A week ago the world was taken by shock, sadness and despair when terrorist attacks took place in Paris, France. It left many people feeling hurt, frustrated, upset and angry. When humans tend to feel emotions that are out of their comfort zone, they look for someone or something to blame. And in this case, the blame has been put on Syrian Refugees and the entire Muslim population.
The amount of ignorance and bigotry I have been seeing in regards to Syrian refugees and Muslims has left me feeling very discouraged with many North Americans. People are saying and doing things that puts an entire population at risk, all because of the actions of a few extremists.
When it comes to Syrian refugees, people need to realize that they are leaving their country for the exact same reason that most of the world is living in fear right now. Their country is in turmoil, they are living in fear and uncertainty, they don’t know if they are safe from one day to the next. They are fleeing their country because they have no other choice. None. Do you think a person would willingly leave behind their home and belongings and walk away with the clothes on their back if they had any type of choice? Ask yourself that. Because I know I wouldn’t.
These people are some of the most vulnerable people in the world right now. They have nowhere to call home. They have no one to help them. Countries like Canada and the US should be stepping up, and while some citizens are, a lot aren’t. What I am seeing instead is hatred that is fuelled by fear.
This past week, 27 US Governors have announced that they will not accept Syrian refugees in their states. One even went as far as to say that he would accept Christian refugees, but not Muslim refugees. What type of world does this individual live in where it is okay to openly hate a group of innocent people? And in Canada, it hasn’t been much better. A mosque was intentionally burned in Peterborough, Ontario. For those of you who don’t know, a mosque represents peace and love. It is a place of worship and prayer. A place where people are supposed to feel safe. But that safety was shattered when one or more individuals filled with hate took that away. In Toronto, a Muslim woman was attacked while picking up her children from school. This woman was an innocent lady participating in everyday life. She was called a terrorist and had her hijab ripped off. One of the attackers told her to “go back to your own country.” That statement screams ignorance to me because there are many Muslim-Canadians who were born and raised in Canada. And even if they weren’t born and raised in Canada that doesn’t make this land any less of their country. They have every right to be here, just as much as I or anyone else does.
Muslim culture is not defined by terrorist attacks. It is not defined by anger, or hate or violence. It is not defined by a small minority of people who are extremists. These people, specifically ISIS, are the minority. They make up less than 1% of the Muslim Population. The same way that the Westboro Baptist Church is the small minority of Christians. They preach hate and intolerance instead of acceptance and love. Have you ever heard of The Army of God? They are a group of Christian Extremists who use violence to fight against abortion. There are extremists within every group and religion that exists. We cannot let such a small minority change our thoughts and views of the bigger picture. This is how hate happens. This is how tension happens. This is how wars happen.
I don’t claim to know everything about Muslim culture, because I don’t. However, I’ve had the pleasure of working with and meeting many Muslims between living in Halifax and Montreal, and I can tell you with certainty that they are some of the nicest people I have ever known. I have experienced nothing but love and tolerance from them and am proud to still have them as my friends. I know that this past week for them has been heartbreaking, devastating and hard, and that truly upsets me because those wonderful friends do not deserve to experience such hate and ignorance. They project nothing but respect and peace towards the world and should be getting the same in return.
I wish that I had an answer to all of this, but I know that the answer is bigger than me and is going to take a lot of love from a lot of people in order for the world to heal and start caring about each other again. This planet is small and we share it with seven billion other people. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all just figure out how to be tolerant and get along?
One of my most favourite quotes seems to fit in perfectly with all of this, so I am going to share it and hope that we can all take a piece of it with us as we move ahead in these uncertain times.
“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.” – Jack Layton