I wrote this article last week, before the tragic events that took place, not only in Paris but around the world. I am appalled at the amount of hatred that has flooded social media since the attack on Paris. Amidst the hate, there have been some incredibly inspiring posts; it was in these posts that I learned about the attacks in Beirut. I struggled with how to adapt my article to include these attacks, to address this hatred and misunderstanding. The best way to combat this, is through education.
I just finished reading I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb, I am inspired by her message, her strength, and her resilience. Malala provides us with a unique perspective on what life is like in a war torn country. What it is like to live where going to school is life-threatening. Without this book a large part of that world would remain a mystery. What the media portrays is a skewed view, we see only a single perspective. I believe it is this perspective that is contributing to the hate, anger, and misunderstanding toward a culture, a religion, and a group of people. One of the things that I learned is that when terrorist groups claim to be doing these attacks “for Islam”, it is untrue. Islam is a peaceful religion, Malala observed in her book that sometimes it was difficult to find someone to butcher chickens because of the dislike for hurting a living creature.
I have also gained a new appreciation for education. Education has always been an available option, I did not have to fight for my right to attend school. I never feared for my safety because I attended school. While I have learned a lot about the rights of women in University and the struggle that women have gone through to attain rights?to vote and attend university?I have also discovered a world through Malala where girls were still struggling for the right to attend grade school. Since then, it has become legal for girls to attend, but it is not always that simple; some of the men who lead the homes do not allow their daughters to attend, mostly because of fear.
The book I am Malala shows the power of the written word. It has the power to educate the world about a culture which we do not understand. A world that the media portrays in a violent manner. Malala looks evil in the face and chooses to speak out against it, to write out against it. It is through this that she is able to reach so many people. The written word can transcend cultural differences and educate people on what is happening.
If it has ever been doubted that the pen is a powerful tool, this will abolish that. While guns inspire fear and hate. The people who are spreading hatred, those who are behind the attacks, and those who would condemn an entire culture for them, will not stop because they hold a weapon, a weapon will not deter fear, only spread it. The way to stop it is to educate: educate those behind the weapons that what they are taught is only one perspective. Education, books, learning, these are the best ways to deter fear and hatred.
In Western societies we are privileged with the right to an education. And while the massacre at École Polytechnique in Montreal shows us we are not immune to women being attacked for seeking an education, it is a rare occurrence. Reading this book inspired me to reconsider what I am stressing about, about timelines, exams, and essays, and remember how lucky I am to be able to take these courses, how lucky I am that I am able to stress over timelines, exams, and essays. I do not have to stress out about whether or not someone will attack me for going to school or standing up for my rights.
Before spreading fear, hate, and misunderstanding, remember that there is more than a single perspective. Mass media does not always portray the whole story. Remember that among those who are responsible for these attacks are innocent people who grew up in fear. Grew up to the sound of bombs and the sight of death. Reconsider perpetuating racism, do not condemn a culture, race, or religion for the acts of a few.
Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature