Although last week was fairly quiet, this week has been a busy one. Without realising it, I’ve pretty much chosen the pattern of posting in bulk rather than daily. This Ramadan I’ve been more tired and lazy, resulting in delayed posts. But I have lots to discuss this time so I hope that makes up for my tardiness 🙂
On Sunday 4th June, there was further news that something had happened in East London. My WhatsApp and Facebook was once again flooded with messages about the man with a gun standing outside a college and school, the police blocking off the main road and the chicken shop at the center of it all.
I had to very quickly verify the news since this time, it was closer (literally) to home and I wasn’t sure if what I was seeing was at all true. After some frantic typing and Googling, all sites and news feeds confirmed that it wasn’t another terrorist attack, but a raid on a house for people they suspected to be connected to the men who carried out the London Bridge attacks.
Come Monday morning, the college I work in was more silent than usual and people were whispering and shaking their heads over cups of tea as they looked back over the weekend. When my colleagues and I called students to ask why they weren’t in lesson or in their exams, most said “I was too scared to come in because of what happened on Sunday near the college.” As amusing as it was, my team and I had to reassure all learners that they were desperately pulling at excuses to miss exams and lessons so they should make their way to college ASAP. Students really will pull any excuse to miss classes ~_~
Due to the attack, my team and I had the misfortune of delivering the depressing ‘Lockdown Procedure’. Each session was to do with how to keep safe if there was ever a threat in the college and this naturally set the cloudy tone for the rest of the week. Some students took it without question whilst others asked so many questions, that my throat became horse from talking and my stomach gurgled with hunger. And in a good way, although the topic was serious, the students took it well and some even raised the point that ‘if we are meant to die, then we’ll die‘. I thought the other students would feel uncomfortable when they heard that one student utter those words. But in fact, the classes agreed. Although the students were from all backgrounds and faiths, a lot of them were mature enough to realise that one incident shouldn’t keep them locked up at home or be torn between living or hiding. But that life always moves forward, and so should the ones living them.
The college is multicultural and as diverse as it gets. This week, I’ve only heard of 2 incidents were Islamaphobia was reported. Having said that, two or even one is too many. No student has yet come to me and blamed my religion for the black sheep in the community that always makes the most noise. But that doesn’t mean they don’t think it.
In a way, by having this grueling week of talking about the attacks and how young people feel about all this, allowed a lot of students to ask me openly what they were worried about or what they thought about Islam’s role in all this.
In the last session of the week, I was asked “What’s the different between faith and extremism?”
Faith is following a set of beliefs that promote peace. Extemism is the opposite of faith. It is to cause chaos and fear.
I’m lucky to be in a position to help debunk myths on religion and to also guide young people to a path of understanding and solidarity. My message at the end of each lesson was this:
“This lesson might have been about being safe and looking out for suspicious behaviour. But in no way does this mean everyone is suspect and you suspect everyone. Now, if at all, is the time for you to love and care for one another. These people are here with the intention to scare you and increase hatred. You can’t give in to that. Not going about your daily lives is giving in to that. Hurting one another is giving in to that. As you have and as you should, tell your loved ones were you are, travel in groups and most importantly, keep calm and carry on”