‘I just hope I don’t get molested, raped, mugged or killed the next time I step outside.’ I thought to myself as my mother happily told me about the times when she used to drive all around Karachi, alone. Whether it was to pay the house’s bills, to buy something from a grocery store or simply to meet up with friends, she just didn’t have to rely on anyone else to get something done. An independence I never had. Peace, this single word made all the difference between our lifestyles.
Time and again, I can’t help myself from thinking that an opinion of a particular individual or a particular group can change the situation of an entire nation and sometimes even of the whole world for better or worse. In case of terrorism, the latter.16th December, 2014. It was a bright morning and the gentle cold breeze rustled the leaves of trees occasionally as if to remind that winter had arrived. I remember sitting in my room reading a novel wrapped up in my warm blanket. While in the neighbouring room, a reporter on my grandfather’s television had kept on saying “breaking news” after every 2 minutes or so, very loudly. My curiosity took me to my grandfather’s room and what I saw on the television chilled me to my bones and the winter breeze had nothing to do with it. The reporter had exclaimed that a number of gunmen had broken into the Army Public School in Peshawar and had started shooting children. My family and I had sat in the living room watching the news for a time that felt like ages and we thought that the crisis would never come to an end. When it did, late that night, my whole nation, Pakistan was numb. Every heart ached and every eye shed tears. “The death toll has reached to more than 150 children and more than a hundred are said to be injured.” After this, when I couldn’t take it anymore, I had gone to my bed and cried myself to sleep. Days passed, then weeks and eventually months but the grief never ended. A nation which had faced several bomb blasts, terrorist attacks and uncountable shootings was shook to its core once again but this time it was different because it had lost souls who had just started living their lives, who were pure and innocent in every way. Children or actually the future of Pakistan was massacred.
If it isn’t Pakistan, then it is Syria, where women are raped in front of their fathers, brothers and husbands, children are butchered, houses are destructed. If not Syria, it is Nice, where innocent people watching fireworks were killed. The list just does not end. I’ve become so selfish now, that if I read or hear about a terrorist attack, I just pray for the victims and then immediately star scrolling through memes on face book and laugh like an idiot over a joke that is sometimes not even funny. But I just cannot cry my eyes out over these events anymore because my entire childhood was traumatized by these incidents. Millions of childhoods are robbed each day because of these attacks even if the child is not directly involved in the incident.
Peace doesn’t need massacres, blasts or shootings to be damaged, it weakens with every Hijab pulled from a woman’s head, with every temple that is burnt, with every Christian who is robbed of his own home just because he forms a religious minority in an area, with every child who is denied of food and shelter and with every woman who is beaten in her own home. You see, a homeless person decides to steal because it is his opinion that since the state failed to provide for him a job, food and a roof, it is his right to steal from the state. These toxic opinions then form a chain which never breaks and the result is the broken world that we live in today.
All my life I’ve spent in turning myself into an independent woman who wants to achieve something through education and knowledge. From those sleepless nights when I studied till 4 a.m. in the morning to those times when I stressed over a test that I messed up, I made sure that education became my first priority. All this and the world calls me a terrorist as a reward just because I am a Muslim and I wear a hijab. I remember that visiting my relatives in U.S.A used to be the highlight of my summer vacations. Going to the cinema with my cousins to watch a movie, cycling on the sidewalks, walking through the woods used to be the moments which made me feel infinite. Few years went by and before I knew it my feelings of elation were replaced with fear and loneliness every time I stepped out onto the streets just because I was a Muslim.
So is there really nothing that we can do? Every time I hear about the civil war in Syria, I feel really helpless. And honestly, don’t we all. But I’ve realized we can start bringing peace on a small scale. One of Dumbledore’s quotes from Harry Potter is “Don’t pity the dead, harry. Pity the living and above all, those who live without love.” Love is the only way. It always has been. So the next time we have a conversation with someone and their opinion about any aspect strongly contradicts with ours, let us hear them out too, even if you don’t support it. Just listen. And the next time we see someone unprivileged or someone struggling with any kind of problem, let us help them solve their problem and tell them that they are loved. Instead of our fake gestures, let us try to develop genuine feelings for one another. Let us give each other hope. And that will make all the difference.