And treat it in the same manner as any other type of hate speech
The events of 15th March 2019, where 50 innocent men, women and children were murdered in cold blood will go down as one of New Zealand’s darkest days. Like all terrorist attacks of this calibre we go through extreme emotions of shock, anger, sadness and grief. Overwhelming grief. Yes we are a community in mourning. Why has this particular terrorist attack shaken us to our core? Let me explain.
It is little known that Muslims around the world are mistreated and killed day in, day out because of war and terrorism. Whether in Kashmir, in Syria, in Pakistan, in Yemen, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Myanmar, or China , Muslims are victims of complex conflicts and terrorism. In fact more Muslims have been killed by Daesh compared with other groups. Targeting Muslims in Mosques is not new – past atrocities have involved Muslims being killed in mosques.
After these horrendous events, we feel sadness, we may donate money or sign a few petitions. We say prayers for the victims. We do what we can sitting in lands far away. But this grief, following the horrific attacks on Mosques in New Zealand, a Western country, is new and it’s raw and I’m trying to work out why.
“Even Facebook hasn’t offered me a filter for my profile photo or a flag, like they did for the Manchester or Paris attacks.”
It seems to me, that my fellow non-Muslims on Facebook and Instagram are not affected by it, in the way Muslims are. This may seem unfair but the fact that very, very few non-Muslims in the public eye and just regular people in Britain have shared anything about the New Zealand terror attack, really hurts. Words matter, and support through a difficult time is always appreciated. The notion that ‘now they know how we feel’ which I’ve seen in comments under many posts is not as hurtful as those people simply not acknowledging it. Even Facebook hasn’t offered me a filter for my profile photo or a flag, like they did for the Manchester or Paris attacks.
Please don’t think for a minute that Muslims are immune to terror attacks. Don’t for a minute think this is a first for the Muslim community. Don’t for a minute think that the ‘shoe is on the other foot’. No. According to the Stop the War coalition, the US led war on terror has killed two million Muslims since 9/11. That’s right two million, so don’t for one moment think that Muslims don’t know about death.
When 7/7 happened and 52 people were killed and many more injured on the London Underground we were upset and angry as much as anybody else. Remember Muslims die in Islamist inspired terror attacks too. We are not exempt. We go to concerts, we use public transport so we are a targets too. But in this case we were targeted exclusively. Like the nine black Christian worshippers in Charleston, South Carolina, these people were murdered whilst praying. When we’re praying we are vulnerable and detached from our surroundings. To target a group of worshippers is so cowardly and so personal to me. My husband and son go to Friday prayers. It’s such a normal thing to do. One of the victims, fourteen year old Sayyed even looks like my son. So yes it’s personal and yes I feel it. And I know the majority of Muslims who live outside of Muslim countries feel the same.
The truth is Muslims are battered from every angle. Whether it’s from groups like ISIS or Al-Qaeda or from white supremacists, we are in the firing line every time. And if not a target for violence we are spoken about on social media like a worthless community. Too long the media with their inflammatory headlines have gotten away with demonising an entire religion and it’s followers.
Many young Muslims, born in the era of post 9/11 have felt victimised, experienced racism and anti-muslim hatred all their lives. With headlines like ‘Muslim schools ban our culture’ to ‘Muslim plot to kill the pope’, is there any wonder why some of the general public fear and dislike Muslims? These headlines are fuelling white supremacists and legitimising Islamophobia. According to the Cambridge University Press “For every one moderate Muslim mentioned, 21 examples of extremist Muslims are mentioned in the British press”.
Says it all really, and if you want to see the hatred from the comfort of your home then you just have to go on to a tabloid newspaper’s Facebook page under any article to do with Muslims and you will see it clearly. You only have to go on Twitter to see how many proud ‘Islamophobes’ there are who put in their bio that they are Islamophobic, and this is their main purpose, indeed their tweets are mainly about bashing and demonising Muslims.
Thankfully I’ve also found solitude in Twitter where so many tweets from non-Muslims have shown me that people do care and there are many who realise the subliminal anti-Muslim sentiment that some of the press has been espousing. Whilst it is being acknowledged, things need to change. It’s time that not just Muslims, but for others too, to call out the anti-Muslim sentiment that is present in our society today. Because there hasn’t been the Facebook and Instagram outcry that usually follows a large-scale terror attack. Extremists have now been inspired to attack Muslims in London, and one has already taken place outside a mosque. It’s time to stand up to anti-Muslim rhetoric and treat it in the same manner as other types of hate speech. Don’t let it go unquestioned, don’t ignore it, because people need to be held accountable for their words.
By Sharmeen Ziauddin
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website