Last week, several cities across the world were subjected to deadly attacks. In Ankara, Brussels, Istanbul, Baghdad, and most recently, Lahore, people's lives were suddenly changed when they and their families became the victims of extremism. The number of attacks we are witnessing today feels high. Just as we begin to let go of the shock from one, another attack appears. In the wake of these devastating events, the whole world grieves along with the victims, their families, and their countries.
As world leaders begin to express their solidarity with the victims and individuals take to social media to express their compassion, the response of Muslims is always subjected to great scrutiny. Muslims are often put in a very difficult position following these attacks, when they are faced with common accusations that Islam is an inherently violent religion and Muslims the inevitable perpetrators of extremism. Underlying the expectation that Muslims will condemn the attacks is the assumption that they and their religion are somehow responsible for extremism.
Reem al-Atassi and Mashal Mirza, who are students at Emory University, decided to respond differently. Rather than fulfill the expectation and respond in a manner defensive of Islam, Al-Atassi and Mirza responded in a way that was affirmative of our common humanity. Along with twelve Muslim students from Emory, they created a video sending empathy, compassion, and love to those affected by extremism. Mirza explains,
"Muslims often feel like they have to defend themselves and their religion when it comes to ISIS attacks; soon, we become defensive and forget that not only are we Muslims, but we are human beings who share this earth with those who suffer from these attacks. Rather than a video condemning these attacks and differentiating the difference between ISIS and Islam, this video is dedicated to wishing for peace in this corrupt world and for vocalizing our thoughts and prayers for these victims."
At a time when fear and uncertainty give rise to quick and sometimes unfounded judgements, this video reminds us that we are united by our humanity. This video is more effective than any defensive response in affirming that Muslims value peace and love and are not equivalent to those who beget extremism. Al-Atassi and Mirza have created an expression of human compassion and empathy which transcends religion, culture, and identity. The Muslim students of Emory affirm, "Despite the thousands of miles that separate us, despite the labels that differentiate us, we are all human beings."