I wrote this post on Sunday morning when I was feeling a little weary and heavy-hearted. I wasn't sure that I would post it as it felt a little soon and writing it was more of an outlet for me to process my thoughts, but I decided this morning I would post.
Along with most of the world, I've been shocked and saddened by the events of the past days. The horrific attacks in Paris and Beirut are difficult to fathom. I'm not going to comment directly on those as I don't feel that it's my place to do so here.
What I've read on news sites and social media in regards to these attacks have dismayed me. Vitriol, hatred and anger. I, too, despise the scum that perpetrate these acts. So, so much. But to me, those monstrous vile creatures that found sport in murdering innocent people are not representative of Muslims. It truly upsets me though when people believe so deeply that there is no difference between the monsters who pick up a gun or detonate a bomb and the more than a billion Muslims who are just trying live their everyday life.
I live in a Muslim country and have done so for the past 3-and-a-half years. In that time, my neighbours have been Muslim. My kids' teachers have been Muslim. Our friends have been Muslim. The people we deal with day in and day out have been Muslim. In those 3-and-a-half years, I have been treated with kindness, generosity and respect. I have not been asked to convert, I haven't been attacked for my beliefs. Nothing has been forced upon me nor really expected of me, except for the return of respect that has been granted to me.
The shops in Dubai at the moment have more Christmas trees and baubles and tinsel than you can imagine. I can buy a ham and pineapple pizza from the supermarket if I want to. I can stop by a bar and have a drink if I so wish. My Catholic friends regularly attend mass at a church built on land gifted to them by the Muslim rulers. My Hindi friends go to the temple and hang their Diwali lights. There are no Muslims here calling me an 'infidel' or trying to 'strip me from my rights' or force me to conform to their ideals. Though if you believe what you see on Facebook or in the mainstream media, that is what they'd have you believe is the motive of every Muslim.
My kids, thankfully, are unaware of the attacks over the weekend (Friday is our weekend). Both Paris and Beirut are places that they know of, where their friends are from, where they dream they might visit one day. And thankfully, they haven't been exposed to anti-Islamic sentiment (nor anti-Christian or anti-Western sentiment for that matter). It is impossible to protect them from the news of conflict in Syria and Iraq (and Yemen and Libya) and they are aware that some of their friends and teachers are unable to return to the place of their birth due to the war. They've also seen the pictures of refugees treading the same path from Hungary to Germany where just a few weeks earlier they spent their summer holiday.
To them, Muslims aren't evil terrorists looking to destroy their way of life, in fact it's quite the opposite. A Muslim is the mum who hugs them tightly with a greeting in the school playground, a Muslim is the teacher who patiently explains multiplication and division, a Muslim is the friend they skip with in the playground and share secrets and dreams with, a Muslim is the doctor who gave them medicine and made them feel better, a Muslim is the nurse who snuck in a tub of jelly and ice cream when the hospital food was yucky. To them, Muslim people are just people.
To me, a Muslim is the friend that wiped away the tears when I involuntarily cried after receiving an appointment for a tumour biopsy, a Muslim is the mum who looked after my sick child while I raced to school to collect her, a Muslim is a woman who spent all day cooking food she thought I might like to welcome me into her home, a Muslim is the man who stopped during his busy day and changed my flat tyre in 48 degree heat, a Muslim is the parent who wishes me a happy Diwali and a happy Christmas with an enormous smile, a Muslim is the teacher who passionately educates my child, a Muslim is the lady on the plane who held my baby boy so I could eat my meal. To me, Muslim people are just people. I feel lucky to have people in my life of different faiths and races and nationalities, who put that all aside and treat each other as humans, as friends.
The scum who kill and maim and terrorise in the so-called name of Islam have zero in common with the Muslims I know. The people that I know here are sickened by the violence that is perpetrated in their name. A lot of them personally affected in some way or another.
So, for those you reading who live in Australia, US, UK, Canada or Europe. I ask you not to respond to evil and hatred with more hatred. The only way to eradicate and fight the evil is to join together, as humans, if not you're allowing the monsters victory.