Sunday, November 15, 2015

Je Suis Paris- Mourning a Tragedy While Promoting Peace

In light of Friday’s horrible violence, hearts and minds around the world are turned toward Paris. Like the September 11th attacks in America, this is a night that will change the way many countries look at the world, politics, and national security.

As with any crisis, there are positive ways to handle the situation- strategies to help victims, protect civilians, or prevent future attacks. There are also bad ways, which propagate fear and violence and don’t actually solve anything. It is vitally important that world leaders handle the tragedy of tonight in a positive way. It is also just as important that average civilians approach the situation in a positive way, even those of us who are an ocean away and have no way to actually help.

My Facebook news feed was almost immediately filled with people saying that this is proof that Christians must take a stand against Muslims, or that this is evidence that allowing Syrian refugees into the country is opening the door for terror attacks. On Twitter, the hashtag #AvengeParis is trending; when I last checked, it was trending higher than #Prayers4Paris.

I’m heartbroken by the events of Friday and shocked at some of these reactions. I feel the need to take a moment to reflect on these concerns:

*We must remember that these actions, though conducted by Islamic extremists, are not indicative of the mindset of Muslim people. In the same way that the Westboro Baptist Church does not adequately represent Christianity, acts of violence committed by Islamic terrorists do not represent Islam. Unfortunately, it is the squeaky wheel, the outspoken ones, the people who do shocking things to get attention, who are noticed and perceived as the face of the group that they so inadequately represent.

*Calls to protect people are absolutely necessary. Calls to #AvengeParis are how hate crimes happen. The saying “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” seems an appropriate rebuttal to this hashtag. Whatever actions are taken in pursuit of vengeance will incite the victims of those actions to seek vengeance of their own. It is a vicious cycle of violence

*Long before yesterday, people have been discussing the possibility of ISIS terrorists infiltrating countries by coming in as refugees. Is this a possibility? Yes. But it means only that any refugees must be screened before entry, which I assume is done to some degree anyway. It is also important to remember that terrorists come from many countries, not only war-torn ones. ISIS has been known to convert people in many Western countries, including France. The question of whether or not to accept refugees is a multifaceted challenge, not something to be immediately dismissed out of fear.

*Additionally, we must consider that further alienation of innocent refugees risks engendering radicalization among its populations and communities. The hallmark of a successful multicultural society is the ability for immigrants to feel connected to their native traditions, while still feeling a sense of belonging in their home country. By painting all Syrian refugees as part of the problem, or somehow complicit in these horrible attacks, people are widening the gap between the Syrian migrants and their new homeland’s national culture and life. This forces them to become a society outside the multicultural community in which they are trying to belong, and increases the probability that some within that community will grow to resent and wish to take action against their new country.

*The Syrian refugees who left their homes to find safety and a new life in Paris are just as terrified as the other citizens are- possibly more so. I personally know a family of refugees from Croatia who arrived in America on September 10th, 2001. On their first morning in a new country, where they had come to start over, far away from war and violence, they turned on their televisions and watched a massive terror attack. I am sure it is a similarly terrifying situation for Syrian refugees throughout France. Fear of being blamed for the attacks must only be making the situation even more stressful. Islamophobia is a key strategic goal of ISIS – where isolationism and hatred spreads, ISIS wins.

As is happening ever more frequently in the age of social media, people in positions of authority are already voicing their thoughts on this situation. One example of a politician acting in a way that did nothing to make the situation better has been used as an example of what not to do. Hours after news broke of the attack, Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-SC) tweeted:

How’s that Syrian refugee resettlement look now? How about that mass migration into Europe? Terrorism is alive & well in the world. #No
It is comforting to know that Representative Duncan’s words are being publicly lambasted by Vox, a well-regarded online news source, as opposed to being applauded.

Other celebrities have also weighed in via social media. One of the most powerful posts came from George Takei, an actor from the original series of Star Trek and a well-known gay rights advocate, who is currently starring in a Broadway musical about Japanese internment camps and the Japanese-American experience:

I'm writing this backstage at Allegiance, my heart heavy with the news from Paris, aching for the victims and their families and friends.

There no doubt will be those who look upon immigrants and refugees as the enemy as a result of these attacks, because they look like those who perpetrated these attacks, just as peaceful Japanese Americans were viewed as the enemy after Pearl Harbor. But we must resist the urge to categorize and dehumanize, for it is that very impulse that fueled the insanity and violence perpetrated this evening.

Tonight, hold your loved ones, and pray or wish for peace, not only from guns and bombs, but from hatred and fear. If it is our freedom and joy they seek to destroy, give them not that victory. Against the forces of darkness and terror, love and compassion shall always prevail. #‎JeSuisParis

-- George