As a writer, someone who loves words, I am rarely speechless. There are always words at my fingertips, on the tip of my tongue, in the depths of my brain. But there are some moments, some days, that leave me unable to form my thoughts into words and my words into sentences. Today, reading about the attack in London, England, is one of those days. Because what do you say when tragedy strikes?
You say you are thinking of the victims, of their families. You try to focus on the tragedy at hand, the incomprehensible nature of it all. You try to be a little nicer to the people around you, because, now more than ever, the world needs love. But in the back of your mind, as you turn your speechlessness into constructive words, you know that this is bigger than one attack, that there are more victims than the four senselessly killed yesterday.
There is a kind of cycle that unfolds whenever there is a terrorist attack. There’s immediate fear, of course. This gives way to panic, which is not always immediate. This panic manifests in isolationist policies, in orders to ban people from certain countries of certain religions. And this serves as propaganda material for terrorist groups, who then perpetrate more attacks, which triggers the cycle all over again.
Caught in the middle of this cycle are the innocent Muslim people who are not terrorists, who are, themselves, victims of terror. It seems so painfully obvious to me to say that not all Muslim people are terrorists; Dylann Roof was a white supremacist who committed a mass murder at a black church, and no one calls all white people murderers. But this simple fact is one that many people—including, unfortunately, many people who are key decision makers in governments around the world—do not understand. This is not helped by media reports which are quick to judge any attack as an Islamic terror attack, and any attacker as Muslim.
There is so much anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, and Islamophobic sentiment in the world right now. Inevitably, some people will use yesterday’s tragic events as proof that this rhetoric is justified. Some may even take their beliefs a step further and commit hate crimes against Muslim people. This is not okay. Nothing can justify acts of hate.
The terrorist attack in London is a tragedy. As more information unfolds in the coming days and weeks, I implore you to spread the message that this tragedy cannot justify hatred. Do not use this horrific attack to condone Trump’s travel ban, or his Islamophobic and xenophobic statements and actions, or the decision to not admit refugees, or any acts of violence or hate crimes targeting minorities.
When a shocking attack happens, you may feel speechless, at a loss for words. But try to move past this. Find something productive to say; find an important message to spread. Let your words, and your actions, help the people who are suffering. I am heartbroken about yesterday’s terrorist attack, and grateful for the emergency responders who helped out on the scene. Those two things are part of the message I want to spread. As is this: that, as tragic as the London attack is, it cannot be used to justify hate.