March 22, 2016
As a Pakistani-American Muslim, I was feeling helpless and angry after the string of terrorist attacks last week. Consequently, I was grateful to see Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's post after the Taliban's despicable terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan on Sunday. At that time of his statement on Facebook, very few people had mentioned it on their Facebook newsfeed and it wasn't getting a lot of media attention.
Zuckerberg poignantly noted that the goal of the this type of terror attack is “to spread fear and distrust, and turn members of a community against each other.” He added, that the best way “to fight back against those who seek to divide us is to create a world where understanding and empathy can spread faster than hate.”
Zuckerberg's comments were a reminder of how my own anger and frustration at the world can be counterproductive at times, and he's right. If we allow these attacks to divide us and alienate us, the terrorists get what they want. They win.
Terrorists want us to live in fear. They kill indiscriminately here and abroad. Their goals are political, not religious. They do not follow my faith or the faith of any God-fearing human.
But sometimes, it appears as though they're winning. My anger and disgust doesn't end at their unjustifiable attacks anymore. I have also begun to harbor resentment at the selective condemnation and sympathy of Western nations toward the violence committed in other parts of the world. Why aren't flags flown at half-mast for victims in Turkey, Africa, The Middle East or Asia?
I noticed how many of my friends changed their profile pictures in solidarity with France and Brussels, and how they shared their distress after the terror attacks in Europe, and yet, these same people chose to remain silent when hundreds were killed in non-Western nations. This all adds to the bitterness I have begun to feel.
On the other hand, I am also aware of how my resentment towards these perceived injustices results in the growing discord and distrust between groups of people, and that's exactly the goal of terrorists; divide and conquer, no matter where they operate.
It's terrifying to know many of us are beginning to believe their lies and their distorted worldview of "us against them." It sometimes seeps into my subconscious, but I don't want their ugliness to invade my heart and mind. I don't support their twisted mission or warped ideology. I support interfaith missions and the power of unity.
But at times, I feel exhausted by the burden terrorism has placed upon me and on other decent Muslims around the world. Not only are we mourning the loss of our friends and relatives overseas and at home, but many of us feel obligated to take a proactive stance against the evil actions of terrorists. We've spent countless hours defending our faith, but with each new attack, our efforts are unraveled and we have to pick up the pieces and start all over again.
To add to our frustrations, nobody seems to care that Muslims are the greatest victims of terrorist organizations. We feel the absence of world leaders who are quick to march in solidarity with the people of Paris, but silent when the Taliban enters schools in Pakistan and murders 100's of school children, or when suicide bombers enter soccer fields, killing innocent sports fans.
Muslims around the world live in a constant state of fear. Not only do we live in fear of terrorists overseas, but we also have to contend with the backlash of bigoted Americans who retaliate by attacking members of our community and our faith. We know the media won't cover these hate crimes on their 24/7 news cycles, and we know politicians won't call for justice for the victims' families. Instead, after every terrorist attack, Muslims are forced to listen to more hate speech by our politicians and leaders; the very people who are entrusted to protect us, instead, leave us feeling vulnerable.
This is how terrorism and hate win.
But no matter how tired or afraid I am, I won't give up. If by speaking out, I am able to open the minds of even a few of the people I come into contact with, then I know it has been well worth the effort. As long as I'm breathing, terrorists will not have the last word.
And that is precisely why we must continue to educate our communities. We must refuse to allow these monsters to sow seeds of hatred and fear between us. We can't let them win. We can't let them make this an "us vs. them" war. We can't let their hateful actions speak louder than our commitment to peace and love.
We need to rise up and stand in solidarity with each other, because WE are all in this together.