“Repel evil by that which is better…”
For years, every time a terrorist event occurred, Muslims all over the world have gone to great lengths to explain that the Islamic faith does not in any way condone taking the lives of innocent men, women and children.
And yet the western media in particular would continue to bombard the airwaves with the same rhetoric and use the famous buzzwords Islamic fundamentalists, Jihadist, Muslim terrorist. The narrative was and is the same when it comes to Islam and Muslims: fear them, watch them, they are wolves in sheep clothing. And this type of thinking is replicated and spread throughout the world into the minds of people who know nothing besides this falsehood.
I sat in my office not so long ago and had a discussion with a lady who said she feared all men with beards, because the image portrayed of a terrorist was a Muslim man with a beard. When she saw someone with a beard on the boardwalk walking she would become afraid and try to move away. A neighbour once called to complain that my son and his friends were praying in a corner of the public park; they played and they prayed. I asked her what the problem was. She couldn’t explain the problem; just that she was afraid because Muslims praying was associated with violence.
And in spite of all the attempts to explain and to show that the vast majority of the 1.7 billion Muslims in the world are not terrorists, not extremists, and in no way support the misguided actions of those who choose to adopt such evil practices while claiming adherence to this faith, the media, several politicians, analysts and other “experts” persisted in perpetuating the myth that Muslims are violent.
Well that narrative has provided the deadly ingredients for the “white supremacists”, and the ammunition for the likes of men who would carry out evil in a manner unprecedented in our history.
The very tragic event in New Zealand last Friday has hit humanity to its core and has shown the world that no longer can we be complacent where people, especially people with power, seek to divide the world between people of different races, beliefs and cultures.
This world, over the last five years in particular, has experienced attack after attack after attack on innocent people in churches, synagogues, mosques, parks and other public places by persons driven by intense hatred. One common thread: kill as many as they can. The other common thread which has clearly emerged in this New Zealand attack is: ensure you get the most viewership possible via social media. “Crazy” is too mild a word to describe this thinking; “the worst evil” perhaps is the best description.
New Zealand has always been known as a place of peace, serenity, security and beauty. And in one hour last Friday, all of that innocence was shattered by what it appears now as one individual who was driven by extreme evil to kill as many Muslims – men, women and children – on their holiest day of the week, at one of their most sacred spaces, during a most spiritual time, doing all of this while live streaming. Can any human being be more depraved?
Well to all those who seek to shatter the lives of human beings in such a violent and heinous manner, know that humanity at its best manifests itself in response when such evil is perpetuated. Know that those who would have no acceptance of such evil acts will respond in ways that prove that human beings are kind, loving and peaceful and will repel evil with good.
The caption I started my column with today is found in several verses of the Holy Quran: “Repel evil with that which is better…” It is given in a form of a command. We are compelled by our faith to respond to evil with goodness. This is the nature of all right-thinking humans. And this has been proven time and time again after each and every act of inhumanity.
In New Zealand, you have seen a country mobilised to respond in kindness by the outstanding leader in charge, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. From the moment the news broke about this massacre, she got to work leading her country to respond, to heal and to move forward. No empty rhetoric, no side-stepping the issues, no pandering to powerful lobbyists. She immediately promised legislation to limit gun access, she promised that the Government would cover funeral costs, she assured every family of the victims financial assistance moving forward, and most importantly she donned a hijab and went into the affected communities and embraced those impacted directly in a loving, kind and warm embrace. And significantly, in response to United States President Donald Trump’s question about if there was any help his country could provide, Prime Minister Ardern said: “Sympathy and love for all Muslim communities”. This is the type of leadership the world so desperately needs today.
We certainly don’t need the likes of leaders who add fuel to these misguided notions of racial or some other form of superiority. Like the Senator from Australia who tweeted a message that was widely shared: “The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration programme which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.”
Muslim fanatics, senator? Read the life stories of every one of those killed in the two mosques on Friday, and for all those who think like this Senator, read the stories of those killed in previous similar attacks – be they Muslim, Christian, Jew or non-religious – and one will find the common thread linking all these victims: outstanding citizens in their respective communities, contributing to development and progress, kind beings. Read about the Muslim man, bound to a wheelchair, whose wife was killed in the mosque trying to protect her husband and who has said he forgives the killer. Listen to the Jamaican who was in one of the mosques last Friday and managed to escape while his friends died, who said there must be no retribution.
We should never fuel the likes of these evil-doers who have an agenda far removed from any goodness or any justice they claim to represent. Social media outlets which have been mandated to monitor so-called “Muslim activity” should now wake up to the reality of who the real culprits are. These guys are shaped and moulded in the virtual world, their dark reality, where in cyberspace they are given the instructions of how to do their heinous deeds. No different to those who went off and joined ISIS, instructed on the Internet by misguided people.
I end my column with extracts from a beautiful poem, reportedly written by a Chinese lady who became a Muslim, addressing the terrorist of New Zealand:
Appreciate that you made the effort to find out the timing of our noon prayer.
Appreciate that you learnt more about our religion to know that Fridays are the days the men go to the Mosques for their congregational prayers.
But I guess there were some things you, rather unfortunately, didn’t get to learn.
Perhaps you didn’t know that what you did made them martyrs.
And how you have single-handedly raised the statuses of our brothers and sisters in the eyes of their beloved Creator with your actions…
Appreciate that you showed the world how Muslims welcome, with open arms, even people like yourself into our mosques, which is our second home.
Appreciate you for showing that our mosques have no locks or gates, and are unguarded because everyone and anyone is welcome to be with us…
Appreciate how you brought the churches and communities together to stand with us Muslims.
Appreciate that you made countless New Zealanders come out of their homes to visit the mosques nearest to them with flowers with beautiful messages of peace and love.
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace. Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI. Email: email@example.com)