The events of 15th March 2019, where 50 innocent men, women and children were murdered in cold blood will go down as one of New Zealand’s darkest days. Like all terrorist attacks of this calibre we go through extreme emotions of shock, anger, sadness and grief. Over whelming grief. Yes we are a community in mourning. Why has this particular terrorist attack shaken us to our core? Let me explain.
Muslims are mistreated and killed day in, day out because of war and terrorism. Whether in Kashmir, in Syria, in Pakistan, in Yemen, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Myanmar, or China we endure it. Sometimes they also die in mosques. We feel sadness, me may donate money or sign a few petitions. We say prayers for the victims. We do what we can sitting in lands far away. But this grief, following New Zealand, is new and it’s raw and I’m trying to work out why.
It seems that most non-Muslims on Facebook and Instagram are not affected by it like Muslims are. This may seem unfair but the fact that very, very few non-Muslims in the public eye and just regular people in Britain have shared anything about the New Zealand terror attack, really hurts. Words matter, and support through a difficult time is always appreciated. The notion that ‘now they know how we feel’ which I’ve seen in comments under many posts is not as hurtful as those people simply not acknowledging it. Even Facebook hasn’t offered me a filter for my profile photo or a flag, like they did for the Manchester or Paris attacks.
Please don’t think for a minute that Muslims are immune to terror attacks. Don’t for a minute think this is a first for the Muslim community. Don’t for a minute think that the ‘shoe is on the other foot’. No. According to the Stop the War coalition, the US led war on terror has killed two million Muslims since 9/11. That’s right two million, so don’t for one moment think that Muslims don’t know about death.
When 7/7 happened and 52 people were killed on the London Underground we were upset and angry as much as anybody else. Remember Muslims die in all terror attacks in non-Muslim lands. We are not exempt. We go to concerts, we use public transport so we are a target too. But in this case we were targeted exclusively. Like the nine black Christian worshippers in Charleston, South Carolina, these people were murdered whilst praying. When we’re praying we are vulnerable and detached from our surroundings. To target a group of worshippers is so cowardly and so personal to me. My husband and son go to Friday prayers. It’s such a normal thing to do. One of the victims, fourteen year old Sayyad even looks like my son. So yes it’s personal and yes I feel it. And I know the majority of Muslims who live outside of Muslim countries feel the same.
The truth is Muslims are battered from every angle. Whether it’s from groups like ISIS or Al-Qaeda or from white supremacists, we are in the firing line every time. And if not a target for violence we are spoken about on social media like a worthless community. Too long the media with their inflammatory headlines have gotten away with demonising an entire religion and it’s followers.
Many young Muslims, born in the era of post 9/11 have felt victimised, experienced racism and anti-muslim hatred all their lives. With headlines like ‘Muslim schools ban our culture’ to ‘Muslim plot to kill the pope’, is there any wonder why some of the general public fear and dislike Muslims? These headlines are fuelling white supremacists and legitimising Islamophobia. According to the Cambridge University Press “For every one moderate Muslim mentioned, 21 examples of extremist Muslims are mentioned in the British press”.
Says it all really, and if you want to see the hatred from the comfort of your home then you just have to go on to a tabloid newspaper’s Facebook page under any article to do with Muslims and you will see it clearly. You only have to go on Twitter to see how many proud ‘Islamophobes’ there are who put in their bio that they are Islamophobic, and this is their main purpose and what their tweets are mainly about.
Thankfully I’ve also found solitude in Twitter where so many tweets from non-Muslims have shown me that people do care and there are many who realise the subliminal anti-Muslim sentiment that some of the press has been espousing. Whilst it is being acknowledged, things need to change. It’s time that not just Muslims, but others call out the anti-Muslim sentiment that is present in our society today. Because there hasn’t been the Facebook and Instagram outcry that usually follows a large-scale terror attack, extremists have been inspired to attack Muslims in London and one outside a mosque. It’s time to stand up to anti-Muslim rhetoric and treat it in the same manner as other types of hate speech. Don’t let it go unquestioned, don’t ignore it, because people need to be held accountable for their words.