In my work as a freelance writer, I have to do a lot of research – I would say 75% of my time is spent researching and only 25% is spent writing.
Now, I try not to get involved in politics, and for good reason. Yesterday I did become involved in an online conversation about the London atrocities, and it didn’t go well – the entire thing left a bad taste in my mouth as blatant racism and hatred came spewing out of the keyboards of several of the participants of the group. I’m sure I don’t need to go into detail as it is becoming increasingly commonplace for an entire race/religion to be blamed as soon as there is an attack before any details are even known. You can imagine the vitriol. Interestingly, the only people who resorted to using foul language were the ones spitting racist diatribe – presumably, they don’t have the eloquence or vocabulary to get their point across. Or maybe they are just vile human beings.
Anyway, I digress slightly. As I said, I do a lot of research, and recently had a contract to write about Marcus Luttrell, the only Navy SEAL to make it back alive from an operation in Afghanistan to capture a known Taliban sympathiser and leader of an army of militia, Ahmad Shah. The operation was the subject of the film ‘Lone Survivor’ starring Mark Wahlberg.
The unit which went into the mountains consisted of only four men, and Luttrell only survived because he was blasted by an explosion and landed in a hole, hidden from view.
And here is why I loathe the way every Afghan, every Iraqi, every Muslim is tarred with the same brush – Luttrell was taken in by an Afghan named Gulab, and protected. When the Taliban came looking for Luttrell, Gulab refused to hand him over. He kept him safe until help arrived and Luttrell was airlifted. Gulab and his family were forced to flee their village, he has been shot, and is on the Taliban’s hit list, along with his family.
When the US base nearest to Gulab’s home closed, a letter was posted publicly in a newspaper:
“You are informed that your Jewish colleagues and Americans friends are gone now, so who will save you and what will you do? I ordered my commanders and the Taliban Mujahedeens to kill or arrest you alive and bring you to me. Then I will know how your Jewish friends cannot save or protect you.”
And yet this quiet, unassuming Afghan didn’t hesitate to save the life of one American SEAL, knowing what it would mean for himself and his family.
The same compassion was displayed by the Muslim community this week, when they raised over £18,000 in one day to support the victims, even as they were all, as one, being vilified by the press, and the public.
The attacks which are taking place are not being carried out by Muslims, they are being carried out by fanatics who happen to be Muslim.
We need to stand together, and stop the racism and hatred in its tracks. Direct the anger towards the people who deserve it, the ones who commit these vile actions, who take the lives of innocent people in the name of an Islam that the majority of Muslims don’t recognise. Anyone can take a religion, a cause, and twist it to suit their own deranged needs and ideals – it has happened throughout history and will, sadly, always happen. The ones who join in the racist chanting and witch hunts are no better than the abominations who commit these heinous crimes, and yet they are so blinded by poison that they cannot even see it.
This week I have been both humbled and ashamed at the same time. Humbled because of the way mankind has come together to help – the emergency services, the public, fellow man – and ashamed because of the toxicity of those who refuse to see the good around them and go straight in with the pitchforks and flames. The only way we have any hope of rising above this is to teach our children kindness and compassion, and to create a world where this hatred cannot thrive. I’m not idealistic – these attacks fill me with loathing and disgust, I watched the news and wondered how the paramedics could even look at Khalid Masood, let alone touch him or treat him. That speaks volumes about these men and women who are on the frontline every day. I don’t know that I could help in the same situation.
But you can’t combat darkness with darkness – darkness will only be broken by light, and that light can only come from raising our children to be better people.
Only then will we have any hope of coming through this.