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Je Suis Paris

December 14, 2015

Everyday we see struggle and hate all around us. You can’t miss it, every time you turn on the TV, or read a newspaper, or grab your phone in the morning to check your social media for updates before you even brush your teeth. The world is a cruel and unfair place to be and after the recent news from Paris, it’s hard not to want to scream at the top of your lungs that you want off the damn planet so you can go somewhere different to live a peaceful life.


But it doesn’t stop at Paris. Look even further and we see violence at every turn. Whether it’s the car bombing in Yemen in September, the suicide bombing in Turkey in October, to the recent explosion in Lebanon claiming nearly 50 lives, we as people cannot put into words how tragic this is all to us. The worst feeling about all of this is knowing that no matter how much the world cries out, it doesn’t ever stop to hear us. These people continue to cause terror, leaving hearts broken and lives lost.


My mind cannot fathom how anybody can cause such pain and destruction in the name of religion. Religion has absolutely nothing to do with this. This is about people. People making the choice to commit such terrible acts of violence and using Islam as an excuse for their actions. Now I’m not Muslim, but I don’t need to follow religion to know that that these types of terrorists have used the Muslim religion to bring a message of hate and destruction to scare society into believing their message. I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t make me scared, it makes me fucking angry.


I’m so angry that these acts of terror leave countless people without a loved one. Families locked in their own home frightened for their safety. The rest of the world watching in horror as these terrible events unfold before our very eyes and there’s nothing we can do to help. That’s what makes me so angry. Nobody should have to go through such pain, nobody deserves such treatment.


I remember a few years ago when I was visiting Manchester before I moved here from my home town, I was ditching work to meet up with my boyfriend and we decided to go shopping. I say ‘we’ but it was I who wanted to go shopping and I dragged him along with me even though I knew he hated every second. We were coming out of Next and walking toward Selfridges when a blonde woman approached me. She was dressed in a sharp blue suit and had the kind of smile where I could almost count every tooth in her mouth. As she stood in front of me, I saw a man to her left holding a huge camera. She was a news reporter.


I looked at my boyfriend, wondering what on earth was going on, and then the reporter asked me if she could ask me some questions about some recent arrests that had been made in Manchester that were related to possible terrorist threats. Being that I wasn’t really up to date with the news, I told her I probably wasn’t the best person to interview. She said it was only a couple of questions about my views on terrorism, of which I decided to be interviewed. The cameras began to roll, and she began to speak. I was completely unprepared to answer any questions, which made me nervous.


The reporter asked me how I felt about terrorism and how it applies to me as a Muslim. I was stunned at first, trying to process the question as I felt it was quite an assumptive question. I replied by saying firstly that I’m not Muslim, I’m Indian. There’s a very big difference. Secondly, if I were Muslim, I would be terribly offended that I’ve been asked to explain how acts of terrorism applies to me and my beliefs.


At this point, I had become quite angry. Not really for myself, but for every religious person who tends to be blamed for acts of terrorism that has absolutely nothing to do with their religion. I told the reporter that terrorism has nothing to do with religion. Just because a group of terrorists decide to perform an act of destruction, doesn’t mean an entire religion is responsible. It’s the terrorists who are responsible. It’s the choice these terrorists make as people, not as a religion. So to imply that I was a Muslim and then explain myself on behalf of my religion is an absolute disgrace.


The reporter looked at me with a sense of bewilderment. It’s depressing to look back at this moment, as it was clear that before I said that, she really did think it was completely appropriate to ask that question. Had she interviewed somebody else, she probably would have got a response that may not have been as calm as mine. Her second question was about to pass her lips, and I was waiting with a certain feeling of dread. She asked me if I felt safe walking the streets, knowing that a near attack had happened in Manchester. I told her that I’m not about to run and hide because of a bunch of people I don’t know. I have nothing to be afraid of because I, and many other Asian people both religious and non-religious, do not associate ourselves with terrorists and refuse to act like we have done something wrong because of their choices. It’s exactly that, their choice. 


My entire life I have dealt with society’s ignorance and hate, and it took my many years to learn that all it boils down to is choice. It’s their choice to act in such ways, it has nothing to do with religion. When people use religion as a reason to act out on others, whether it be bullying, violence or even acts of war, they are just using it as an excuse to justify their actions. I for one am not going to buy into it. I am not going to blame religion for the choices these cowards make to harm others because they choose to do so. I don’t believe a word of it.


What I do believe in is the goodness in those who open their hearts and show love and support to those who need it. Recently the Syria crisis saw certain neighbouring countries opening their borders for the people to seek refuge. In Paris, residents opened their homes to those who couldn’t  find sanctuary by using the #PorteOuverte on social media. With the aftermath of all the destruction, my faith in humanity is restored when I see such acts of kindness. With that said, there are those who choose to turn their back on those in need and don’t lend a helping hand. If they choose to do so, then that’s their choice. All I can say to that is I’m not one of those people.


We all have a heavy heart for Paris, and for the many places across the world right now that are suffering from acts of terrorism. It’s easy to hate the world and feel that the it has taken a dark road. But remember, it’s not the world that has taken a turn for the worst, it’s the people. People who choose to do these things. Not everyone chooses to believe in their message. 


Just because ISIS use Islam an excuse to bomb innocent people, doesn’t mean Islam is to blame. Just because gay hating churches like Westboro Baptist use Christianity as a reason for picketing the funerals of soldiers, doesn’t mean all Christians think that way. We all make choices in our lives and live the way we choose to live. I’m an Indian transgender woman who believes that no matter who you are or what you believe in, you are responsible for your own actions, nobody else.


I was in Paris with my husband on our honeymoon this Summer, and I fell in love with the city. From the moment we arrived, I was captivated by the sights and people all around me. I couldn’t believe just how wonderful it was there. We had a chance to see so much during our stay in Paris, from the Eiffel Tower, to The Louvre and we even took a trip to Versaille which was absolutely breathtaking. My favourite moments was when we visited Montmartre. I could literally hear the romance in the air as the street musician’ serenaded the people around them and the sun lit up the beautiful streets. I could feel myself welling up inside as I walked hand in hand with the man I had just married. It was at that moment that I fell in love with Paris.


A part of my heart belongs to Paris, and because of that, you will always be a part of me. My thoughts are with you, and it is safe to say that my friends, family and the millions of people across the world are with you too. In a time of such chaos, know that you will find solace in the fact the people of the world are here for you.


To every single person in the world who have been affected by terrorism, been affected by acts of violence, been affected by discrimination and hate, our thoughts are with you. The world has not forgotten you. In our hearts, we want all of this to stop, but we have a long way to go. At a time were our own UK government is screwing us over, we have to stand united and believe that we can make a change, however big or small that may be. Never give up on hope. We can’t afford to.


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