Today we had a minute’s silence at work for the attacks in Brussels, which was a horrible, unjustified event only a few days ago. It made me feel sad and a little pessimistic because we did the same thing in the office after the attacks in Paris not so long ago – a minute to reflect on events and pray for the lost victims, and hope that world events get better, that there are no more attacks, no more anger and no more twisting of beliefs to perpetuate more unreasonable violence.
It also made me sad, however, because there was no minute silence for Palestine, Turkey, Syria or various parts of Africa. You may think I am biased because many of these are Muslim countries, and this is why I feel affinity to them, and of course there is a part of me which does. There have been several attacks in Turkey in recent weeks, air strikes in Syria and on-going violence in parts of Africa such as Nigeria quite recently which have been ignored or sidelined, and which is pretty upsetting. But having grown up in a Western society, I also feel an affinity to Europe, to Britain, and it is more than my Muslim heritage speaking here. One of the things Islam teaches us is kindness to everyone, empathy and respect for all others, and as a human being it is natural to feel compassion whenever there are attacks on fellow people in any country. Naturally, the spotlight right now is being turned on refugees who are arriving all over Europe and who are homeless, scared and trying to protect themselves and their families. While there has been a lot of welcome for them, there is also a lot of resentment about whether they should be entitled to help and whether they are simply bringing the ‘enemy’ with then,
I’m sure I am not the first one to point out that all of the refugees arriving around Europe will be tarred with the same brush – when in fact it is these mindsets and violent groups that the fleeing refugees are trying to get away from. It makes me think back to my parent’s generation who arrived in the 70s and 80s, and even that ‘Windrush generation’ of the 50s, who came from across the world to Europe (and Britain) to make a new life and were treated with contempt and hostility by those who didn’t understand them, or those who believed the worst and didn’t trust them. It has taken a long time for these generations of incomers to build lives, trust and a place within this society, and it is attacks like this which can make immigrant groups feel unwelcome and undermined.
It is easy to be afraid. It is harder to stand up for what you believe in even when you are afraid, yet you stand up anyway. A part of me wonders whether there will be a time when we don’t have to worry about attacks like these. Maybe I’m naive, living in a modern age such as we do now, the horrors of war, hate and anger seem far away because we think we have evolved our minds and relationships since the World Wars, Civil Wars and battles for Independence which have taken place all over the world.
I do not mean to belittle the victims of Brussels or Paris, nor imply that what has happened is not a serious issue, because it is. I’m hoping we can learn from these to understand the hate behind these attacks and make sense of the senseless violence, so that it makes it easier for us to deal with. I am a strong believer of the idea that we can show Islam is not a hateful religion, and that those who twist it for their own agendas are not acting on our behalf. My point here, I suppose is the idea of fairness, while we are devastated by what has happened in Brussels recently, we should be equally outraged by the events in the Eastern countries. At the risk of making this a slightly hippy-fied post, in the end we are all people and we should share our prayers and compassion with everyone.