The nightmare never ends. With each terrorist attack we hope beyond hope that this is the last tragedy the world has to endure. But, then another tragedy hits, which is more horrific than the previous one.
Easter, the High Holy Day for Christians which is devoted to services and prayers, was shattered by terrorists who attacked churches and hotels in Sri Lanka. The day when people went to church with families to connect with their creator was one of the worst day for modern day world. Over 350 innocent people lost their lives, hundreds more were injured, some critically. I cannot fathom the inhumanity of these barbaric acts, but then, the immoral don’t have a conscience. For the rest of the world this shatters the belief in humankind.
These barbarous attackers want to create horror and publicize their perverse agenda through the news media. The white supremacist in New Zealand decided to kill Muslims, believing they are “invading” the lands. Extremists in every faith exploit the religion for their evil acts. No faith teaches hatred or killing of people of different faiths.
One of the first images after the carnage was the coffin of a 13-year-old boy, whose father was Muslim and mother Christian. Terrorism against the public is indiscriminate. The terrorists decide who is a “non-believer” and why.
In recent history more Muslims have lost their lives in attacks perpetrated by terrorists who profess to follow Islam, the faith that has clearly stated that taking the life of one innocent human being is tantamount to killing the whole of humanity. This verse in the Quran does not specify people belonging to any specific faith; it applies to all human beings.
Sadly I have learned that we cannot persuade or sway terrorists, no matter what their ideologies are — religious, racial or ethnic. They want to get attention and control the narratives. Assumptions about these terrorists being disenfranchised young males have proven to be wrong. We have seen well educated, well-to-do and, at times, females taking part in these “wars.”
I am heartbroken looking at the mass funerals.
I am also alarmed by a few grieving people talking about revenge against Muslims. This is exactly what the terrorists want; enmity among people of different faiths, ethnic origins or nationalities. If each attack is retaliation against another group, where will it end? We have to be vigilant to fight against these fanatics, but we should not start fearing our next door neighbors with whom we have lived for years.
The government of Sri Lanka made a smart decision to block social media, as misinformation and anger can lead to a mob mindset. Before we know it, many more innocent people could be harmed.
Terrorism is a worldwide problem and communities and governments have to collaborate at every level. It is regrettable that warnings by the Indian government regarding the impending threats were not acted upon. But this should not dissuade any government from sharing information. Our law enforcement agencies, especially the FBI’s presence in Sri Lanka, sends a very strong message to all terrorist organizations: The world is joined to defeat you.
I also believe as an ordinary citizen, I can help to build bridges, hold hands and speak up when I see discrimination, schisms and misinformation. The road to recovery is steep but collectively we can win.
Hayat heads the public relations committee of the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis. She is a regular Faith Perspectives contributor on STLtoday.com.