Dear West: A Muslim’s response to the aftermath of terrorist attacks

#Islamophobia

We, as a Muslim community, are sick and tired of being put on trial every time a terrorist attack takes place anywhere in the world

Sana Al Yemen's picture
Friday 27 November 2015 11:41 UTC
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After the events in Paris last week, I woke up to find many of my visible Muslim friends voicing concerns across social media platforms.

Many of these hijab-wearing, Starbucks-sipping, London-underground-travelling, selfie-taking, British-born Muslims were now made to feel like outsiders and unwelcome in what they know as home. As a close friend poignantly put it: “I’m from Iraq but I’ve only ever spent two weeks of my life there. How can I call that home?”

And yet, it is this place that many of us call home that has suddenly turned 300 percent more hostile as a report out this week suggests.

With an unprecedented rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes, it is not shocking at all to hear of excrement being smeared on the front door of our places of worship or to see Muslim women being targeted, attacked and even deliberately pushed towards a moving train.

Likewise, it is not a surprise to hear some call us dirty p*** b******s, or feel the need to disrespect our elders and throw their walking aids off a bus as if it isn’t enough to launch a long-winded tirade of verbal and Islamophobic abuse. In fact, it’s absolutely normal for us to be called ISIS bitches and to threaten someone who is quite obviously pregnant with kicks to the stomach.

The mentioned cases are neither new nor shocking to the Western Muslim community. We face this same level of abuse and we experience the unwelcoming stares of our fellow citizens every single time some terrorists use our religion to blow something up or take innocent lives.

This same cycle took place during the Boston Marathon attack, it happened when Lee Rigby was brutally murdered by machete-wielding terrorists in Woolwich, it was repeated when ISIS beheaded their first Western victim in 2014, following the London bombings of 2005 and of course, the mother of all events; when the fall of the World Trade Centre devastated the world in 2001.

As a Muslim artist, I took it upon myself to send a message to the West. My poem ‘Dear West’ was not written in response to the Paris attacks as many of those who criticised it believe; rather it was in retaliation to the Western sentiment that follows all attacks mentioned previously.

This includes the finger pointing by our colleagues and neighbours, the terrifying stares by our fellow commuters and, of course, the media headlines that create the difficult atmosphere for us in the first place. It includes the ridiculous suggestions by the national press that recommends we gather in our millions and march through Trafalgar Square just to show how much we really condemn terrorism and the false, irresponsible incitement of hatred that suggests one in five of my family members sympathise with jihadists.

Many have accused me of sympathising or sidestepping the major issue: these terrorists declare they are Muslims and it is thus the responsibility of the Muslim community to stand against them and not the West.

I’d like to remind these commentators that I thought it important to send a message to ISIS before I sent one to the West. But has that changed the way you perceive me?

While I understand the need for the West to feel reassured, why should I condemn every attack that takes place? Was I involved in the said attack? Was my father with the culprits in Paris on that night? Was my mother instigating violence from our home in London? The simple answer is of course, no. So why should I be forced to condemn the actions of a very minute, radical, foolish group that believe the All-Merciful God we pray to will open the gates of heaven so long as they have the blood of innocents to show.

We, as a Muslim community, are sick and tired of being put on trial every time a terrorist attack takes place anywhere in the world. We are the first to raise awareness of such attacks, we are first to pray for the victims, we are first to give charity to those families and yet, every single time this happens we are blamed, questioned and doubted as an entire community.

To end my poem I mention a list of events I believe the entire Western community should apologise for; now to the listener that might sound absolutely ridiculous - because it is. It is absolutely ridiculous for me to ask a whole community to apologise for what a minority does. It is just as ridiculous and just as pathetic to ask the Muslim community to do so.

Sanasino is 23-year-old Sana al-Yemen; a poet, activist and journalist who was born in Yemen and raised in west London.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo credit: Muslims protest against terrorism in Rome, Italy, on 21 November 2015.Muslims protested nationwide under the motto 'Not In My Name'. (AA)