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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Istanbul and Ankara in Turkey and, now, Brussels: three major cities devastated by terrorist attacks in the past two weeks alone, resulting in the deaths of so many innocents and leaving countless more injured. In fact, since November’s attacks in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad, hundreds of terrorist attacks claimed by groups such as the Islamic State, al-Shabbab and al-Qaeda affiliates have wreaked devastation in communities and cities across the world. These desperate times call for us to stand together in solidarity, in unity and in peace, much like the vigils and demonstrations of empathy we’ve so graciously seen in broadcasts and on our news feeds. Unfortunately, this is not all we’ve seen.

Shortly after news of Brussels surfaced, #StopIslam emerged into the Twittersphere, and  unsurprisingly, Donald Trump immediately came out on CNN to reaffirm his temporary ban on Muslims from entering the U.S. Moreover, the Ted Cruz campaign’s response to Brussels included a strong criticism of American political correctness, arguing, “Our European allies are now seeing what comes of a toxic mix of migrants who have been infiltrated by terrorists and isolated, radical Muslim neighborhoods,” and further concluding, “We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” This kind of response — pinning the U.S. and the West against Muslims, against refugees — is wrong.

If you look at the record of attacks from the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations, you’ll find the majority of these attacks are directed not against the West or the U.S., but against Muslims and innocents in the Middle East and Africa. But while major news outlets covered the attacks in Paris and now Brussels extensively and immediately, equally traumatic attacks in, say, Baghdad or Istanbul, are left significantly underrepresented. The collective fight against terrorism is universal, inclusive of Muslims and non-Muslims alike: a fact this disparity in coverage fails to substantially acknowledge.

As for the concern of terrorists riding the backs of refugees to infiltrate the U.S., it should be duly noted that of the 784,00 refugees the U.S. has resettled since Sept. 11, 2001, according to the Migration Policy Institute, only three were later arrested for planning terrorist activities. Yet we have presidential candidates who equate admitting refugees with opening the country up to terrorism, and we have U.S. citizens who fear Islam and Sharia law coming to destroy us all. Disingenuous and dangerous, these arguments purport an unrealistic fear of the “other.” Meanwhile, that “other” consists of our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters across the world, who both prioritize peace and suffer from these incessant tragedies as equally as the people of Brussels, Paris and San Bernardino.

This is not the time for hate. This is not the time for walls. It’s OK to feel fear — these are, in fact, fearful times — but we need to be intelligent in where we direct and how we act on our fear. We stand best when we stand together, with understanding and empathy for one another’s struggles. And whether we’ll defer to ignorance and misguided fear or rise to the occasion by recognizing the colorblind, religion-blind and country-blind commonality of struggle against terrorism: This will be the test of our time.

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