By: Emily Schofield-Cox
We live in a world that feels like it is ruled by an ever-present panic, continually stoked by the fear-mongering tactics of the mainstream media.
We are explicitly reminded that terrorism is around us, always poised and waiting, and that it could happen anywhere. And the implicit message – to distrust and to fear anyone different to us – is there, between the lines, giving a voice to the ill-founded and misinformed fears of an ignorant part of Australia.
And sometimes that small ignorant part of ourselves rears its ugly head; the small part that whispers a moment of fear when you see someone in a hijab or go into a part of town you don’t know. In those moments it is the messages of the media and the politicisation of terrorism that breaks through before you remember all of the lovely Muslim friends you have had over the years, and the unwavering kindness with which they have treated you.
Over the weekend, Paris was hit by a devastating terrorist attack that claimed the lives of far too many people, and left an entire country in heartbreak and mourning.
It is incredibly sad to see this act of pure inhumanity; that people can take the lives of so many without a second thought for the potential they are cutting short or the families who will never recover from such sudden and unnecessary loss.
So, yes, “pray for Paris”. Pray for those killed and those left behind.
But also pray for Beirut. 41 people died and 200 more were injured in a double suicide bombing in Lebanon’s capital on Thursday.
Instead of focusing on only the victims in predominantly white, Western countries, we need to understand that we exist equally in the world with every culture, every religion, and every colour of skin. Rather than focusing on the one Australian in the Paris attacks who was injured, let’s focus on the millions of people in Africa being persecuted, the victims of civil wars in Syria and the Middle East, those in danger worldwide because of their beliefs.
Pray for the 19 people who Islamic State senselessly killed at a funeral procession on Friday in Baghdad.
Pray for West Bank, Cameroon, Chad, Iraq and Egypt; they have all experienced terrorist attacks in the last month alone.
Pray for a society who is so scared of people who are different to them, that they blame refugees for the Paris attacks. Pray for the people who ignore the hard truth that these refugees are fleeing from this exact kind of war and attacks, yet are blamed for them in Western countries.
Pray for understanding, for kindness, and for the end of the politicisation of refugees and terrorism. Politicians on every side, in many countries, are using the real lives of these people and the real victims of these attacks as statistics to scare us into supporting them.
And pray for the innumerable Muslims who have been persecuted and killed by the Islamic State. Pray for the Muslims from all over the globe who have never met these perpetrators nor share their views, yet are made to explain themselves and apologise for their religion. Pray for the Muslim parents living in Western countries who have to bring up their children amidst a culture of hate and fear. Pray for the Muslim people who no longer catch public transport because they are assaulted and demeaned when they do. Pray for the Muslim people, the 1.6 billion of them, who exist peacefully and contribute to society, only to be villainised for the actions and beliefs of the tiniest subsection of their population.
(Or don’t pray at all because institutionalised religion is weird as fuck, and just keep people in your thoughts and actively work to make the world a better, more understanding place by emanating those qualities yourself. Either way, you do you.)