In light of recent events (and upcoming ones too), this post seems even more apt than ever.
In a world where interaction among diverse cultures is becoming the norm, it is unfortunate that divisive lines and prejudice are also becoming more rampant. Instead of getting to know one another and respecting differences, the world is becoming more ill with fear and injustice. So we travel – when we can – to understand and to learn to respect and celebrate differences in Creation.
I remember being in Manchester during the aftermath of the Woolwich (London) terror attacks, and receiving plenty of emails and texts from well-meaning people who told me to stay home, to go out only in groups, and to stay away from the public eye for my own safety. But I refused to hide – I still walked to the mosque 10 minutes away from my dorm for evening prayers, I still went to Curry Mile for biryani, and I still wore my hijab proudly to classes. I knew then that that was the time to let love and light shine through, to let others know that the attacks do not define my faith, and to assure them that there is nothing about me to fear.
In a world filled with bleakness, we must be brave in shining light. Today, more than ever, I am convinced that we have the power to do what is right, to stand up for the weak, and to always be a blessing to others.
In a world where ignorance and terror reign free in the mainstream narrative, it is never a more important time to provide a counter-narrative. The loud language of violence and hate needs to be silenced by a clearer rhetoric of love, understanding and shared humanity.
Travel fosters understanding and empathy for people whose lives are different from us. It opens our eyes (and hearts) to differences, including other cultures and religions. But more importantly, it allows other people to know who we are. They get to see actual people, in flesh and blood, instead of the caricature of the ‘Other’ propagated by fear-mongers. Keeping behind the safety of our own doors and community isn’t going to be helpful. Insularity isn’t the answer – it’s the reason why and how hardliners come to play in the first place. It’s keeping people ignorant.
So please, keep on travelling. Travel far, and travel wide. Stay safe & be sensible while you’re at it too.
“I want to travel to the UK too, but I’m scared.”
“Scared of what?”
“You know. Bombs and stuff. I could die.”
“Well, you can die anywhere. Even in your own home.”
We were talking about future travel plans but I didn’t know how to resume normal conversation after that. I was in between feeling flabbergasted at such a reasoning, and feeling the need to straighten things out. I understand the sentiment, I truly do, but I believe in a reaction greater than this, and I wanted to say it out loud.
Fear is what they want.
When I got to know of the Ankara bombings, my heart sank a little. Barely saw the news of the attacks in Ivory Coast. Then Brussels came. And yesterday, Lahore. I’m not sure what is an appropriate reaction anymore. Especially as a Muslim. Do we continue to stand outraged? Do we extend sympathy…
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