Dear Australia (and the World),
What happened in Brussels two days ago is terrible and I am sorry – but only in the way somebody who is grieving is sorry they have lost a loved one. I know that you are waiting for people like me, as average Muslims, to come out and condemn the attacks, or to try and justify them or to give the people of Belgium the apology you think they deserve but we won’t.
We are not jumping to our feet and commenting on crimes we have nothing to do with anymore.
I received news of the “terror attacks” (although I hate that they are called that because the reporting media seems to think that only people of a certain faith are capable of terrorism) from my mother at exactly 8:49 PM EST on Tuesday. Her voice wasn’t so much afraid as it was terrified. She had only two things to say: somebody had done something terrible in Brussels today and that I should get home as soon as I could- safely.
We cried that night twice over. The first time just as human beings grieving all the goodness and innocence that exists in the world and the second time as Muslims afraid and tired of the way the world has a way of affiliating us with all the evil things people do in the name of Islam.
I think perhaps I am meant to talk about the death toll and then add some history at this point in the kind of address I am making, but I won’t. I think the world’s media outlets have done enough of that. I will say this though: I am upset, my people are upset, my religion is upset that anybody could ever conjure such an attack let alone carry one out. We are angry that innocent people have to die, because a group of people decided that they didn’t like the way that they were living their lives and above everything else we are saddened that we are not allowed to grieve honestly and openly at least once as just people, not specifically as Muslim or otherwise.
We would also like to stop being afraid. Yes, Muslims of the west are afraid, too. Our fear is just multifaceted as opposed to the fear of one enemy. On one hand, we fear being caught up in the middle of a “terror attack” in our respective cities of residence. This is news to some, but when your normal everyday Muslim person walks into the airport, or the train station, or the town hall we are just as much afraid as you are that somebody will come in and open fire, or detonate a suicide vest and kill us or our loved ones.
On the other hand, we are afraid that this will be met with some sort of hate-fuelled backlash. No; we don’t think that every single non-Muslim person who lives in the West is going to be involved in that. (We have been victims of generalization for over a decade and we aren’t going to do that to anybody else). We do know that some of you will be and that simply put- is terrifying.
Now, I am not trying to paint the everyday Muslim as the victim here. I think that we all know who the real victims are and that will always be the people who are killed or injured in these attacks and their families.
I am simply stating that we are not the perpetrators either and don’t feel like we should be treated like we are anymore. We don’t want to be defensive as opposed to proactive anymore and I, as a white-looking young hijab-wearing female don’t want to think about resorting to using my white privilege (in the form of removing my headscarf) to protect myself anymore because my freedom of expression is important to me, too.
So, on behalf of myself and my fellow Western Muslim, I would like to extend my hands and my heart. I understand that you are saddened and angered by recent events, but I ask you to take them so that we may grieve together for the lives that have been taken, for the innocence that has been lost and for the terror that has been awakened. The choice now rests with you. No matter which way you decide to go- they will remain extended indefinitely.