For Paris, For Islam, For the World

Today has been one of those sullen days when I have no motivation, no spark, no zest for this beautiful life. It is not only the attacks in Paris last night, the estimated 120+ dead, the sorrow imbued, but also for the hatred, the ignorance, and the misunderstanding that plagues the world and its inhabitants’ minds. It is nothing less than disheartening to see and hear people buying into the belief that the root of this problem lies within the Muslim people. This is a false fabrication.

Muslims are NOT terrorists by default.Terrorists are groups of radicals that use bloodshed and fear to achieve perverse goals. The tactics and goals vary, just as the demographic of those using them does. There are terrorists in the Middle East, sure, but there are terrorists closer to home than you’re led to believe. The United States, for example, has used terror, fear, paranoia- however you want to label it- to keep its citizens unaware and in a state of ignorance while its “leaders” have legitimized warfare, policing the globe, and destroying other countries’ people, cultures, and infrastructure as a means of getting what they wanted. Stuff like rubber and oil. The “War on Terror” fed on naïve minds, pushing them into a fake sense of patriotism, fear, and hatred toward others. With enough media exposure, any story can be created, believed, and propagated. And then there is justice in hating or killing others. Of believing that one group of people deserves to live with freedom, resources, and basic life opportunities while another group does not. That group has been demonized.

What does this have to do with the Paris attacks last night? Everything. Innocent people have lost their lives due to a strategic, organized attack by a group of radical thugs, the ISIS. What were the motives behind the attack? Why was it in Paris, and not in, say, Asuncion, Paraguay? In my opinion, the motives were to inspire fear and further divide people, to pit them against each other. They wanted people to turn against everyday Muslims- people who are innocent, people who are integrated citizens and people who are recent refugees, fleeing from their homes where their governments have dissipated and genocide runs rampant. In hopes that this endured hatred would inspire more people to become extremists, I suspect. It is much easier to abuse one’s power when there is a solid “us versus them” attitude in society.

I believe that Paris was chosen not just for its large Muslim population (there are between four to five million Muslims who call France home), but also because it is a beloved Western city. Many people across the world hold Paris dear to their hearts, and thereby would identify or empathize with the victims more than they would if the attack had taken place in Asuncion. Most people don’t know or care where Asuncion is, and the victims would have been “those” people rather than “our” people. It would have been another bout of killing in another place in the world that (almost) no one cares about. Hence the sensationalism. There has been much more media coverage about this attack than the recent attacks in Ankara, Turkey or Beirut, Lebanon- triple fold, at least. That is no coincidence.

The truth continues to seep out; many people believe that some communities deserve to live more than others. This explains why so many are in hysterics over the attack in Paris and why many more have been silent over the past four YEARS of horrific genocide in Syria. And the many Syrian refugees who have died, washed ashore, in attempt to flee to safety, because they seek a better life for their families, because they have nowhere else to go, because their souls are exhausted from daily bloodshed and true fear for their lives- this was mainly swept under the rug. Sadly, I guess people are just used to Syrian people dying.

Ignorance runs rampant, and otherwise well-meaning people fall into demonizing an entire religion that they know nothing about, further propagating the fear and hatred. I wonder if these people have ever met a Muslim person, if they have ever sat down over tea and had a conversation- let alone a friendship- with one. I wonder if they’ve ever traveled to a Muslim country to see what it’s like, or if they’ve even left their own country. It hurts terribly to acknowledge that the answer is probably “no.”

I don’t pretend to know everything. I haven’t read the Quran. I’ve read very few pages of the Bible, and I was raised Catholic, before becoming an Atheist at an early age. But religion and cultures fascinate me. I’ve been to three Muslim countries so far, and taught a predominantly Muslim demographic as an ESL teacher in Portland. My experiences in these countries- Malaysia, Brunei, and Morocco- were nothing but positive. The people were overwhelmingly hospitable, kind, and eager to know my story. Teaching a classroom filled with people from Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., and Yemen taught me so much about their cultures and beliefs- but also about myself.

You don’t have to agree with everything everyone says or believes, and that’s okay. What’s important is the willingness to listen, the curiosity to learn about what you don’t know and expel what you thought you knew, and the acceptance of others. This extends beyond religion and into cultures, languages, lifestyles, socioeconomic standings, sexual preferences, skin colors, occupations, and so on.

I strongly believe that everyone should read, travel, and educate themselves. I can’t imagine who I would be without these three eye-opening, mind-reveling, life-changing experiences. If we want to progress in life, if we want the world to be a better place, we need to put aside the indoctrination of belief systems bestowed upon us, and challenge ourselves to put fear aside for the wonderful unknown. We need to accept and embrace each other for our similarities and our differences. It is only then, through acts of love and support- not through hatred and condemnation- that we will grow as a global community. If we keep unquestioningly buying into the lies that are shoveled into our brains, we are only hurting ourselves, and the rest of humanity- now and in the future.

And so tonight, my thoughts are with the people of Paris whose lives were taken prematurely, and the loved ones left behind. My thoughts are with the people of Islam, who continue to endure irrational discrimination and hatred. They are also with everyone everywhere who is suffering, in poverty, in war zones, in states of oppression. My thoughts are with the world, in hopes that we can stop the killing, stop the hate, and stop the ignorance. My thoughts are with all of humanity and the healing we so desperately need.

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