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Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Critics unfair to New York Post photographer

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Critics unfair to New York Post photographer

R. Umar Abbasi captured a photo of a man seconds before he was struck and killed by a subway train in New York on Dec. 3, 2012. Abbasi, who is described as a "freelance photographer," said he heard the gasps of people on the train platform when the victim, Ki-suck Han, was apparently pushed onto the track during a scuffle with another individual as the train approached the station.

Abbasi's photo shows the man with his arm on the ledge as the train approaches only a few yards away. Han was immediately killed.

Immediately, the critics came out of the woodwork to attack Abbasi because he snapped the photo. They claimed he should have run up to the man and helped pull him out of the way of the train.

But when you look at the photo, you see that Abbasi was further from the man than the train.

Abbasi claimed he took the picture to fire the flash to warn the train conductor, but that sounds more like the excuse of someone who is being pilloried and the criticism must certainly be painful, because a man lost his life.

I really doubt he shot the pictures to flash the light to warn the conductor, although maybe that was a hope he may have held as the drama unfolded before his lens.

Still, even though he might be bending to the huge international criticism and pressure of critics to make that claim, the truth is there was nothing Abbasi could do. His job is to record events in the lives on human beings. Photographers have joined the military in wars snapping pictures as the enemy and our soldiers were killed.

Of course, we don't mind showing the corpses of the enemy who have been killed but we suddenly find a moral thread when the victims are our soldiers.

That's the kind of hate that has permeated today's America. It's a country built on racism and now fueled by political hatred. Our hatred allows us to attack people not based on what they have or have not done, but rather based on who they are or where they are from.

I suspect a part of the hatred against Abbasi is because he has an Arab and Muslim name. I don't know him and he may not be Arab but the name is a very common Arab and Muslim name. In today's America, facts do not matter. Most Americans couldn't tell the difference between a Mexican or a Palestinians. We both look the same. Americans are the most educated people on the planet but the least educated about the people who live on this planet. They make judgments and stereotypes and there is no doubt in my mind that people who have read this story have concluded that Abbasi is "one of them." A Muslim. An Arab. 

So it doesn't really matter of Abbasi is an Arab or a Muslim. What matters is that most people believe he is. That is how justice is achieved in today's America. American justice is not only blind these days, it is stupid, uneducated and unfactual.

Regardless, though, Abbasi did nothing wrong. I believe that if he were close enough to the many, standing right next to him, he would have reached down to help lift him out of the way of the train. He would have become a hero. Although because he is or is perceived to be an Arab or a Muslim, he wouldn't have been given a heroes' welcome or praise for his actions. Arabs and Muslims only get attention when something is wrong. We're not seen as heroes but rather as terrorists or potential terrorists.

I salute Abbasi for his photograph. It is the most important thing that remains of the victim, Han. It depicts his last moments of life before he was struck and killed.

When I was a young reporter, I would cover tragedies like home fires that took the lives of people including children. The hardest thing would be to go up to the relatives of the people who were killed and asked them for their comments. It seemed so insensitive to do so considering they were in the midst of grieving for their loss. But I would always explain that the story I write might be the only story ever written about your child, husband or wife. When time passes in weeks and months, you will cling to this story as your last connection to the deceased. I wanted to make that story the best I could not only to report the facts but to insure the family had something left that they could cling to to reinforce our frail and fading memories as human beings.

-- Ray Hanania

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