Selective empathy: Western media’s horrific double standards amid Russia-Ukraine War


Ataul Fatir Tahir, Al Hakam

The Western media’s portrayal of Ukraine’s suffering as somehow “different” and labelling Ukrainians as more “civilised” compared to those suffering from wars in countries like Yemen, Libya, Ethiopia, Palestine and Syria, has sparked disgust on social media.

News coverage of civilian Ukrainians defending their country by making Molotov cocktails and arming themselves with state-given machine guns has also been celebrated as “heroic” and these people have been called “freedom fighters”.

This empathy has not been voiced for others like Palestinians who experience an identical crisis yet are labelled “terrorists” when defending their land.

There are numerous other factors to consider, for example, crippling sanctions and the censoring of Russian media outlets like RT in Europe have not been consistent with the invasion of Iraq or following the bombing of Yemen by Saudi Arabia which continues to this day.

This is not about “whataboutism”, the focus is on upholding absolute justice.

The abhorrent selective empathy, double standards and casual racism have unveiled deep-rooted undertones of injustice in parts of Western society where ethnicity, “whiteness” and location matter.

A piece in The Telegraph about Ukraine’s plight read:

“They seem so like us. That is what makes it so shocking. Ukraine is a European country. Its people watch Netflix and have Instagram accounts, vote in free elections and read uncensored newspapers. War is no longer something visited upon impoverished and remote populations.” (

An NBC News reporter, when questioned about how Poland’s refugee policy has changed compared to the last refugee crisis from Syria said:

“Just to put it bluntly, these are not refugees from Syria, these are refugees from neighbouring Ukraine. I mean that, quite frankly, is part of it, these are Christians, they’re white, they’re very similar to people who live in Poland.”

A CBS NEWS reporter, describing the war in Ukraine said:

“This isn’t a place, with all due respect, you know, like Iraq or Afghanistan that has seen conflict raging for decades. You know, this is a relatively civilized, relatively European – I have to choose those words carefully too – city where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen. So, it’s partly human nature.”

Ukraine’s deputy chief prosecutor, David Sakvarelidze, without censoring his tone or words told the BBC:

“I’m sorry. It’s really emotional for me because I see European people with blue eyes and blonde hair being killed, children being killed every day with Putin’s missiles.”

BFM TV had a commentator who said:

“We’re not talking here about Syrians fleeing the bombing of the Syrian regime backed by Putin, we’re talking about Europeans leaving in cars that look like ours to save their lives.”

Political commentator and media host, Michael Knowles callously tweeted (and later defended):

“It just occurred to me that this is the first major war between civilized nations in my lifetime.”

Russia has caused chaos and immense suffering of innocent lives by invading Ukraine but, contrary to what Western media would have you believe, this is not the first invasion by a superpower.

The West has plenty of blood on its hands as Noam Chomsky and Andre Vltchek detailed in their book On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare. But those invasions and meddling with other nations – think Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iran, Panama – are somehow against “uncivilised” people. Ukraine is “civilised”, we are told.

The suffering in Ukraine must be highlighted, however portraying Ukraine’s pain as “more human” shows the deep hypocrisy at play.

Apparently, if you are white, Christian, have “Instagram accounts” and “Netflix” you are “civilised” and will be celebrated when defending your country.

Where refugees from third world countries are demonised and used by right-wing politicians to scaremonger, refugees from a European nation are shown a merciful and compassionate response. All refugees and people should be treated the same. All human suffering should create compassionate responses.

This is not the first time the Western media has shown its bias, a similar narrative was pushed against Palestinians last year.

As Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa, the Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, has been reiterating for the last two decades, absolute justice needs to be established for any peace in the world to prevail. Otherwise, this turmoil will never end.

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  1. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IV (rh) also commented that it was only due to the cold war that Western nations suppressed their deep racism under a thin veneer of civility in order to win the ideological battle against communism.

  2. Double standards , subtle racism are part of living in the west. it happens and it will probably not change. We have all become somewhat familiar with these situations. Some of what is said , is done deliberatley to galvanise public support against Putin, as public and global condemnation is a key component to defeating the Russian invasion. However, the fact that a totalitarian , superpower decides to invade a sovereign is a far bigger and more immediate threat to lives and livelihoods and the threat it poses to world peace , is far more important.
    Perhaps , we can remind our politicians and the media of their exact words the next time they turn a blind ( blue eye) to the next atrocity to those that are look like them .

  3. We are reminded again that why the Holy Quran is needed. While Russia has been unjust in invading a sovereign nation, the Western powers have also been equally unjust in employing genocidal sanctions on the Russian people who had nothing to do with this war. Imagine, suddenly your bank account does not work, you can’t send money to your loved ones, your software stops working, your phone becomes useless, you and many thousand others lose your jobs, your properties are confiscated, you are not allowed to do business, you are not allowed medicine, food and humanitarian aid, just because you belong to a nation that others hate. Being unjust becomes virtue in the West just because they hate another nation and its people.

    Real reformation is only brought by the Holy Quran which teaches true justice.

    “O ye who believe! be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah. Surely, Allah is aware of what you do.” [Al-Maidah 5:9]


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