(Reflect, which did you see about in the news? Which did you see on your Facebook feed, your Twitter timeline or hear on the Radio?)
When I began to hear about these atrocities in France, Paris, a sudden selfish attitude overcome me. I began to think about myself, my parents, my younger brother and family. I began to think about my religion. I instantly hoped, wished and prayed that these attacks were a terrible mistake, rumours, even a nasty joke on the internet. I was wishing, selfishly that there were not in any shape or form to be affiliated to a Muslim extremist group.
Since September 11th 2001, I have been on the other end of a global shift in attitudes towards Islam. Whether you believe Islamophobia exists or is an actual thing or not, I can only speak from my perspective as a British Muslim living in England. I can only talk about how my life has changed.
I have previously refused to send tweets out apologising for the actions of the apparent Muslims when they have carried out unimaginable, inexcusable, unjustifiable acts of violence. I have said, it is not my job to apologise for the wrong doings of others who masquerade under the banner of the religion of Islam. A religion which has over 1 billion followers. I have attempted to raise awareness to the fact that my parents home country, Pakistan is being savaged by these terrorists.
I have also tried to argue that the majority of terrorist violence is being served to Muslims themselves, such as in Iraq, Afghanistan and so on. (Click here to read more.) I have also been frenetically voicing the disparity of mainstream media coverage of events and the terminology used by some or most.
Nevertheless, yesterday I tweeted this out…
Let ME be that person you know, that is a Muslim, that isn’t a terrorist & believes in love, tolerance & acceptance. Say you know me.
— Amjad Ali (@ASTsupportAAli) November 14, 2015
The reason I wrote that tweet out was for anybody who has ever used the rationale of not being a racist, sexist or homophobic simply because they know an asian, a women or a gay person. As silly as that sounds, if people can claim they know somebody within a marginalised group it can help change their viewpoints. Both ways, I guess.
I wanted people to use me as the person they know that is not the things that many hundreds of thousands, potentially, millions of people are thinking.
I asked people to say they KNOW ME. Because, if they know me, they would not be able to say these murderers were adequate Muslims. Their actions have no moral basis or justification in Islam. Their application of the Islamic scriptures are based on misquoting and deliberating misinterpreting.
This was a futile attempt at trying to overt the opinion of any ignorant, easily influenced individuals. As, obviously using the excuse of knowing somebody just means the racism/sexism or whatever, simply has exceptions or provisios. It does not mean it does not exist. It deflects ones reals thoughts.
Nevertheless, the response I received was heart breaking. I did not receive any ‘hatred’, I didn’t receive anybody trying to correct what I said…but, I did get lots of messages like these:
@ASTsupportAAli I have vivid memories still of how it felt to be Irish in Britain during the IRA bombing campaigns. I know you.
— Eliza O’Driscoll (@LadyGlencora) November 14, 2015
@ASTsupportAAli I would be honoured to say I know you. Thanks for reaching out.
— Em Owen Davies (@emma_teacher) November 14, 2015
Many tweets bought tears to my eyes. They made me realise that the people in my timeline, ‘95%’, that I have never met, already do believe that not all Muslims are terrorists. They genuinely do feel like I feel and do not need that tweet to remind them. But, I did not write that tweet for me, I did not need to tell the world we are not terrorists. I wrote it to tell the world that murderers are not all Muslim.
I can, personally manage a situation if somebody calls me that word. I can articulate an argument, I can defend myself. I can state hating Muslims for these killings is like hating all Americans with guns for shootings in schools. Or hating all Christians for Westboro Baptist Church, or the KKK? But what about my 68 year old father? Can he articulate an effective argument against hateful looks, whispers, shouting out? What about my mother? Could she defend herself? Well, I do not want her to have to. I do not want her to shy away from her faith and her freedom of religious expression.
After sending that tweet and noticing hundreds of people favouriting it, I began to think that I could have potentially offended some. If, I did, I am, sorry. *Sighs* I am sorry to those that do not say, that ISIS is not Islam, that the Taliban are not proper Muslims.
I then sat back and reflected that this isn’t the first time that people online have shown an amazing amount of humanity and dignity. The hashtag #IllRideWithYou trended for hours globally with people showing their support.
