At the beginning of this year I wrote a post about the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. I wrote about Ahmed Merabet, the Muslim police officer who died on the streets of the French capital after confronting the terrorist attackers. I wrote about the need not to blame all Muslims for the actions of a few. I wrote about my own experiences in Muslim majority countries and the friends I care for who live there.
This wasn't the first time I've written a plea to stop rash, hostile judgements against a large group of people after a terrible terrorist attack.
Yet as I sit here in my bedroom in Kansas, I wonder if what I write here (and what I've written in all the posts advocating for people not to hurt others unjustly) really matter.
Those who believe that Islam and all Muslims are somehow culpable for terrorist attacks like this, will probably not be swayed by these words. People who have actually known Muslim people or understand that 1.5 billion should not be damned for a few who share their religious identity, will agree with me.
So why do I type these words and send them out into an indecipherable maelstrom of tri-color tweets, sympathetic status updates and Paris hashtags? Why do I bother to keep writing?
I would be lying if I said a large part of it wasn't for my own catharsis and a desire to gain attention and feedback for my own internal struggle.
However, there is also this:
When I read about a Congressman tweeting in the aftermath of the attacks that Syrian refugees desperately fleeing war shouldn't be allowed into the US- I see the people I met in that country drowning in the sea before a wall in the ocean.
When I read comments on news pieces about the tragedy in Paris calling for attacks on mosques and deporting those who had nothing to do with these atrocities- I see my Muslim American coworker, a mother of three, leaving the only country she's ever known out of the fear of others.
When I see hashtags saying Killallmuslims - I wonder have we shown the Syrian flag enough in our profile pictures over the past four years as hundreds of thousands died sandwiched between a horrid government and an extremist rebellion?
This is ultimately why I have to write. I can't unsee what I have seen. I can't forget my genuine joyful experiences with Muslims in a Muslim country. I can't stand by while a few disturbed and broken individuals shatter lives and try to erase from my mind all of the friendships and relationships I built in the region.
If I do not write, again and again, when attacks occur then perhaps a person I know will only ever hear about the Muslims who kill.
If I don't remind others and myself that I lived in a Muslim majority country for two and a half years and was treated with nothing but warm hospitality and friendship, then extremism wins.
Terror is not a force whose main goal is to conquer land or cities. It is meant to conquer our hearts. It's meant to scare us into becoming the monsters that groups like ISIS need us to be so that they can sustain themselves. They win, not when they kill unarmed civilians in a theater but when that action prompts us to put signs on our shops that say 'No Muslims'.
They triumph when we play their game and arrest a boy named Mohamed in Texas because he brought a clock to school. We lose when our fear leads us to discriminate as they discriminate, marginalize as they marginalize, detain and torture as they detain and torture, judge and destroy others based only on surface appearance and guilt by association.
To sum it up, we lose they win when we let them turn us into them.
Being silent, knowing what I know, seeing what I've seen, is not an option.
Perhaps my voice will never be heard outside of a few but it will be there and that it is there is what truly matters.