Thoughts of a British Muslim Woman in the Wake of the Paris Attacks
Sitting in an open plan office has its fair share of drawbacks; at no time is this more potently true then when a colleague on the floor can be heard announcing ‘there’s been an attack…hostages in Australia’ or, more recently, ‘shootings…in Paris’. As everyone can be heard clicking frantically to find out more I have a sense of sick apprehension in the pits of my stomach as I too check to find out more information – or specifically, who the perpetrators are, aware that an attack in Paris or even on the other side of the world in Australia is likely to have a direct impact on me personally as a British Veiled Muslim.
As a visibly Muslim woman in London the periods after 9/11 and 7/7 were challenging at times, however the recent Paris attacks have ushered in a seemingly new narrative filled with problematic rhetoric. As a Muslim I feel as though I am standing trial for the actions of violent murderers espousing a brutal and unrecognizable ideology that is as alien to me as it is to you reading this. In this trial I and Europe’s millions of Muslims have the burden of proving our innocence of a crime we have abhorred and condemned more loudly than most, yet still we are told we are not speaking loud enough, we are not doing enough and that the responsibility and blame lies with us to root out these sadistic individuals.
On the train to work I look on as fellow commuters read provocative headlines and articles about Muslims and shift uncomfortably in my seat as on many occasions I have seen readers look up and give me a marked look of distaste as though brown skinned and with a scarf on my head, I am the physical reminder of the acts they read about. Calls from the media for Muslims to speak up are met with thousands if not millions of Muslims raising their hand, coveting an opportunity to get their voices heard and dilute the ramblings of lone lunatics given such a large platform by the media. Protests, social media, love bombing antics at the France embassy, statements of condemnations by esteemed organizations and communities are all swept aside as parts of the media shout even louder “why are the Muslims not speaking up?”
The most disturbingly ironic component of this is that the visceral ideology of the groups these perpetrators claim to align with – ISIS and their ilk – are the biggest perpetrators of terrorism against Muslims. As a Brit with an Iraqi background, my family have directly been attacked and maimed by this murderous group and yet it is demanded of me to condemn and be louder in my condemnation of them. The insensitivity of this demand is akin to demanding a rape victim condemns her rapist, you know, just to remove any doubt about her stance, and then lambaste her for not being louder in her condemnation and for failing to reach the masses when her shouts are purposefully drowned out.
I refuse to be grouped with a brutal murderous organization that I am a victim of more than most Europeans will ever be. I refuse to bear the burden of condemnation of these groups when our elected Governments continue to cavort with the Saudi Arabian regime whose ideology and laws are aligned to that of ISIS.
I do not care about cartoons that depict the Prophet of Islam. He is not in need of being saved or avenged – the shooting in Paris is more offensive to his legacy than any cartoon Charlie Hebdo could dare to draw. I do however care about the growing dangerous rhetoric that demonizes the millions of Muslims in Britain and wider Europe and normalizes hate speech against them under the hypocritical guise of ‘defense of free speech’ or debate. The vitriol spewed by Fox News and their ilk is a damaging indictment of their audience base, however it is the sentiments under the guise of academic debate that has seeped into mainstream media and reporting on Islam and its proponents that I find more worrying. I fear for young Muslims growing up in this new climate; marginalized, feared and demonized by the mainstream – the perfect environment for these repugnant terrorist organizations to exploit for their evil gains.