so today, I was supposed to post the next part of my Paris/Nutrition series, however, I will instead dedicate this post to the recent tragedy of Peshawar, Pakistan. This is too pertinent of a subject for me not to talk about.
As a warning, this is a very heavy topic but I hope that you will all read this with an open mind and an open heart. I may not have much knowledge about or expertise regarding this horrible event, but I would hope that all of us, as human beings, may be able to understand, relate to, and learn from this information.
It is now the start of a new year.
The past one has been a very difficult one, indeed. The world has been afflicted with many calamities, most of which may be attributable to the hatred and indifference begotten from ignorance and unawareness; whether it be from the unjust deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown or the ongoing genocides occurring in Gaza, Palestine or the ones in Myanmar or the Central African Republic, there is a lot that this world needs to learn about, from the tragedies of 2014.
I do, however, want to focus on one that occurred not too long ago, a tragedy that I have been struggling to understand for a while now.
So, as the world may or may not know, on the morning of Tuesday, December 16th, 2014, the Taliban, armed with rifles and detonated explosives, brutally massacred more than 140 people in the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan, at least 132 of the victims were children. Most of these individuals were congregated in the main hall for a lecture/talk when the Taliban broke into the school and began shooting and bombing right away. There are photographs and videos depicting the remnants of this horrific event; pools of blood on the ground, tiny shoes with bloodstains spattered all around the hallways, classrooms that show signs of struggle and defeat…
What reason can be used to speak for this heinous act??
No, the reason cannot be spoken for by religion, at all. There are no rational teachings, no acceptable way-of-life, no religion that would ever allow for this to occur.
No, the reason is not anti-education. Those children and their brave teachers who stood as shields to protect their students were not brutally murdered, simply for “going to school”. Nor is Malala Yousafzai’s survival and worldly impact a target for this.
Perhaps there is no reason to give at all.
I am not writing this to explain the etiology of this massacre (I do not have enough knowledge to be able to do so, anyways).
I am not writing this to give my condolences (because the victims and their families do not want nor need my sympathy).
I am writing this simply because it hurts.
As a Pakistani, this hurts me because my people are broken. The spirit of Pakistan has been crushed; the most innocent of human beings have been brutally and wrongfully taken away from this world. Their families and communities are now left to bear the heavy burden of this grief for the rest of their lives. Both, Pakistan and the world have lost an entire generation of benevolent leaders, motivators, and thinkers. The world is at a loss.
As an older sister to an 8-year old, this pains me because those mothers/sisters/grandmothers will never be able to hug and kiss and comfort their children ever again. A parent’s ultimate goal in life is to protect his/her children, to ensure that not even a hint of pain touches their little ones. Those parents never once imagined that they would be holding the bloody, lifeless bodies (some horribly and gruesomely murdered) of their little babies.
“Some of the 1,100 students at the school were lined up and slaughtered with shots to the head. Others were gunned down as they cowered under their desks, or forced to watch as their teachers were riddled with bullets.” (Source).
How do mothers feel to as they read this statement? How do those mothers in Peshawar feel to actually be living this statement? We could never imagine. Though it’s no fault of the parents, they will forever be drowning in their own regret, wishing that they hadn’t sent their children to school that day, that they could intercede during the event, wishing that they could take the bullets, in place of their children….
As a human being, this tears at my heart, because there is not enough room in there to bear the pain of this reality.
I fail to grasp, how can a fellow human life, especially of the most innocent of beings, be so wrongfully taken away? How can someone look directly into the fearful eyes of a little one and then shoot him, straight to the head? No human being could have committed this. No animal, either. Animals, at the very least, kill for the purpose of self-defense or to satiate their hunger. This could only be at the hands of monsters, creatures without an ounce of reason, sense, or humanity.
Children, killed in the midst of their classrooms, previously absorbing information, learning, contributing, will never be able to do so again. Over a hundred futures, ended. Over a hundred dreams, destroyed. An entire generation of bright, benevolent contributors, taken away from this world. After a monstrosity such as this, it becomes so easy to view the world in such a negative, hopeless light.
But perhaps it takes the most evil of acts to initiate the most benevolent of change.
So what can we do about this?
We need to, first of all, understand that Islam is not at fault for this atrocity. No religion is. However, the sad truth is, over 140 children and their teachers were killed by terrorists in Pakistan and yet, the world remained silent. At the same time, Israeli terrorists are committing genocide in Gaza, Palestine, the world says nothing. Why has there been so much silence, especially in the western world? Why aren’t we willing to talk about this? These lives are no less important than those involved in the similarly horrifying Sandy Hook and Columbine massacres, so do the Pakistani lives not deserve the same respect and honor as the American ones?
