AFTER the past two tumultuous weeks in the UK that saw two separate attacks in Manchester and in London committed against innocent victims, I have been at a loss of words to describe my emotions. It took all of 12 hours after the horrendous London attacks before someone asked me “why do Muslims do this? Why do they kill innocent people?” as if I was the national spokesperson for Muslims in Europe.
I was dumbfounded, and my heart sank to my stomach as I felt the innate need to explain, yet again, that these acts aren’t representative of what Islam preaches. Instead, I didn’t.
Where does one begin with an explanation? For a start, we can break down the statistics of hate crimes that show that Muslims are not the leading offenders of hate crimes, according to the FBI.
The argument can then be furthered by reciting any one of the countless verses form the Quran that condemn hatred and murder, perhaps 5:32 will suffice: “If anyone kills a person, it would be as if he killed all of mankind”. The truth is, I am as tired of repeating these ‘explanations’ as people are tired of hearing them.
The truth is that I simply don’t know why people feel the motivation to kill people, and for once, I answered with the truth – “I don’t know why they did this, it’s not right. I feel your pain”
Structured answer: People who ask, “Why do (Muslims) kill innocent people”, aren’t necessarily looking for a structured answer; they are looking for sympathy and solidarity in that I, as a fellow Muslim who lives in the UK, share their feelings. If anything, I feel as broken, if not more so, because of the attacks.
These questions may make Muslims feel uncomfortable, uneasy, and irritated. Since 9/11, 1.7 billion Muslims around the world have been carrying the weight of the impact of terrorist attacks on their shoulders, having to repeatedly condemn, criticize, and denounce the attackers, all the while playing the same reel of explanations over and over again.
The truth is that I simply don’t know why people feel the motivation to kill people, and for once, I answered with the truth – “I don’t know why they did this, it’s not right. I feel your pain”.
This simple answer instigated echoing sighs of relief. The sentence, broken into three elements, is representative of years of research by Jack Levin and Jack McDevitt on what victims want following an attack: solidarity in sharing their feelings, action in speaking out, and protection.
Fighting hatred with love: The truth is that I do not have an answer what drove these attackers to kill innocent victims, but what I do know is that the response in the UK has been overwhelming. If the British public know anything better than they know tea, it is knowing and understanding how to truly fight terrorism and hatred: with love.
In addition to the ‘One Love Manchester’ concert, which raised $13 million for the victims, Ariana Grande has offered to pay for the funerals of the victims of the attack. David Sullivan, co-owner of West Ham football club offering the homeless men who helped aid the victims of the Manchester attack 6-months free accommodation.
Muslim leaders from across the country refused to perform Islamic funeral prayers on the attackers. The public have rallied to explain what really “leaves Britain reeling” with dry humorous tweets showcasing every day life.
Britain can serve as a prime example to the rest of the world on how to respond to terrorism: love, music, and support. The five-fold increase in attacks against Muslims is upsetting – however, the only thing that the public can do is stand together to show solidarity, and give the authorities time to respond to the attacks across the country that are affecting everyone – be it Muslim, British, or both.
[Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir]