Before I post about the horror that occurred in the world in recent days, I want to share something pretty to overshadow ugliness with beauty. This is a photograph I took several years ago, and I have always thought it was very peaceful to look at.
The world is mourning the dead in Paris after the horrible attack that left 120 dead and hundreds wounded, and rightly so. That was a horrible and tragic event, but there are other recent terrorist attacks that largely went unnoticed. One of those happened on Thursday when suicide bombings in Beirut killed 43 people and wounded 239 others.
I didn’t know about that attack until today when I read a story on News.Mic.com about Adel Termos, a young man who gave his life to save others. According to the news story, Termos was walking in an open-air market with his daughter in southern Beirut’s Bourj al-Barajneh district when he heard a blast and realized that a bomb had detonated. He saw a second suicide bomber preparing to attack, and quickly tackled the man. Termos was killed when the bomb went off, but his sacrifice saved dozens of lives.
These recent terrorist attacks are believed to have been carried out by ISIS, and the usual backlash to Muslims is hot and heavy on social media. I respect the people who are able to respond to such backlash in a calm and reasoned manner.
When you feel the impulse to blame all Muslims for the terrorist attacks, remember that ISIS is to Islam what the KKK is to Christianity. There are factions within every religion that are extremists and do horrible things in the name of their religion. That doesn’t mean the rest of the believers support them.
My friend Khadijah Tracy said it best on her Facebook page:
What happened in Paris is absolutely terrible, indefensible, and horrendous. The people who are doing these acts of terrorism are ignorant, twisted, and evil. Their hearts are full of darkness, they hide and run and scurry from light. They do not in any way represent Islam, or the beliefs and understanding of the majority of Muslims. They are a hideous aberration, and what they do is not in any way sanctioned by the religion.
These are the people I fight every day when I teach my students, write my books, and give my talks.The only way to rid ourselves of these cowards is to turn the light on them – the light of knowledge, the light of truth, the light of understanding, the light of shared humanity. I am not alone in this fight. Others are standing up and working against this evil methodology and the people who adhere to it. It is difficult work, and it is dangerous work, but it is something I take very seriously.
Please, as this all unfolds, keep this in mind. Instead of hating and hurting all Muslims, and wanting to punish them for the evil of a few, support those of us who are just as horrified as you – even more so, as these people give all of us and our belief system a bad name and cause so much trouble for us. Know that we are on the front lines of this battle, and it is not easy. It’s even harder when we are attacked from all sides.
A smile, a kind word, even honest questions and discussion are welcome. Instead of building walls, let’s build open discussion and community that are much, much, more lasting.
And Karuna Ezara Parikh had this to say on Facebook on November 14:
I woke this morning deeply disturbed by the news from #Paris, but more amazed by the attention it received on social media. I understand Paris is a beloved and familiar space for a lot of people, but it troubled me that #Beirut, a city my father grew up in, had received so little attention after the horrific bombings two days earlier. It also troubled me that #Baghdad, a place I have absolutely no connection with, received even less attention after the senseless bombing that took place there last week. Worst of all, I found the understanding of the refugee crisis skewed and simplistic. If you’ve been following the journeys of the people leaving their homes around the world right now, perhaps you’ll understand why the words #SyrianRefugeeCrisis are just as devastating as #PrayForParis. It’s time to pray for humanity. It is time to make all places beloved. It’s time to pray for the world.
So I salute Khadijah and Karuna as today’s Strong Women for their reasoned response to attacks on their religion. And I bow my head in honor and respect for Adel Termos for his courage and sacrifice.