It seems that history is repeating itself. During the Holocaust, global media stayed quiet throughout the mass killings by Germany. Even though the tragedies going on now in Pakistan, Palestine, Syria, and elsewhere should not be about religion, and instead about compassion and humanity, the media’s misconstrued depiction of Islam has led the world to feel utter disdain and disinterest to the sufferings in Muslim countries. Too many lives are being perished to allow for this depiction to continue. Education, thus, is the necessary tool for unity and change.
Islam is being horribly misconstrued. Both, by the media and by uneducated Muslims, who have never read the Qur’an nor have understood a single Hadith (these are the only two sources of Islamic teachings for Muslims). Ironically, both of these sources are being used to justify the deluded actions/desires of so-called “religious” groups. Just like the Pakistani Taliban, who committed the heinous acts, most of these terrorists are simply young, uneducated individuals who are brainwashed and promised of ‘paradise’ by manipulative, evil figures with personal/economical/social agendas.
But it takes a little bit of research into Islam to find out that the actions of these terrorists and the depictions portrayed by the media, do not match the tenets of Islam.
Let’s begin with terms.
The root word of Islam itself means peace. The true essence of Islam is simply about the direct relationship that a person has with their Creator; submitting to the will of Allah (Islamic term for God), while understanding that the one God is the most Compassionate, the most Forgiving, and the ultimate Source of comfort and solace.
The duties of a Muslim (one who submits his/her will to Allah and thus, attains peace within themselves and within their surroundings, a similar concept to Nirvana in Buddhism) include being a good human being, one who is merciful, kind, and respectful to all: to animals, children, adults, elders, Muslims, and non-Muslims. It is required of every Muslim to treat non-Muslims with gentleness and compassion, and to never belittle the beliefs of another nor the deities that they worship.
Islam, the religion, has nothing to do with the people that use it to justify their own motives, whether psycho-cultural, political, economical. Those people, the religious fanatics, should be referred to as Extremists, not Muslim Extremists. And as Terrorists, not Islamic Terrorists. These terms, otherwise are oxymorons and should not be used together.
So, in a faith where even animals deserve the best of treatment, how could the slaughter of humans be a justifiable creed of Islam? In a religion where women are regarded as queens, how could the wrongful treatment of women be a tenet of this religion? A belief system, that was originally spread far and wide through compassion, morality, fairness, and choice, why then are the savage terrorists, who force their way of life upon others, associated with this same religion?
This seems to be basic knowledge that everyone should understand by now, as there are millions of Muslims living in America. But as mirrors of this kind and beautiful faith, what are we, the Muslims, doing to change the perspective that the world has upon Islam and for those suffering all over the globe? With our many voices, why do we remain soundless?
As Muslims in America, we have more power, freedom, and influence than most Muslims have around the world. We have the liberty to practice our religion freely, we have the education and perspicacity to expose and correct the errors of the global media while placing our own voices into the public sphere.
Despite these powerful tools, Muslim Americans remain silent. Perhaps, we too become too complacent and absorbed in our own lives to attempt to do anything about this. Perhaps, Islamophobia in the West silences us due to the discrimination and hatred that we face for speaking up.
But isn’t it our duty as Muslims to bring about truth, peace, and to help those suffering in this world?
And is it not our duty as Patriotic Americans to stand up for justice and strive for equality?
We must overcome our own barriers, and most of all, us Muslims must learn to practice Islam in it’s true sense, simply by being the most giving of neighbors, the most trustworthy of co-workers, the most compassionate of friends, and the most benevolent of humanity.
Perhaps, then, will Muslims be regarded as fellow Americans. Perhaps, then, will the plights of those suffering in Muslim countries be more relevant to us all. And perhaps, if we all work together in harmony, the governments and economies of Islamic countries will one day change for the better and the young, uneducated civilians won’t have to find solace in ruthless fanatics as their educators and role models.
These are just a few words of an individual, who is, not trying to make sense of this world (because this world is not meant to be understood) but rather, attempting to find some sort of comfort in knowing that there will be justice for the wrongs of this world and that unity, compassion, and love can be found amidst even the most different of people.
Perhaps an applicable resolution for us all would be to try to understand, educate, and learn from each other; a small, albeit powerful step into creating a more humane, peaceful, and secure world.
With all of this being said….
Happy New Year, everyone. I hope and pray that this year brings happiness, peace, and prosperity to us all.