It’s been several days since the Orlando shooting but my rage is constantly refuelled by the flurry of articles circulating through my newsfeed. I’m horrified by the actions of that young man, but I’m just as disturbed by the world’s response to it. Unfortunately, when an assailant is Muslim, fixating on his religious background and boiling all motive down to radicalism has become so commonplace that it’s almost expected.
It is frightening that the world has degenerated to the point where a Presidential Candidate for the United States of America, history’s greatest champion of freedom, can condemn 1.6 billion Muslims for the actions of a few. The fact that so many people share this opinion is perhaps the saddest fact of all.
When I logged on to Facebook last night, someone I once took classes with shared an article that claimed that gun control was a distraction, and that the real reason for the Orlando shooting was Islam. I don’t intend to single this person out, but this article, and the conversation that ensued in the comments led me to the realisation that I’d been wrong. I used to think that those who demonised Islam were either Republicans with addled brains, or the ignorant. However, these were educated people. If it is not for a lack of education or exposure, then what is it that causes people to paint almost a quarter of the world in the dark dregs of ISIS supporters?
It is arrogance. It is arrogance that goes back to the relationship of the ‘White man and the Savages.’ It is the arrogance that comes from asserting themselves as an individual while homogenising all those who are different. The same arrogance that causes people to casually remark that Asians all look the same. It is arrogance that stops them from seeing the flaws in their own system and instead causes them to vilify innocents. It is arrogance that is stopping them from seeing that they’re playing into ISIS’ hands. ISIS wants to divide the world. It wants the world to turn on Muslims so it can claim to be their sole champion. What they do not understand is that most Muslims despise ISIS just as much, if not more, than they do. ISIS has destroyed the lives of our people, our lands, our homes, and it is poisoning what it means to be Muslim today.
And what is the remedy to this arrogance? It is to travel. It is to drown yourself in cultures so strange, so foreign that centuries of institutionalised superiority is cleansed with the humbling understanding that different does not mean less. It is to find beauty in these differences and in the knowledge that the actions of one, do not define the actions of all. It is through travel that you will understand that people across the world, regardless of the colour of their skin, the tongues they speak, the God they bow down to, is an individual with thoughts, hopes and dreams. And, lastly, it is to revel in the knowledge that with this understanding that you are fighting the forces that seek to divide us and pit us against one and other.
And, so you must travel. Travel to distant lands and pastures nearby and open your mind to that which seems different and find amongst you the commonalities that bind us together, for in times such as these, our love for one and other, as a people, is our greatest weapon.
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