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It is often in the darkest hours that true leadership emerges.
Equally, in the most terrible of times, you also have those who are unable to look at a more rational picture and, thanks to ignorance or insecurity or the pure need to exploit the vulnerable, bring forth ideas of hate which divide and cause fear and panic.
The response to the Paris terrorist attacks have demonstrated how desperately we need a voice of reason to bring the public together, to understand that the terror attacks do not reflect the views of the large majority of a particular religion.
The Paris attacks hit us all hard, not unlike the 9/11 attacks in New York or the Lindt Café siege in Sydney less than a year ago. These attacks were all random, aimed at hurting innocents as they went about their daily activities. Premeditated and planned to inflict maximum damage, the terrorists hope to spread fear amongst the population by sowing seeds of distrust and division. As such, the perpetrators cannot be called followers of any religious thought.
This was wonderfully articulated by media commentator Waleed Aly. In his now viral editorial speech on Channel Ten show The Project, Aly was able to offer an argument making sense of the Paris tragedy, like no politician or community leader could. His was a passionate plea for us not to give in to hate or fear, as by doing that ISIS would end up accomplishing its ultimate aim. “ISIS wants to split the world into two camps, starting a war between Muslims and everyone else. They want a country like ours to turn against their Muslims and vilify them,” he said.
The terrorists will be aware that their actions would cause a backlash not only against Muslims, but also those with a different name or wearing different clothes or with a skin colour different to theirs. Scapegoats will be found for anything going wrong in their lives and blame laid on them, further creating divisions in our society.
Compare Aly’s impassioned plea to the shallow and thoughtless comments made by Australian Senator Jacqui Lambie. According to her, all the 12,000 Syrian refugees coming to Australia should have electronic bracelets put on them.
Another TV clip which was trending after the Paris attacks was a Sept 2014 interview by CNN in which US Muslim scholar Reza Aslan spoke out about about anti Islam statements made by commentators such as Bill Maher. Aslan was articulate in drawing the line between Islam and violence.
“Islam is a religion and, like any religion in the world, it depends what you bring to it. If you are a violent person (yourself), your Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism or Buddhism is going to have violence to it,” Aslan explained.
Both Aly and Aslan did well in differentiating the religion from the people that profess to act on its behalf.
The important thing is to condemn those individuals or cults who bring this violence to our largely secular world. Tolerance should be our default behaviour and that means standing shoulder to shoulder with all those willing to speak out against the politics of fear.
Voices of reason
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