the brooklyn bridge is my neighbor

The Brooklyn Bridge is my neighbor. Every morning I exit my building and walk passed one of the most beautiful and iconic structures in the entire world. Each morning I say a prayer–to the power greater than myself whom I choose to call “God”. It’s a quick prayer, it usually goes something like this: “Please bless that bridge today, please bless my city today, please bless my country today, please bless the world today.”

By the time I’ve finished my prayer I’ve completely turned the corner–the bridge is now to my right and the Freedom Tower is directly in front of me. Some days this walk and this prayer is routine. On other days, like Monday, November 16th, it moves me to tears.

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The attacks in Paris on November 13th shook me; I wrestled all weekend with feelings of sadness, fear, and vulnerability. My outrage for the lack of coverage of similarly abhorrent events in Beirut was strong–as was my compassion for the loss of human life there. But I’ll admit, even if I must do so sheepishly, Paris affected me more. Perhaps it’s because I was there for the second time with my husband just 3 months earlier. When I got home Friday night I found him sitting in front of the television. He motioned with the remote in hand towards the screen and said, “Look where they are baby.” Camera crews swirled around frantically trying to follow police or connect with a reporter who could deliver an update. One of those reporters stood right outside of a store we walked past every day we were there; it was just down the street from our hotel.

For days I’ve been frustrated by a feeling of helplessness and a lack of control. Some things happen and it feels like there is a clear way you can make an effort to make a difference. Outside of educating myself, keeping informed by reliable sources, and exercising my right to vote,  I have not seen much of a way that I can make a difference in terms of terrorism and our national security.

It’s been on my mind a lot lately that I wish more leaders in the Muslim community would speak out against all of these atrocities. Educated people know that ISIS and the acts they carry out in the name of their religion are a minority–however there is still a large part of our population whose fear and prejudice make them content to lump all of these people together. Because the Muslim community in the U.S. and around the world is so large, it has frustrated me to feel like I never hear anything from their leaders.

Then I got to thinking…what if they are raising their voices, but I just can’t hear them because the media is choosing not to cover them. All weekend I was flipping through channels trying to find the most objective coverage of the events in Paris. It was tough. I couldn’t just allow myself to be fed–I couldn’t let the fear mongering overcome me– I had to actively seek out the closest thing to the truth that I could find.

So while listening to WNYC the other day, I heard them talking about Imams speaking out against ISIS–they didn’t go into detail, it was more something mentioned matter of factly at the end of the show. It inspired me to type the word ‘Imam’ into Google, to see what would come up. Below the definition (an Islamic leadership position) was this short article from the Huffington Post about a group of Imams paying tribute to the victims in Paris. When I saw it, I thought, “More people need to see this.”

I think we need to see a lot more coverage of the positive Muslims in our communities–whether they are prominent leaders or lesser known individuals taking it upon themselves to condemn the actions of ISIS or Al Qaeda. I mistakenly thought that none of them were speaking up; now I’m realizing they haven’t been given the media coverage to raise their voices to a level where they can make an impact.

I understand there are those that will say that the onus is not on the peaceful individuals in the Islamic community to defend their religion and speak out against those who would use it to justify the destruction of humanity. These people would be correct. The Muslim community does not owe us anything.

I am a sober alcoholic. I could stay silent and keep to myself but instead I choose to share my story with others. Sometimes I share that story with other alcoholics in hopes that it will help them stay sober. Other times I just make myself available to answer questions amongst non-alcoholics in hopes of releasing some of the stigma often associated with the disease. It may not be my responsibility to answer questions about or share my experience with  alcoholism, but I choose to do it because I want to see change.

ISIS feeds off hate. They feel the more attacks they can perpetrate in Europe and in the West- the more fear, suspicion, and hatred they can manufacture between Muslims and non-Muslims living in these places. If we were to seriously elect Donald Trump as our President, ISIS would rejoice. Their goal is to create an atmosphere of so much fear and tension that Muslims around the world will feel their only habitable place is in ISIS territory. They are dedicated to indoctrinating the US vs. THEM mentality. Every time another Governor comes out and says they will not be accepting refugees in their state, ISIS applauds in seeing their plan in action.

So now I have an idea and suddenly I don’t feel so helpless. I’ve decided I will make it a point to actively seek out stories where Muslims speak out against ISIS and post them to share. It might not make any difference. But my hope is that it will open some eyes to the fact that the majority of the Islamic community is peaceful, loving, and desires to live in a world that upholds our humanity. If ISIS can use social media to spread their message of hate and recruit young people, why can’t we use it to combat that message and promote inclusivity?

My thought is that it could spread. That if I actively search for these stories, and you see them and spread them as well, then our interest will eventually dictate what the media chooses to cover. It is a small step–but it is all I can think to do right now.

In researching, I found a great group that just started that could really use some support–isisnotinmyname. It would also really help to LIKE them on Facebook–you can find them under NotinmyName.

We can only be strengthened by knowing each other and realizing that we are really the same. It weakens us to stay segregated, to not communicate, to highlight stereotypes, and to exemplify our differences. Let’s make an effort to try and share this world in peace, and lift the voices of those who can truly make a difference.

I know the temporary flag filters will come down off everyone’s profile pictures and Paris will start to become a more distant memory for those of us not directly affected. I just hope it has impacted enough of us in a big enough way that we are willing to take some action and look for the next right way we can contribute. I know I will be doing everything I can–I want that bridge to be there on my way to work for the rest of my days, and far beyond.

 

If you want to stay in the loop and check out the stories I find, please use the link above to like me on Facebook and follow my progress. 

 

 

 

 

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