How do I begin? Where do I begin? On November 13th I was not in Paris, nor was I anywhere nearby. But that night I felt a certain solidarity with the French people, I felt their fear and anger and I listened proudly to the stories of courage and cried as I saw the music and life of that beautiful city momentarily silenced.
When I first heard the extent of what happened on the streets of Paris that night my mind instinctively flashed back to one of my most vivid memories, and one of the most important lessons I have ever learned.
It began early in the morning on September 11, 2001.
I was awoken by my mom, a distinct look of worry on her face as she told me to get out of bed quickly and come downstairs. There was something very important happening on TV she told me, two airplanes had crashed into the World Trade Center.
It wasn't an accident.
I was almost 10 years old, I had no idea what this meant or how it would shape the future. The whole experience seemed so surreal, sitting in my basement watching black smoke swell out of those buildings. I was too young to realize the consequences that this attack would bring; not only on New York City and the United States but in my own life, and that of my friends and country.
Now that I am older I see things slightly more clearly. I understood what this act of terrorism will mean for my friends who are Muslim, how their faith will be open to attacks at every possible angle by bigots, and fear-mongerers. How the actions of a few extremists will negatively impact the lives of many peaceful people, those living in Canada and around the world.
I opened Facebook to see words of hate splayed across my newsfeed. Islamophobia seeping through, overshadowing the posts of love and support and turning one terrible night in Paris into a possibly terrifying future for peaceful Muslims around the world.
I didn't know many (any?) Muslims while I was growing up in Saskatoon but my parents were quick to explain after 9/11 that being a Muslim was not bad, just as being a Christian wasn't bad. They told me that people are responsible for the actions they take and you can't judge an entire population based off the actions of a few.
Not all Germans were Nazis and not all Muslims are terrorists.
So why are some Canadians terrorizing our Muslim brothers and sisters? Beating an innocent woman in front of her children, setting a mosque ablaze and making Muslim women too fearful to wear the beautiful symbol of their religious devotion is simply strengthening the divide that Daesh hopes to capitalize on.
I was always told that Canada was a cultural mosaic, proud of the differences that immigrants and refugees bring to our wonderful country. All I see now is a few hate-filled people taking a crowbar to smash and pry away what has always made Canada so great.
So why does it take an attack on a country that is considered predominantly white for the world to take notice? I didn't see any anti-Muslim rhetoric pop up in my newsfeed when Al-Shabaab detonated a suicide bomb in Kampala, Uganda, killing 70 people in 2010. Or in 2013 when they stormed a shopping centre in Nairobi, a siege lasting over 80 hours that killed at least 67 people. Even last April when 147 people were massacred at a school in Garissa, Kenya and the world stayed relatively silent.
Beirut and Baghdad were under attacks of their own on November 12 and 13 respectively, but these suicide bombings were quickly glossed over in favour of coverage on Paris.
And now some Canadians want to shut our doors to those fleeing Syria simply because some of them share a common religion with the extremists who have destroyed their country and forced them to flee their homes. I share a religion with the Klu Klux Klan but that doesn't mean I burn crosses and wear a dumb-ass white robe in my spare time.
The more you alienate the Muslim community the more power you give to Daesh. So welcome these 25,000 refugees with open arms, show them what it means to be part of the Canadian mosaic and the world will thank you for it.
Just remember: every religion, every country and every belief system has assholes to call its own. Don't be one of them.