an example of protest from the New York Times

According to reporter Liz Alderman of the New York Times, on Sunday, January 10, 2015, over a million people, along with more than 40 presidents and prime ministers, joining together in “the most striking show of solidarity in the West against the threat of Islamic extremism since the Sept. 11 attacks” (Alderman). Jews, Muslims, Christians, atheists and people of all political standing, race, and age gathered in central Paris, responding to the seventeen fatalities caused by terrorist attacks with a call for peace and “an end to violent extremism.”

Alderman interviewed one lawyer, Pascale Trager-Lewis and her husband who decided to bring their two daughters so they could be present for this historic event as a family. Trager-Lewis explained, “We came because my husband is an authentic French person; I am Jewish. My elder daughter’s godmother is a Muslim, and my closest friend almost became a nun. I came for the Jews who were killed, for the freedom of speech, for religious tolerance.”

Sharon Korman, an American psychotherapist residing in Paris these last seven years, declared, “The terrorists win if we don’t stand up and come together in this manner. Terrorism leaves us feeling afraid in our normal, daily lives. If we say, ‘I’m here anyway despite that fear,’ it makes an important statement.”

One Pakistani citizen, Mustafa Qadir, who works in London, made his way to Paris as a representative of protest in the march. He explained, “We cannot go on like this, living in a state of fear,” he said. “There must be liberty of expression; expression cannot be met with violence.”

(Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/12/world/europe/paris-march-against-terror-charlie-hebdo.html)

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We are Not Wtiches

This second image I chose to show protest against the witch-hunt in South Africa. The child holding up the sign which reads, “WE ARE NOT WITCHES OR WIZARDS”, represents a resistance formed by his community against the xenophobia and epistemological violence encouraged through this superstitious label.

On the witch-hunt in South Africa…

In the West, we perceive witches in a very specific physical image; they are old hags with warts and scraggly hair who brew lethal concoctions, wear a pointed hat, and fly on a broom stick. However, this image is not shared cross-culturally. In South Africa, the idea of witch craft is far more severe than an image presented by Disney or celebrated on Halloween; in South Africa, witches are parasitic to communities and society as a whole. The image is connected to how their “supernatural” prosperity amidst the suffering of others; they are believed to feed off weakness. Unfortunately, from this intermingling of human selfishness and the abuse of magic (or power) arises an epistemological violence against those who are labeled (erroneously) as a witch.

Political rebirth often results in renewed social and political passion. However, when the new structural implemented fails or falls short of expectation, it is easier to find a scapegoat for the shortcoming rather than to claim responsibility or work towards developing a long-term solution. When this occurs, fear and suspicion can evolve into incredible perpetrators of injustice. While witchcraft may have been present in South Africa, the majority of accusations made in the name of democratic preservation, paradoxically, acted against the democracy.

Although the intentions of the witch trials and killings were supposedly made in the interest of protecting the newly democratic land, they became a weapon of both silence and fear. Excited by recent political reforms, “during the dawn of democracy, youths visited villages and offered to exterminate witches to eradicate ‘elements of tradition and superstition’ that were blocking ‘political freedom’ and democratic development” (Segall 175). Suspicion overpowered structural reason and the witch-hunt endangered the lives of anyone suspected of threatening or resisting the new democracy.

Ironically, the witch-hunts ignored the institution of human rights, suffocated the new democracy, and created an environment of brash judgment and fatal consequence. The politically impassioned youth were represented in the performance of Ipi Zombi. This play demonstrated the paradox within the reality in how “the spirit of darkness that devoured the village was the spirit of social violence” (Segall 184). Political discontentment triggered extreme distrust and the fear of malicious intent against the new democracy evolved into a civil violence. The witch-hunt in South Africa serves as a reminder of humanity’s fallible inclination toward eager accusation and the violence that can impassion a young democracy.

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