By Sean Wetselaar
The world has had a shitty week.
It hasn’t been that long since terror attacks rocked Beirut, Paris and Baghdad, killing more than 200 people. And the grief, for many of those who have felt its pervasive grip, is still fresh.
It’s hard to come to terms with violence like what we’ve seen. It’s hard to understand why someone would blow themselves up to murder a crowd of innocent people. Especially for those of us who live in a place like Canada, that kind of horror is just unimaginable.
The Islamic State has taken responsibility for all three terror attacks, and the world has united in its condemnation of the brutality.
As many have already noted, there was a disproportionate amount of coverage given to Paris, by way of comparison to Lebanon and Iraq’s own tragedies.
I’m not here to break down that discrepancy — I think many have already come to the conclusion that all three are certainly worthy of coverage and mourning.
I’m here to talk about the reactions to these attacks. And while the first was certainly grief and sadness — for many the second was an anger, which was often misdirected.
“I’m Islamed out,” wrote Mark Steyn in a National Post column on Nov. 15. “I’m tired of Islam 24/7, at Colorado colleges, Marseilles synagogues, Sydney coffee shops, day after day after day.”
And others seemed to echo the sentiment — lashing out in Islamophobic violence. Since last week’s attacks, a refugee camp in France was set on fire. A mosque in Peterborough — the only mosque in Peterborough — was torched. In Australia a woman wearing a hijab was pushed in front of a moving train.
Let’s take a breath, people. Because I can’t believe I have to type this sentence, but being a violent racist to people in your country is not going to undo the tragedies that swept the world last week.
As you’ll read in our news section this week, there was a candle light vigil at Yonge-Dundas Square in honour of all the attacks, with the slogan “Pray for Humanity.” After reading the columns, seeing the violent reactions, that’s certainly what I’ll be doing.
Because here’s the thing, as one of the vigil-attendees pointed out after a moment of silence. We, students at Ryerson, in Toronto, can’t stop terror attacks in far-flung places from rocking the world. Yes, steps can be taken by society at large, by governments, to stop such attacks. But as a twenty-something trying to get your education, eliminating terrorism may be a bit outside of your scope.
But we can make a difference here, at home. Don’t stand for the Mark Steyns, for the angry arsonists. Maybe you can’t stop a bomb from detonating in Beirut, but you can stop that guy who’s being a prick to the Muslim lady who just wants to ride the bus.
Racism is all around us, and there are things we can do to curb it.
That Facebook friend who posted a racist rant condemning innocents — all while protesting their deaths in Paris? Tell them off. Stop that guy in the street from shoving that other guy, who happens to be middle-eastern.
It seems crazy that we have to keep reiterating these basic sentiments, but fear does not erase fear. Terrorising a religion at home does not change the terror someone else committed abroad.
So while the world may be a bit of a shitty place overall at the moment, there are things we can do to improve it in our backyards.
Don’t let bad people hide behind what others have done to justify their actions. Especially this week, don’t be a bystander to racism. If you see it, speak up.
Because, honestly, I don’t want to read about another mosque on fire, or yet another unnecessary death.
Call me an idealist, but we should be so much better than that.