Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot
How did you feel as the news of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris was unfolding? Probably the same as everyone else – shock followed by sadness. However how we Muslims feel after this may be different due to the fact that so many atrocities have recently been carried out in the name of Islam. As a result a non-Muslim can feel anger towards Muslims and the religion of Islam while a Muslim may feel somewhat culpable because the name of Islam, albeit erroneously, is involved. So instead of uniting in our grief and sadness a climate of hatred can be fostered.
Since the attacks in Paris reports of hatred towards Muslims have increased, from name calling to actual physical violence or victims feeling they receive ‘dirty looks’ when out in public. Women in headscarves are a very visible target and a woman was recently assaulted after her woollen scarf was mistaken for a Muslim headscarf.
Terrorists, by their very actions, want to cause disruption to our lives so when we grow suspicious, by acts of violence and abuse, by finger-pointing we are just doing them a favour. If we turn it into a ‘them and us’ situation we lose sight of the fact that the enemy is the terrorist and not each other.
What should our response be in the face of these terrorist attacks? Indeed, our response has to be to stay calm and united because this is the way we stay strong.
Stories have emerged from Paris of acts of bravery and solidarity. The security guard who stopped a suicide bomber from entering the Stade de France, the Parisians who offered safety to those stranded in Paris; all of these were ordinary people showing courage and humanity. When the situation arose humanity took over and these people did not act a certain way because of their religion but because they were human.
On a personal level my daughter sent me a message from Europe asking how things were in the UK and saying that a French fellow student was concerned that it must be really difficult for her family at the moment. What an extraordinary reaction for a person to express concern for others while their country is under attack; especially as we are Muslim and their country is under attack from people who claim to be Muslims. I told her things were okay for us personally and it was comforting to hear that she wasn’t facing any anti-Muslim prejudice. I later found out that the student had lost two close friends in the Paris attacks which made their concern even more touching.
Here in the UK a friend sent a message of sympathy to a French colleague who expressed her appreciation when they later met because she had not expected even this small act. A church in Plymouth this week called for the word ‘Islamic’ to be removed when referring to the terrorists. The vicar said “as the closest church to Plymouth’s largest mosque we want to be a good neighbour and also help them protect their name”.
At Baitul Futuh mosque one week after the Paris attacks members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association gathered with those of other faiths to remember the victims of the attacks. The national president Rafiq Hayat spoke about the wish to strengthen the bonds of unity and friendship and said, “no act of hate or extremism will deter us from this endeavour”.
In the face of the darkness of terrorism, it is incidents such as these which leave me with hope that if we really want to, we can unite by the simple acts of understanding and showing humanity and compassion towards each other.