• Armed police following major incidents in Westminster Bridge in central London, Britain, 22 March 2017. (EPA/AAP)Source: EPA/AAP
When it comes to events of terrorism, most of us feel we have no control over the actions of others. We are only empowered in how we react to it.
Amal Awad

23 Mar 2017 - 3:19 PM  UPDATED 23 May 2017 - 12:31 PM

Immediately following a terrorist attack, there is a tenor of heightened fear.

For many, the event is an affirmation of our long-held fears that societies the world over usually harbour about an ‘Other’ who hates them or their way of life.

It is with this in mind, in the aftermath of the recent London terror attack that I beg for pause.

For a moment, let’s put aside the ludicrous and simplistic notion that terror attacks stem from ideological divides rather than the real and actual lived realities of people who use belief as a smokescreen. We live in subtext, and our hate disguises fear.

Quite simply, it has always been difficult to live a good life amidst every day pressures, but in today’s age of 24/7 streaming media, it’s also terrifying. Politicians utilising this fear pretend that they are responding to, rather than creating it.

We live in subtext, and our hate disguises fear.

We learn to be afraid of darker skin, foreign tongues and beliefs that we perceive fracture our own. Ideas of unity and the inherent humanness of us all begin to look cheesy amid events that end in carnage and death. We are selective in our grief – our social media profiles reflect where our allegiances lie.

And yet, as I slumped in front of today’s news – word of another devastating attack on human life –  my unsurprising response was to ask: ‘Will the person who did this score a victory in creating more fear, more hatred?'

We naturally seek to understand events that interrupt our lives; it’s no surprise that some media outlets will intellectualise terror and find faces to blame. Indeed, it’s necessary to dig deep and consider all facets of war, for such acts of aggression relate to or stem from battles, real or perceived.

#WeAreNotAfraid #nototerrorism

But what we don’t do enough is acknowledge our grief, the burden of human terror and how it is used to keep us in a perpetual state of helplessness, and propose a new way forward. A new way of thinking.

Yet, in the tragic attack on Londoners, the city’s population responded in a new way: social media lit up with affirmative, confident responses that indicated there is another way to exist in a time when it seems like terror is a fresh and contemporary issue.

Refreshing that these responses came from a place of emotion, which – let’s face it – is really what we’re dealing with. No intellectual argument will make us feel better. It’s necessary for us to understand, but following a terrorist attack, not giving oxygen to the madness is something we can all play a part in.

As a Muslim woman, it would be easy for me to write a plea to not blame Muslims. Indeed, the persistent and collective gaze we’re subjected to becomes normal, even if it doesn’t get easier. We’re expected to explain or be responsible for the actions of criminals. We want to point to all of the horror occurring in Muslim countries and still grieve for lives lost in lands we inhabit. We’re not allowed to simply be human and feel. But we can and must.

If unity is too difficult for you to stomach, look inward and ask yourself what language you’re speaking when you think of Muslims, of terror attacks and humanity as a whole.

Following terror events, it’s typical to see people discuss what to tell your children about terror. But has anyone ever thought to publicly ask what we’re telling ourselves? That we, the grown-ups, are the most afraid of all?

If unity is too difficult for you to stomach, look inward and ask yourself what language you’re speaking when you think of Muslims, of terror attacks and humanity as a whole.

Human resilience is our greatest asset in times of fear. It’s the thing that will sustain us. It’s our minds that will help us to understand that we are not alone in terror, that there are many players on this distressing global stage. It’s in our emotions that we can undo the digital invasion that confuses us, that instructs us to pick a side, to direct our pain to a culprit that has nothing to do with the true criminal.

And at the end of all of this, you remind yourself that we are stuck in a grief cycle, that terror did not begin or end with Muslims, that terror has long existed in the world, including the west. That the single most important unifying factor is our humanity. That you can #chooselove instead of hate. And that it takes courage to do so.