Attacking one religion is attacking all of them

An event that caused humanity to unite

Artwork by Aidan Scott

On Friday, March 15, a gunman opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, while many Muslims were taking part in Friday prayers. From the elderly to the youth, they all suffered and witnessed this horrific attack in their place of worship.

Anxiety and fear have taken a toll on worshippers to the mosque on congregational Friday prayers, Sabbath at the synagogue, and even weekly church bible studies in the South. According to CNN, “The staggering death toll from the mass shootings at [the] two Christchurch mosques has climbed to 50. The number of wounded also increased to 50.”

We must ask ourselves “Is it shocking that this incident happened?” The answer is absolutely not.

The gunman, who systematically planned out this attack was a white supremacist who hated Muslims. According to CNN, the gunman wrote an 87-page manifesto that was filled with negative comments towards Muslims, their beliefs, and anti-immigrant policies. It was these same sentiments of hate that lead to the incidents in Pittsburgh and Charlottesville — and most recently in Poway, a town near San Diego.

These acts are truly the epitome of hate crimes.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, acknowledged the importance of not making a murderer infamous. She said not to mention the gunman’s name, but instead, focus the attention on remembering the names of the victims. Throughout her speech, not once did she mention his name, she didn’t satiate a desire to attain infamy through tragedy. Within a few days, Ardern legislated for stricter gun laws, making it illegal to obtain and own assault rifles.

Ever since the 9/11 tragedy occurred, Muslims, including me, have lived with a fear that steers our everyday lives. Whether it be from the “Muslim Ban,” islamophobic peoples or unrelenting and nasty comments that have been said to our faces, the fear that comes as a result is indescribable.

More recently, according to USA Today, on April 28, a 19-year-old gunman opened fire on the Chabad of Poway synagogue in San Diego. Similar to the Christchurch attacks this gunman, too, had posted his manifesto on social media in order to draw attention. In fact, there are many connections made that the gunman was influenced by the violence in Christchurch, New Zealand. He is even suspected in the burning of the Islamic Center of Escondido which occurred on March 24. Clearly, this type of hate affects all religions.

Every time a shooting, crime or tragedy occurs in any significant number, my community is struck with the fear that yet again, a Muslim has committed such a crime and has misrepresented our religion: That is the perspective of all Muslims.

The saying “one person does not represent all” truly comes into play here. Despite how the media often represents Muslims, or how Muslim extremists behave, there are so many stories showing that Muslims are peaceful, heroic and forgiving.

For example, in an article in CBS news, Farid Ahmed, a survivor of the Christchurch shooting, lost his wife who was killed by the gunman. In an interview, Ahmed states that he “Forgives [his wife’s] killer and will pray for him.” Imagine the extraordinary amount of willpower and love that is needed to not only forgive the gunman who killed his wife but to want to pray for him. That is just one example of thousands that shows how Muslims overcome injustices present in western culture.

Obviously, this type of heroism is not just unique to Muslims; it’s also prevalent with Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. — it’s ubiquitous to good people whose love is not limited to any ethnicity or religion. The mosque shootings, causing the destruction of families and leaving many in complete and utter disbelief, has had some positive outcomes.

Both New Zealand victims and ordinary citizens have demonstrated extraordinary compassion which we could learn from. It has brought all different types of religions together to mourn the loss of the Muslims victims. After all, true humanity is about showing empathy — regardless of race, nationality or religion.

When we silence ourselves against evil ideologies and hateful acts, it is inevitable this cyclical denial will make us victims as well. I am encouraged by the humanity that Prime Minister Ardern and the New Zealanders have shown; it reassures me that even though I have a deep-rooted apprehension and fear as to how I might be treated as a Muslim, I believe that good humans of all faiths will stand up to this injustice and are greater in number than a hateful few.