It is clear that people that interact with me online, know some Muslim people in real life. These people are culturally aware of them and have a deeper understanding of them from what they know, rather than what they see presented from biased, propaganda or media. It is clear that some on my personal learning network, accept and tolerate religion but do not have a place for it in their lives. It is clear some, think religion is absurd. All those opinions are fine! But, I did begin to wonder…
Do you have a Muslim FRIEND? Somebody you know/cultural aware of? Please RT
— Amjad Ali (@ASTsupportAAli) November 14, 2015
The results, judging from the tweets I received, did not surprise me. However, If I could extend that question further and asked, how many have been round a Muslim’s house for dinner? Invited them round theirs? Sent them an Eid card, received a Christmas card from them? I wonder what kind of response I would get…? Do you know?
It is the others I am worried about, the others who think the attacks were carried out by Muslim refugees.
To people blaming refugees for attacks in Paris tonight. Do you not realise these are the people the refugees are trying to run away from..?
— Dan Holloway (@RFCdan) November 13, 2015
I am worried about the people that think we, in England should also shut our borders from any refugees, that we shouldnt believe in multiculturalism, that all that religion breeds is violence. A clear representation of this is the growing support from groups such as Britain First. Over 1 million likes on Facebook.
I am worried about the students who do not know any other ‘types’ of students. Both religious or non-religious, both people of colour or not.
I am worried about the ones who will go to their schools having heard adults talking about another Muslim, terrorist attack.
I am worried about the ones who will associate a Hijab with opposition to British Values.
The ones that will wonder why some of us, do not drink Alcohol. And because we do not that means we are not integrating.
I am worried about the ones who will segregate themselves further from the crowds, the groups, from the communities. I am worried about the ones that will say, well, they hate us even more now.
My niece’s first response to the Paris attacks: “should I tell people at school I’m not Muslim anymore?” She is seven. SEVEN.
— Azita Rahman (@azitatoprahman) November 14, 2015
I am worried that students who say, why do I need to stay silent during Remembrance Day claiming they didnt fight for me. I am worried that they do not understand that hundreds of thousands of Muslim soldiers also fought in the World Wars.
I am worried about the children that will make an idle joke about Muslims being terrorists, again. I am worried about the Muslim’s that now joke about being terrorists.
I am worried about the people that say, we know it was not all Muslims that committed these acts, but the ones that did were Muslim.
I am worried that the spade that is digging us, Muslims, away from the rest of society is working at an ever more rapid rate. I am worried.
I became even more worried when I realised that my insight of students in based on the South East of England. One of the most culturally diverse intersections of land in the UK. That I just assumed that everybody interacts with others of difference colour, creed, religion on a daily basis. Did I realise this was not the case?
I do not think I did. So, what if you work in a school, where the only way you will understand what happened is if you are taught about it without prejudice and informed thoughts? Do all students need to have the media explained to them? But, where will we find the time? What lesson/tutor time will this fall in to? Will it become a situation like the Charlie Hebdo incident, where talking about it, became nerve racking? Where people felt uncomfortable? Or has it gone round full circle and will people innocently and repeatedly say some Muslims attacked some people and killed them.
With a heavy heart I share this with you. My nephew (8 years old at the time), rather heartbreakingly told me a while back that his 9 year old friends had asked him, how comes he isn’t a terrorist because he is Muslim. My nephew asked me what a terrorist actually is as he hasn’t ever killed anybody. Killing is wrong. He would never do that he told me. I wept at the thought of a 8 year old having to contemplate why others would consider him as such a terrible thing because of the religion he was born into.
So… what can we do? I have some ideas..
- Teach students to talk about the incidents and ask them to respond to Trending Hashtags- click here for more information in how to run this activity.
- Show students information from a variety of sources and ask them to learn how to research effectively. Teach them about the political spectrum and the importance of knowing where information is from.
- Continually remind everybody and anybody that mentions that the worlds Islam and Muslim that they are not synonymous with terrorism and violence.
- Get involved: I have been the co-founder in a global movement called #CultureBoxED– click here for more information. So, I am thinking, maybe we can set up a FaithBoxED of some sorts to spark conversations between Muslims and non-muslims? We can get students to carry about the exact same stages as CultureBoxED, but this one, with the simple hope to help promote diversity of thoughts between faiths.
Will this help? Do you think this is a good idea? Would you be interested to participate? Let me know by signing up to register your interest below.
Thank you for letting me be selfish in writing this blog and you reading it.
#PrayforHumanity Wherever you are in the world suffering rears its head in many ways. It’s how we deal with it that makes us who we are.
— Amjad Ali (@ASTsupportAAli) November 13, 2015