PEACETALK: Exclusion is not the solution Reinna Bermudez

COSTA RICA (MindaNews/14 November) — In these violent games that the hawks play, it is always the dove that suffers.

Less than a year after the gruesome Charlie Hebdo attack, Paris is once again in the worldwide press after a series of attacks in the city left at least 158 people dead. Not a lot has been known on the motives of the attacks, or if there is any group behind them, but citizens of the world have already labeled the violence as connected to the ongoing refugee crisis, and to the greater terrorist issues blamed on Muslims around the world.

It is true that there are Muslim extremists, in the same manner that there are Christian or Jewish radicals who tend to use hostility to promote their beliefs. However, most of the time, the issues of violence and fundamentalism are not only about religion and the promotion or defense of it; they are tied to the political and social contexts where they take place.

I’m tired of explaining the intricacies of world politics and why there are extremist movements that react to the highly oppressive means of the world powers; a lot has been written both academically and journalistically on this. But I will never get tired of saying that Islam does not teach us violence or hatred. That Islam has taught us to have patience (sabr), to fight the struggle (jihad) within ourselves and let peace (as-salam) reign through our words and actions. But in this political world that we live in, when people tell Muslims in general to “stop blowing off our cities” when the West continues to bomb our ummah in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc, it’s about time to call a spade a spade.

Though a lot of us Muslims disdain ISIS, Al Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiyah and those other extremists, people have labeled us to be like these groups and have discriminated us from the larger society as outcasts. By creating these walls around societies, you only push the innocent ones to go to the other more radical side. By claiming that Muslims are ISIS, you make ISIS win. By discriminating Muslims, you make ISIS win. By saying Muslims are terrorists and are the cause of conflicts in the world, you definitely make ISIS win.

This is what ISIS and those other extremists would like you to do — to exclude the innocent Muslims from your societies so we ourselves would be forced to turn into the dark side. When the narratives of exclusion resound to an oppressed population, to fight back becomes the only solution. This is not Islam. This is politics.

I am truly devastated with what happened in Paris today, the same way that the wars of the world devastate me and my soul everyday. In the land of liberté, egalité and fraternité now broken and bruised by these inhumane attacks, French Muslims are faced with a potent danger of being further excluded as an enemy and be cut short from living a life of freedom, equality, and acceptance.

But we can end the violence. No matter how much of the media and the politicians would tell you to hate us just because there is a certain part of our population who are violent (just like with other religions and groups), please continue spreading the love. Break down the barriers of exclusion and discrimination. Hate only begets hate, and violence begets more violence. Let’s stop the vicious cycle. Listen. Understand. Reach out. The doves deserve to live in peace.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Reinna Bermudez of Manila moved to Cotabato City in 2014 when she worked at the Community and Family Services, International (CFSI). She is presently a student of Master of Arts specializing in Environment, Development and Peace at the United Nations-mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica)