Terror and destruction are not new to this world, but some of this darkness has hit nearer to home in the past month. Tragic attacks in Paris, California and Colorado have shocked us, hurt us and brought to the forefront discussions on terrorism, gun control and refugees.
In the days following these attacks, I felt paralyzed. I mourned for the innocent lives lost. My heart was broken for the families of victims. I was distressed for the refugees who were fleeing from terror, only to be met with vicious inhospitality due to baseless sensationalism and the ignorance of our leaders.
A part of humanity was hurting and it really affected me. That just makes me human. But I’m also Muslim. So that makes these kinds of tragedies more complicated.
Seemingly everywhere I looked, I saw Muslims speaking out: Muslims condemning the attacks, Muslims speaking about anti-Muslim backlash, Muslims pointing out the media’s double standards, Muslims answering the increasingly absurd statements made by political candidates.
Instead of making me feel better, this completely overwhelmed me. All I wanted was to not talk about it. I turned off the news, stopped going on social media and avoided conversations about it. I felt like there was really nothing more to say; I couldn’t properly mourn the victims with all this noise. I felt paralyzed.
I couldn’t figure out why I felt this way. All these people were addressing very valid issues and saying important things that needed to be said. They were providing a much-needed perspective for our country and our times.
Then I realized what it was that was holding me back: I felt that by speaking about or writing on these issues, I would somehow validate them. Condemning attacks implies that I am somehow related to the perpetrators. Defending my religion shows that I am operating in the framework of those who claim it is violent. The fact that I feel compelled to react shows that I am allowing these actions to define me.
But blocking out the world didn’t feel like the right thing to do either. So I looked to the opposite of terror and destruction: hope and building. It is often in moments of hurt, in human crises, that people come together in the most beautiful ways. We can turn our grief into strength and into good will. We can respond with actions that are better.
So I could write about terrorism or Islamophobia or anti-refugee sentiments, but I’m not going to. That’s right -- I’m writing to say I’m not going to write about it. I’m going to do something.
In the wake of the Paris attacks last month when state after state announced that they were no longer accepting Syrian refugees, French Prime Minister Francois Hollande announced that France would take in even more refugees. He didn’t let the attacks inspire fear and hatred in their nation. He responded with an action that was better.
The day after the shooting in San Bernardino, a Muslim-led fundraising campaign was launched to raise money for victims’ families. The campaign has raised over $175,000 in less than a week. They responded with an action that was better.
There’s a lot to be angry about. There’s a lot to be sad about. But when evil shows itself in this world, it serves as a reminder of how much more good we can do. From the shadows of this darkness, I am choosing to give light.
The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch. Contact Haajar Shaaban at email@example.com.