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I have never seen the word Muslim so many times as I have this past week

It seems every other headline, article and clickbait makes some reference to Islam, be it vandalizing mosques, American politicians arguing to stop taking in Muslim refugees or stories of members of the public standing up to others abusing a woman in Hijab. And this scares me. The feeling that we live in a divided world, a line going down the middle between East and West, permeates most things I read these days, but it seems as if all the cameras are pointing in the same direction – back to the West and especially at Islam.

The recent attacks in Paris and Beirut were shocking, terrifying, tragedies. It seems there was no thought in their targets beyond people – just large masses of innocent people. But what scares me more is the backlash that it’s caused. The singling out of one religion, another large mass of people and a reinforcement of them as ‘other’, as strangers who have crossed the divide in the world, as a masked threat, inadvertently or purposefully marginalized.

I loathe to call what happened in Paris and Beirut an act of religious extremism, there is no room for religion in what happened there. It was the act of the marginalized, a desperate shout of ‘we are here, and we are powerful, and we can hurt you as you’ve hurt us’. They were a response from a group continuously on the outside, the overspill from an East in turmoil, a violent and angry stab from across the line.

And I’m scared that the result is more anger, more fear and more division. The questioning look at the brown man with a beard and a rucksack when the train asks you to ‘report anything suspicious’, a woman in a head scarf scared to take a bus for fear of abuse. Muslims everywhere have become an associate to the terror attacks a partner in arms, invisible luggage labels accompany them marking them as other. And, I guess, if you are constantly aware of this sense of yourself as other, as not a part, then you will start to act this role. As others see you, you will start to see yourself – and it seems no wonder that the call to an Islamic state attracts so many. In the same ways the Jews flocked to Israel after the atrocities of World War II, searching for a home after centuries of being ostrasized, as being the ‘other’, it seems so too will Muslims.

But this is not right, this is not the solution. Closing borders, suspicion, binding Islam inextricably to terrorism, making them appear one and the same; it’s senseless, and it’s wrong, and it scares me. But it’s happening, the immovable force of the media, purposefully or not, has labelled Muslims as the perpetrators, as the threat, as the ‘other’.

We cannot continue in this cycle of fear and violence as one will unavoidably cause the other. Fear breeds hate, and hate breeds violence, and so it will continue until there are no more bombs left to drop and no people left to hurt. We can no longer have these connotations of Islam, condensing a nation of people down to one act of terrorism. We cannot ask them to justify themselves, to tag twitter feeds as ‘I am a Muslim’, as there is nothing for them to justify. It is a sad fact that there are terrible people in this world, who commit terrible acts in both the East and the West, who breed fear and hate, who drop bombs from planes or strap them to themselves at concerts. But these people are just that, terrible people. No matter what creed or ideology they claim to follow they are a minority. They are not representative of a religion, they are not the banner men for any group and they are not leading any charge. They defy any label other than what they are, violent and angry men and women who can be met with nothing apart from unity and solidarity, from everyone regardless of religion, race or creed.

Follow Giselle on Instagram: @GiselleStorms

Illustration: Fran Murphy