Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Istanbul Bombing

I like to give myself some time to process when something like the bombing in Istanbul happens.  I need a good 24 hours to get my thoughts together, otherwise it comes out like whydidallofthishappenandwhyarentpeoplemakingabiggerdealaboutthisandwhyandwhyandwhy.

Yesterday, there was a suicide bombing in Istanbul.  Ten people, including the bomber died. Perhaps the scariest part about this attack was the location, the Sultanahmed District, which is the hub off all touristic sites in Istanbul.  Just three weeks ago, Mike, Poorna and I were there.   Previous attacks in Turkey have targeted Turks, whereas this was a blatant attack on tourists.  While there have been other bombings and violence in Turkey, this attack definitely scared me a little bit more.

It's always interesting to watch the aftermath of something like this. Sometimes, I am overcome with the amount of love and support for the victims and the people of the country.  When the bombings in Paris happened, there was an outpouring of support for the victims via social media.  People changed their Facebook profile and updated their statuses with condolences. Other times, I'm heartbroken with people's anger and lack of understanding.

Recently, I've seen a lot of stuff on Facebook about how Islam promotes violence and that Muslims hate non-Muslims. That scares me more than the bombing yesterday or in Paris because it's just not true and beliefs like this are what is fueling the violence around the world. I think it's so important to know and understand the basics of the world's three main religions (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity) because religion plays a huge role in our world. Not understanding the basics of each religions allows groups such as ISIL and Al-Qaeda to claim representation of Islam, when they are as Islamic as the Westboro Baptists or Hitler are/were Christian.  

As President Obama said last night in his State of the Union Speech, 

"When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad or our fellow citizens, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is called names, that does not make us safer.  That is not telling it like it is, it's just wrong.  It diminishes us in the eyes of the world." 

His sentiment was echoed by Nikki Haley who gave the Republican response to the SOTU when she said "During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices.  We must resist that temptation.  No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country."


I know that people are scared.  I am. But I also know that people are scared in Syria, Iran, Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.  I think about the eleven year old in my Turkish class who is from Syria. She doesn't understand why her cousins must take a "jet ski" to move to Greece and why they must leave in the middle of the night.  I think of the Syrian scientist featured on Humans of New York who lost half of his family, but still wants to make a difference through research.  If I'm scared, I can't imagine how the innocent people living in these war torn countries must feel.


I don't believe that people are born bad.  I look at my former students, my God daughter, my friends' nieces and nephews, and the thousands of Turkish children every day and I know that people are innately good. I also know that a religion that says


Indeed, Allah enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency and manifest evil, and wrongful transgression.  He admonished you that you may take heed. (Al Quran 16:91)


and who's name, Islam, derives from the word "peace" in Arabic is not the cause of the evil in the members of ISIS.  It's not the cause of the ten deaths yesterday and the hundreds of lives that have been lost in terrorist attacks in the past year. Instead, it is a love for power that has caused these horrific acts. 


 I don't like to think of the members of ISIL or Al-Qaeda because that's what they want and that's what fuels their power.  I try to think about the Turkish newlyweds who provided dinner for 4,000 refugees instead of having a wedding reception or about my students who have welcomed me to Turkey and have spent endless number of classes trying to help me adjust to their culture while learning about mine. These are the people who are representing the true beliefs of Islam. So, while I am still scared and struggling to make sense of yesterday's attacks, I'm also trying to remember all of the good that has happened and of the millions of people both in the United States and around the world who exemplify the true meaning and beliefs of Islam.


I hope that yesterday's attacks are the last. I'm realistic and I know that they probably aren't, but I believe in a god who promotes peace and has the power to make anything possible.  My prayers and thoughts are with the families of the victims yesterday and for all of those who live in fear, both in Turkey and around the world. 


"When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace." 

-Jimi Hendrix