Those who know me personally know that I am pretty outspoken on social media. I’m not afraid to challenge the bigoted views of others. I’m not afraid to stick up for my friends when they are being harassed and insulted due to their religion or race. I’m OK with my opinion not being popular. And if a person who doesn’t agree with my position decides that they would prefer not to be friends with me on the internet, I’m pretty well OK with that too.
When the news broke globally about the terror attacks in Paris and Beirut, like many people, I spent a fair bit of the day following it in the news. I had the live updates open on my phone, and the websites from most major news agencies open on my laptop.
Within hours of the news breaking, my Facebook feed was full of candles, hashtags proclaiming solidarity with the victims, and passionate status updates. Profile pictures became filtered in the colours blue, white and red. Every second post referenced the attacks. A friend mentioned, half jokingly, that they “hadn’t seen my rant” yet, and that they expected to see it soon. And it’s true, I have gone to post a few times. I just can’t work out how to say what I want to say.
The truth is, I’m fucking furious. How dare these violent, murderous people do this? How dare they destroy even more innocent lives to further their own violent agenda? How on earth can they justify such an attack?
It is clear to me that the intention of these attacks was to shock the world. They were not targets of political notoriety. In both cities, the places targeted where places known for leisure. A theatre and a football stadium in Paris. Restaurant quarters in both Paris and Beirut. They did not target politicians or military locations. They targeted the equivalent of the Enmore Theatre in Newtown and Oxford Street in Paddington.
In Beirut, where attacks killed at least 43 people, they targeted and area known for it’s retail and coffee shops. The attack took place in the evening, at a time when the streets were full of families kicking back and relaxing after a week at work. Last weekend, my husband and I took our kids out for gelato as a treat on Friday night. In Beirut, the Lebanese equivalent of myself and my family were the kind of people these arseholes decided to target.
So I am angry. I’m angry that these violent extremists have taken innocent lives. I’m angry that they did it in such a public manner. And I am angry about the repercussions their actions will have throughout the world. I am angry that families now have to grieve over the loss of their loved ones.
I’m also worried. Not about the risk of a terror attack. I’m worried about how the community will respond to these attacks. Already, Pauline Hanson has used the attacks as a platform for her anti-asylum seeker agenda, and the Great Aussie Patriot has posted no less than twelve posts condemning the entire Islamic religion, and condoning that ‘Aussie Patriots’ “fight back” since the news broke. The GAP and other extremist anti-Islam pages are awash with posters prepared to “fight to the death”, and “stand against Islam”. It worries me, that this violence will beget further violence, against innocent Muslim people within our community.
When I have spoken to my Muslim friends since these tragedies happened, their sadness is obvious. And mixed in with their sadness, there is a sense of resignation. That they will have to shield their kids from this violence on the media again. That these arsehole terrorists have brought their religion into disrepute again. Again, my friends are scared that their kids will not be safe from reprisals on our streets. One friend cancelled her plans to take her children out for dinner today, as she did not feel comfortable taking them out in public. Another, who was out with her family, copped filthy looks and side glances from strangers- in her own words, she felt like “a sideshow freak”.
They are angry, just like me. None of them support these terrorists. None of them support ISIS, or any other kind of violent organisation. These are women who volunteer at food banks, and run charities. They are active, passionate Australians who contribute much to their community. They view this violence in the same way most people do, regardless of religion- as abhorrent acts of violence.
These friends are people full of empathy and compassion, for everyone. They are among the most generous and caring people I have ever encountered in my life. They are not terrorists. There is no hate in anything they say, they have compassion even for those who hate them. Seriously, they are a group of seriously awesome women. And I am so sad that they might feel uncomfortable in their own country. The country they were born in.
Please, don’t let these shithead arsehole extremists influence the way you treat Australians who happen to be Muslim. Don’t use their violence as a reason to treat another person like shit. Don’t blame them, hate them, condemn them. They have nothing to do with these fuckwits. Don’t let these vile, violent, horrific acts of extremism change the way you treat your neighbour. Don’t let it change the way you treat the guy at the kebab shop, or the nurse in the hospital you attend. I sincerely believe that these jerks want you to hate. Don’t give them the satisfaction.
Fuck terrorism. Fuck extremism.