Yesterday we were saddened to hear the news that eight people were killed in New York by Sayfullo Saipov, a Uzbek who immigrated to the USA in 2010. Every time a criminal turns out to be Muslim, the distress it causes our communities ends up being shadowed by the fear of the general public. We will not let terrorists win by letting their actions drive a wedge between Muslims and the countries we call home.
Between 2000 and 2017, 126 people in the UK were killed by terrorist attacks according to figures from the Global Terrorism Database. This pales in comparison to the 1094 killed between 1985 and 1999, and 2211 killed between 1970 and 1984, long before Daesh even existed.
The reality is that the likelihood of any individual in the UK being killed in a terrorist attack is so tiny, there’s no reason it should have any impact at all on the way we’re living our lives. Based on mortality statistics from 2010, you’re over 260x more likely to die in a traffic accident and almost 90x more likely to die falling from stairs, yet we continue using cars and stairs without a care in the world, so why is it that we are letting terrorists cause so much fear?
One of the reasons is the sensationalism caused by the media. Every time an attacker appears to have a political motive, media outlets across the world pump out story after story interviewing witnesses and friends and family of the perpetrator that perpetuates the fear that we too may become victims of an attack.
The only reason news stories are news stories is because they aren’t every day occurrences. This constant air-time given to these sorts of attacks combined with our human nature causes our brains to totally over-estimate how likely we are to end up involved in one.
What this means for many people is that they end up avoiding going out to certain places. What it means for identifiable Muslims is the same, with the added fear that they’ll become victims of a hate crime based on their appearance.
Many Muslims across the UK remain home-bound in the days following a terrorist attack due to the increase in hate crimes that always occurs. Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, released figures showing a fivefold increase in Islamophobic attacks following the London Bridge attack earlier this year and a 40% increase compared with the daily average across the year. Tell MAMA, a project which records and measures anti-Muslim incidents in the UK, recorded 141 hate crime incidents following the Manchester attack, a 500% increase on the daily average.
So what’s really happening here? The association with Islam is causing many non-Muslim Brits to fear British Muslims, some who are violent enough to respond to those fears with attacks on individuals. This in turn ends up creating a divide between Muslims and non-Muslims, which results in some members of our communities responding in exactly the same way. And so the cycle continues.
This is exactly what the terrorists are hoping to achieve. They want to create fear and anxiety and attempt to “prove” that Islam and the West aren’t compatible. As British Muslims, we know this isn’t true.
These terrorists are not representative of Islam, nor of our communities. We do not have to apologise for their actions and we will not let them win.
The best thing we can do is continue to shine light on the positive things our communities are doing, and the reason Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. We will continue to support each other, and for those who, despite the wealth of information available to them, continue to try to hold us accountable for the actions of a few deranged people, we just want to say: stop letting the terrorists win.
Image Credit: The Home Depot rental truck used by perpetrator Sayfullo Habibullaevich Saipov during the 2017 Lower Manhattan attack, the morning after the incident by Gh9449 on Wikimedia Commons.