Letter to South China Morning Post:
Yonden Lhatoo is surely correct to find it troubling that "some lives are considered more valuable than others" (In the post-Paris blame game, let's remember Muslims are victims too, 20 November).
More troubling though, is Mr Lhatoo's characterisation of the Paris killers. They have "twisted ideologies and demented notions of religion". They are motivated by "resentment among downtrodden and alienated Muslim communities".
What is it Mr Lhatoo, ideology or grievance? Well, let's take them one by one:
"Twisted ideologies"? This is nonsense, because it is clearly wrong on the evidence, such as IS's multi-lingual publication, Dabiq, which explains their aims and motivations. Dabiq is replete with Islamic doctrine, from the Koran, the Hadith, the Sunna and the life of Muhammad. The leader of IS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is a PhD in Islamic studies from the University of Baghdad. Sheikh Mohamad al-Arefe, the Saudi cleric, tweets to his 12 million followers (twice those of Pope Francis), which sound like a clarion call to the votaries of IS. Why should we accept Mr Lhatoo's assertion that these Islamic scholars are "twisting" the religion? What evidence can Lhatoo provide for that assertion?
"Resentment and alienation"? The leader of the Paris murderers, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, went to an elite school in Belgium. Like the London 7/7 bombers, the Paris murderers were middle-class people with middle-class jobs. They were not "downtrodden" and "alienated". Any resentment of society was of their own making. Not shared, we should note, by other minorities such as the Sikh, HIndu, Jainish, Buddhist, or, even, we poor downtrodden atheists.
Remember that the killers said they murdered their fellow Parisians as punishment for their "decadent" and "disgusting" culture. They hated the freedoms that we value in the west. No mention of their having been "downtrodden", or "alienated".
The reason they hated western culture lies in the core of Islamic doctrine, the hatred "infidels", which many (Muslims, ex-Muslims and non Muslims) say is the fundamental message of the Koran. The concept of martyrdom and sanctity of armed jihad in pursuit of the battle with infidels are about as controversial within Islam as the resurrection of Jesus is in Christianity. These doctrines need reform.
As long as Mr Lhattoo and fellow travellers continue to deny the doctrinal evidence for this violence, the west will continue to fail to stop it, because the needed reform can't happen.
The human rights activist and ex-Muslim Aayan Hirsi Ali tweeted on Nov 14: "As long as Muslims say IS has nothing to do with Islam or talk of Islamophobia they are not ready to reform their faith." She said: "Reform Islam to save it from extremists". Reform requires facing the facts. It doesn't help to say that IS has nothing to do with Islam, that they are simply "twisting" an ideology, because they are "downtrodden" and "alienated".
Mr Lhatoo concludes: "a life is a life". If only that were true. Should we accept that the life of Abdelhamid Abaaoud was as valuable as any single one of the 129 innocents he killed? Well, I don't.
9 Siena One
Yonden Lhatoo argues that a life is a life, whether in Paris or Palestine, and terror must be condemned in all its forms in every corner of the globe
Like most people around the world, I'm stunned and outraged by the terrorist attacks in Paris.
I'm also struck by the outpouring of sympathy for the victims as people across the globe express their solidarity with the citizens of France.
Truly, we are all connected to each other through technological advances that allow empathy to transcend geographical distances and divides, and comfort can be offered across the miles by just the click of a mouse or the tap of finger on a smart phone.
The flood of Facebook users updating their profile pictures to reflect the colours of the French flag is a shining example of this.
But what I find troubling is how, in this day and age, some lives are still considered more valuable than others, and the horror suffered by one city is felt by all, while that of another somehow pales into insignificance.
Just a day before the Paris attacks, two Islamic State suicide bombers slaughtered more than 40 people in Beirut. The victims were mostly Shiite Muslims, and there was no global condemnation of their horrific murders. Because it was "business as usual" in Beirut, I suppose.
Again, there was no global outpouring of grief when, a month before that, nearly 130 people were killed by terrorists who bombed a peace rally in the Turkish capital, Ankara.
An even more abominable atrocity was largely ignored in September when Saudi warplanes backed by the West bombed a Yemeni wedding, massacring more than 130 civilians, mostly women.
The US government's silence over that slaughter of innocents could be linked to the fact that President Barack Obama has signed more than US$100 billion worth of arms deals with the Saudis. I guess fairness must be bad for business.
I could go on with this list.
Nearly 150, mostly students studying for their exams, gunned down in their classrooms by al-Shabab terrorists who attacked a university in Kenya in April.
Up to 2,000 wiped out in the Nigerian town of Baga in January by the animals who go by the name of Boko Haram. Most victims were children, women and the elderly who could not flee in time when the Islamist militants stormed their town, firing rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles.
Notice the common denominator in all these acts of terror? Most of the victims were Muslims.
The fact is that Muslims in Muslim-majority countries are the biggest demographic when it comes to casualties of Islamic extremism.
It may seem that the West is the main target of Islamic fundamentalists with their twisted ideologies and demented notions of religion but tell that to the millions of Muslims fleeing war and terror in the Middle East and North Africa.
Think about it as you absorb the mainstream narrative post-Paris that Islam is to blame and succumb to the fear-mongering that Muslim refugees flooding into Europe from the Middle East will perpetrate further terror against the West.
Watch as all this feeds into the hateful, anti-immigrant rhetoric of Europe's growing far-right movement and manifests in the further vilification of Muslim citizens, fuelling reprisal attacks against them.
It will, in turn, breed more resentment among downtrodden and alienated Muslim communities in the West and provide a bigger recruitment pool for murderous terrorist outfits like Islamic State.
As for the disproportionate response to the loss of lives depending on where it happens, it's easy to blame unfair media coverage. But don't forget journalists tailor news coverage according to the demands of their audiences, which are now clearly quantifiable through the use of analytical tools showing what readers, listeners and viewers are interested in.
Let's keep that in mind as we condemn the bloodshed in the French capital in tricolour through our Facebook profiles.
A life is a life, whether it's in Paris or Palestine.