If you are like me; white and non Muslim, please don’t allow this attack to be different to those that have happened in the past few months. I have realised in the past year that I give more of myself in response to events in which I can more easily place myself. If I recognise a place, if he victims look like me, if they were doing things that I do, then I respond with a deeper level of sadness, anger and solidarity. This is normal but it is something I must find a way through.
If you’re like me, you also have to wade through the half-narratives and prejudice that comes out daily about the Muslim community in the UK. You see the cursing tabloid headlines as you buy your lunch, you see the tweets and the screaming far right nationalist protests. We can ignore it but it lingers just outside of our thinking.
We must be consciously combating that message of ‘us and them,’ that divides humans into subsets and tribes. Tribal civilisation was violent and turbulent. We can’t allow ourselves to be dragged back there. We cannot allow our response to terror and violence to be governed by dividing lines drawn by the agendas of others.
A faith community in London will never be the same after last night. If you’re a Christian imagine this happening as you left your evening prayer meeting, or bring and share lunch. It’s heartbreaking. People celebrating something that brings them together suffering an attack for a false association to an oppressive and evil movement.
The Metropolitan Police are right. This is an attack on all Londoners. These nightmares are an attack on us all; on our shared humanity and we can’t allow those who do these things to win.
If your ideology, be it religious or nationalistic, causes you to drive a van into a crowd of people, then you are a terrorist. You have committed violence for your cause. You have attacked all of us, but people like you will not win as long as the rest of us continue to reach across these fake divides drawn in our communities.
I always struggle with how the media behave in these moments. I hate to see the attacker’s faces on the screen, and their cause shared and dissected. This is the same. I don’t care who this person is, I care that a faith community has been attacked. I care about those in hospital. I care about our services having to deal with another attack. Share those people on your Facebook. Tell their stories. Don’t raise up the twisted narrative of the attacker, let it fall silent.
Whilst this is an attack on us all, it is clearly a specific attack on the Muslim community. A community who already feel marginalised and blamed. If you live near a mosque, find time to pop in and say hello. My advice from experience is to call ahead. If you can’t go visit send an email or message on Facebook or Twitter. Ask if there are ways to send support to those who were attacked. If you are appalled, but have no experience of Islamic communities it is natural to be nervous and confused about how to help; the easy answer is to ask questions. It might just be the asking how to help is the act of solidarity you can show.
An attack from Islamist terrorists and an attack from nationalistic terrorists have the same goal, to kill and divide through fear. We won’t let either win. We will overcome fear by choosing love and doing good. We will overcome division by coming together and knowing and befriending those whom we are supposed to be suspicious of.
The Jewish and Christian traditions speak of Shalom. The idea of wholeness, prosperity, tranquility, harmony and welfare – peace in short. In Islamic communities this is known as Salaam, and is used in the common greeting ‘As-salamu alaykum,’ or ‘peace be upon you.’ Our traditions have peace at their centre. That is our great commonality. Our humanity brings us together. Let us make Shalom, Salaam and Peace together, that is how good people respond to violence and division.