A COUPLE of days ago, the world was rocked with news of multiple terrorist attacks in Paris, France. The attack consisted of mass shootings, suicide bombings and hostage-taking at several locations in the city. At least 129 people lost their lives. This number may increase as things develop.
The attacks are the worst incident to occur in France since World War II. It is one of the deadliest terrorist incidents in Western Europe – the worst since the Madrid train bombings in 2004, which claimed 191 lives.
It is early days yet, but it does appear that the attacks have been perpetrated by terrorists who are Muslims. There are reports that the Islamic State (IS) terror group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, with a warning that there will be more to come. France is in high alert and Western Europe as a whole is on the edge.
I was in the United Kingdom, although not in London, when the London underground bombings took place on July 7, 2005. Terrorists detonated three bombs in quick succession aboard London Underground trains across the city and, later, a fourth on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square. Fifty-two people were killed in what became the worst terrorist incident in Britain since the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.
As I watched the scene of mayhem from my television screen in Cardiff that day, emotions of sadness, anger and fear swept over me. I was sad for the country I lived in. I was angry with those who had committed such a heinous act on innocent civilians. And I feared for the backlash on Muslims living in Britain at that time.
Similar emotions overcame me on the day Paris was attacked.
Some estimate that five to 10 percent of the French population are Muslims, and Islam is the second most widely professed religion in France after Catholicism. The fear of a backlash against Muslims living in France, and Muslims living in other parts of Europe is real.
This is the irony of the attacks by IS and Islamist terrorists. Their so-called jihad against Western powers by targeting innocent civilians will ultimately hurt Muslims living in those countries the most. The Syrian refugees who have entered and are seeking to enter countries in Europe will most likely not be as welcome as they were before. Lest we forget, these Western European countries have taken in a significant number of Syrian refugees. As countries tighten their borders in the wake of the Paris attacks, so too will they tighten their policy in taking in refugees, even if those refugees have nothing to do with the attacks.
I doubt these terrorists actually care about what happens to Muslims in Europe and other Western countries. After all, they are indiscriminate in their attacks, and Muslims have died in terrorist attacks in Western countries and many more Muslims have died at the hands of the Islamic State in the Middle East.
And as usual after terrorist attacks, Muslims feel compelled to publicly denounce and condemn the attacks. If they do not, they will be accused of condoning or worse, supporting the attacks. As if that peaceful Muslim person that you know is actually a terrorist in disguise, waiting to whip out his or her Kalashnikov at the first opportunity he or she gets. He or she is under suspicion, until he or she goes on social media and announces his or her opposition to the terrorist attacks.
I, for one, am sick of having to apologise for the actions of those who claim to share my religion.
If you think that all Muslims are terrorists, or that most Muslims have a propensity for violence then you do not know many Muslims. You are either prejudiced or worse, a racist. Your racism and prejudice are your own failings, not mine, nor my religion. I am a Muslim, yes, but I owe no one an apology for sharing the faith with some horrible people.
Unfortunately, responses by some Muslims to the Paris attacks have not helped matters. Some say things like: Why mourn for Paris only when people die in Syria and Palestine every day? Or: Why is the world silent at the atrocities happening in the Middle East?
But the world is not silent in the face of atrocities committed in Palestine, Syria and other conflict zones. When Israel launched its last major offensive on Gaza, the world was up in arms. The world, especially Western European countries, took in many Syrian refugees as a result of the prolonged conflict in Syria.
Yes, governments of the world might not be doing enough to stop these atrocities, but that is not a good reason to deny those who wish to mourn for Paris.
We must not forget the fact that the attacks in Paris are an attack on a country which is not at war and not a conflict zone. That is why it is so shocking and it hits closer to home. That is also why people feel the need to show their support to Parisians – because they know what happened in Paris could have easily happened in their own peaceful cities.
At the end of the day, whether it is New York in 2001, London in 2005, Paris in 2015 or Gaza almost every other day, we need to constantly remind ourselves of our common humanity. It is easy, in times of fear, to fall on suspicion and let prejudice take over our rationality. Yet, we must constantly strive to triumph over violence, even when faced with adversity, with humanity and reason.
For now, I light a candle for Paris and stand in solidarity with Parisians. As a human being.> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.