Being a Muslim has never been easy but since 9/11 and now Friday the 13th attacks on Paris, it has become infinitely harder. Ordinary Muslims are forced to walk with their heads lowered, fearing violence and persecution because some of us can’t distinguish between religion and terrorism

 

I begin in the name of Allah who says in the Quran
Every soul is a pledge for its own deeds’. (74: 38)

I also send my condolences to the families of the victims of the attacks that took place in Paris, Beirut, Bamako, Kenya, Nigeria, Syria, and anywhere else on this planet.

Coming back to my main subject I start by saying: Muslims have a special regard for Friday. They see it as every week’s holy and sacred day. A day of festivity, joy and happiness. For me, Friday the 13th of November was no different from any other Friday. I was looking forward to not having to wake up early the following morning as I wouldn’t have uni on Saturday. However, that moment of peace didn’t last long. I texted my friend asking him what he was doing and he replied by saying ‘I’m watching what’s happening in Paris’. I in turn replied by asking ‘what’s happening?’, but I didn’t wait for his reply.

I rushed to my computer and opened Facebook as this is my primary source of information. Scrolling up and down the screen, I knew about the horror that Paris was facing. At that moment there wasn’t anyone who claimed responsibility for the execution of the attack, however, being a Muslim I was very apprehensive and my thoughts were bouncing in my mind as to who would dare to do this horrible action and what the consequences would be if these attacks were done under the banner of Islam.

I felt very sorry for the innocent people who lost their lives, just for being in Paris. Sleep departed my eyes and worries surrounded me. I kept checking the updates as they came along. I was trying to understand the motives of someone who’s adamant on marring the beauty of Paris and suffocating the joy of Parisians with death and violence.

The last time I visited Paris was in September 2015. Paris is one of the cities that I adored since my first visit five years ago. Watching the TV, I said to myself; Parisians are friendly and joyful and the people who stole their joy should pay the price, and that’s regardless of who they were. The next day the so-called ISIS terror group claimed responsibility for the attacks. Unfortunately, being a Muslim, this left me fearful of the reaction of my fellow citizens to this claim. I thought people won’t take their time to differentiate between these criminals and the 1.5 billion Muslims. Most, if not all Western Muslims are law-abiding and community-contributing citizens who are willing to defend their countries if there’s a necessity to do so.

In the last 15 years the mainstream media has insisted on making cults like ISIS the representatives of Muslims. As a result, we are under constant attack by Islamophobes. ISIS is a terror organisation that tries to get legitimacy by speaking in the name of Islam. Their target is anyone and everyone who doesn’t adhere to their ideology and that includes Muslims. They’re concerned with power more than religion, desires more than worship, and their legitimacy more than the people’s safety.

As Muslims, attacks like this alienate us. They make people in our communities feel uncomfortable when they know that someone is a Muslim, even if there is no common platform shared between ordinary Muslims and extremists.

The fact is, many of our fellow citizens do not know that we Muslims have to engage in a subtle, yet dynamic, social fight almost every day. To draw a very simple yet common example, let me shine a light on the hijab or headscarf that Muslim women put on their head. Although, wearing a hijab seems normal in today’s Britain, it can become a form of recognition labelling that undermines our Muslim sisters’ safety. Only last month two incidents took place in cosmopolitan, multicultural London. One on a bus and another on the tube, and the commonality between them is that they were the result of the growing tension, and perhaps hatred, against Muslims.

I find it awkward when people ask me if I condemn ISIS and their actions. For us Muslims it’s not a matter of condemnation, it’s a matter of what we call Aqeedah (faith). If we don’t stand against them then we’re betraying our book ( Quran) that says:

‘whosoever kills a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind’. (5:32)

Therefore, before people ask us if we condemn the attacks in Paris they need to understand that Muslims are the primary victims of ISIS and its narrow ideological interpretation of the religion of Islam. It’s true that we are Muslims by religion but we belong to Britain the same as everyone else, and we care about the security of this country simply because it’s our country too.

In these hard times we need to come together to fight this terror group that undermines our safety and security. This group wants us to lose hope. It wants to instil fear and mistrust between us, so let’s not give them the space to do so. Let’s accommodate each other, care for each other and try to know each other, as this is the only way to eliminate the misconceptions we have about our fellow citizens.

Peace be upon everyone!