By Dahlia Al-Abdullah
The events that unfolded in Paris have been devastating, as have the other numerous attacks of terrorism that we have seen ripple out across the globe over the last few days, months, and years. To acknowledge the other mass killings in Lebanon, Iraq, Kenya etc. is not a way of trying to play down this act of terrorism. Terrorism exists. Terrorism is absolutely disgusting. What happened in Paris is enough to instil enough fear in me to want to stay away from any big cities for a while.
As a British-Arab woman, I have always felt a need to defend myself when an act of terrorism arises. I feel like there is a need for me to fight to represent ‘my people’ in a positive light – but sometimes the fight is too much. It is too hard to consistently fight to prove to people that you cannot simply paint a huge group of people with one single brush, blurring all their idiosyncrasies in to one, as though that is obvious procedure, that it is possible for millions of people to remain diverse individuals, each with different beliefs and morals and ways of life, whether they come from the same religion and have shared heritage from a particular area of the world or not.
Last Wednesday, I was travelling on a train to London when I was the victim of a hate crime. I did not think there was any need to speak about it because although this was another level of hatefulness, it has happened before. It began with a couple overhearing me speak Arabic on the phone to my Mama, and ended with the woman spitting on me whilst I got up and left to go and sit in another carriage. Does this mean I think all English people are discriminatory? Absolutely not.
If you asked my grandma, Bebe, whether she thinks George Bush and Tony Blair are terrorists for ruining Iraq’s entire land, initiating a war that killed thousands of innocent people, making her flee her home – she would say yes. If you asked her whether she felt like this was a representation of the entire American and British populations, she would of course say no.
At some point you honestly feel like giving up. I feel like shutting my news feed off, not having to acknowledge all the debates, the discussions, the hatred, just shut it all out. It is impossible, obviously, but you crave it constantly. Your inner news feed is always rolling. At least you can switch off the one on your computer screen, even if you can still hear all the voices ringing in your head. You try to put your faith in the people that think critically, that might look past what the main media sources present, that might sit there and question what news gets reported and what does not, who this benefits and, again, who it does not. But secretly, you always have this fear that even those people will go. With every news story, I imagine another person giving up and believing that Muslims/Arabs, in itself a hugely disturbing and complex generalization, are all the same. It is a huge struggle, and honestly, it is exhausting.
The importance of acknowledging and valuing those affected equally is paramount.
I feel disgusted to hear of terrorism in any place. It absolutely breaks my heart to look at my Bebe cry because she wishes she were back on her street in Iraq, with all her neighbours and friends and her grown children were not scattered between Canada, Britain, and the United Arab Emirates. She will always live her life between all of their new homes, an elderly woman, relying on her children to pick her up from the airport and house her. She will never, ever be able to go back to her life as she knew it, but she still convinces herself. She will still talk to me about painting the kitchen a new shade of green, and cleaning up the patio. It breaks my heart to imagine the pain of having watched your innocent neighbor get shot by American soldiers simply because he was deaf, and did not hear them order him to turn around. It is devastating to think that people in Paris, in Beirut, in Kenya, that people all over the world will have to suffer these levels of devastation, all in such a short space of time, all together. Grief is universal. The importance of acknowledging and valuing those affected equally is paramount. I genuinely pray for them all.
Our country was the first civilization in the
world and is now nothing more than cities
of empty houses. We have been forgotten.
We know that pain. Our country was the first civilization in the world and is now nothing more than cities of empty houses. We have been forgotten. An entire country literally turned in to rubble and dust. It is tough. It is a struggle. It is really hard to keep fighting this all the time, or feeling the need to explain this all the time. But you feel like it becomes your job. You feel like there is no way of winning, so you might as well keep up the fight and hope that people listen. So I just genuinely ask that people think critically. That they realize, and truly comprehend, that the world is made up of billions of people, and to brand huge groups of them as though they have all adopted a single particular ideology, is ridiculous and quite frankly stupid. It is tiring, but I will keep asking people to just open their minds. Why? Because watching innocent people in Paris cry because they have lost a loved one is so heartbreaking, just as it is watching my Bebe do the same. It hurts. It does not get easier. The fight keeps getting tougher, but the fight has to go on. As numb and dead as you feel, as much as you repeat yourself, however many times you have to listen to others call you a terrorist, the struggle goes on. Because you simply cannot survive any other way. And because however many times you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle, it is worse to drown in the knowledge that you could be a part, albeit a minuscule one, in helping to stop this vicious cycle if you just tried to keep on going, however much the water weighs you down.
All I will end with is this: I believe in humanity. Although I struggle, as a woman stuck in a ‘No man’s land’ between two cultures that are constantly pitted against each other, with my whole identity and representing myself as a minority, I have to. As humans, wherever we are, wherever we came from, wherever we are locals, wherever we want to go. We can create change. And for anyone who thinks that it is too late to try to save us, as the human race, all I say is I would rather do that minuscule bit of mine and try than sit back and watch the world decline.