Content warning: Islamophobia and grief
On Friday, March 22 the University of Edinburgh held a Vigil in response to the New Zealand Christchurch Shootings. All students and lecturers were invited to gather outside the Gordon Aikman Lecture Theatre in George Square to stand in solidarity for the victims of the recent mosque attacks.
Short speeches were given by Honorary Muslim Chaplain, Sohaib Saeed; New Zealand Consul, Sir Neil McIntosh; President of the Islamic Society, Omar Shabana; and New Zealander Dr Michelle Keown. Principal Peter Mathieson was also in attendance and offered his own words of condolence.
Though the Vigil held an atmosphere of sadness and remorse of the recent shootings, the sense of community and hope lingered throughout. As a Muslim woman, I felt comforted by the diversity of students in attendance. I was proud to see the genuine impact an act of terror on the other side of the world had upon all of us, and the pain we all shared for the lives lost. Whilst the speakers in attendance condemned the attacks on Christchurch, a time was spent focusing on what we can do as a community to move past hatred and violence.
Saeed, Honorary Muslim Chaplain, most notably commented on the peace and forgiveness felt within the Muslim community. He went on to comment on how an event that occurred to encourage divisiveness had instead brought communities together, whether that be in New Zealand or in Edinburgh. After reciting a short verse from the Qur’an, Oman Shabana also touched on how meaningful it was to see remorse felt across the world – not just within the Muslim community.
Personally, any act of terror often leaves me with the urge to reflect on where I stand in the world. Though I am Muslim, I am also fortunate enough to be within an environment that celebrates diversity and acceptance. I have friends, many of them present at the Vigil, who will actively stand up against Islamophobia in instances where I cannot. Most importantly, I believe our university community actively aims to encourage a fight against racism and bigotry of any form. I feel as if that puts me in a position of privilege – even amongst the state of news.
It can be very easy to read an article online, see a clip on Facebook, or come across a photo-essay in The Student and believe acts of terror are, though sad, very far away. However, I urge everyone to consider the role they may play in a very real fight against xenophobia. Undeniably, we all carry negative-biases. I know I do. That does not mean to say that there is nothing that can be done.
Whether it is as extreme as the events of terror that have taken place, or as subtle as micro-aggressions within a conversation, everyone can do more to be open-minded. After all, change starts at a grassroots level. If the Vigil highlighted anything to me, it was the fact that pain is felt across all communities – regardless of religion or race. Surely, that means that the rise up against such hatred is also collective.
All images: Hajira Kamran