Here’s the problem.

We care about the comfortable. We value success and industrialization and progress and modernization and seeing that get rocked, seeing the beauty of the Parisian streets and nightlife come to a tragic stop – it’s shocking. It’s sad. It’s wrong.

Firstly, we must remember during this time of healing that terrorism is not the same as Islam. Secondly, these acts are not just happening in Paris. Some of us know that, but the media’s unbalanced focus makes it seem as though it doesn’t matter. As though the flesh and blood that make up a Parisian human is more important than the flesh and blood of an innocent victim in Beirut, for example. This madness is going to continue if we concur with unfair media reporting that pretends that those living in the Middle East – Beirut, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Palestine, Yemen, Pakistan – are somehow unworthy of our attention and sympathy.

When Frank Kraljic and I were filming A Chance for Peace, Margaret Atieno, mother to Allan Wasonga, said of the post election violence, “We weren’t all fighting. We were protecting ourselves. What would you do?”

What we do is cast blame. Too often we point the finger without asking why. We cast shadows over the Islamic identity of every Muslim. We stigmatize. We ostracize. Or we let the media do it for us.

I learned even as a child that if you call someone a name, regardless of whether they embody that characteristic or not, they take on that negative energy you’re casting on them. We all struggling with our identities throughout our lives. What if someone was telling you you were violent and threatening and dangerous and unworthy all while your homes and livelihoods are being threatened or bombed and your access to basic human resources were being cut off?

“This is a pattern. This is a reaction. And it will continue if we don’t change how we treat the Muslim identity and the Islamic faith.”

I’m not making excuses for what happened. It’s tragic and fundamentally wrong, but I’m looking into the future. This is a pattern. This is a reaction. And it will continue if we don’t change how we treat the Muslim identity and the Islamic faith.

To paraphrase Emmanuel Leina from the film as well, It wasn’t that long ago that American colonists were senselessly murdering Native Americans and enslaving and oppressing Africans.

Change happened. Slavery as we knew it was abolished. Native American self-determination policies were enacted. Lives were lost, yes. But it was halted. Someone has to raise their voice and say, We must change. War is not the answer. America has been at war one way or another for the entirety of its existence, with the exception of Jimmy Carter’s term.

Are we fighters – or are we leaders?

 

Originally posted at achanceforpeace.com