Solidarity in Sydney

Trigger Warnings – Death, Sexual Assault

I have done a lot of posts revolving around Britain but the biggest issue in the news at the moment is the tragic resolution of the hostage situation in Sydney. For those of you who don’t know, just yesterday a lone gunman took a cafe full of customers hostage and the crisis lasted sixteen hours before commandos stormed the building and found three dead bodies – one of a lawyer, one of the manager and the body of the gunman himself. The gunman, Man Haron Monis, was a self-proclaimed spiritual healer but was also charged with over 50 counts of sexual assault in his time and was in the news last year for writing offensive letters to the families of dead soldiers. Monis said the charges made against him in the past were for “political reasons” and it is believed this attack was a last-ditch attempt by Monis to grab the attention of those seeking his imprisonment to negotiate having all charges made against him dropped. Truly, a tragic story, one that opens the floor to discussion and so here I am.

The Police Commissioner on the case said that this was the work of an individual, no bomb was planted anywhere, the guy had no associates, nobody at the cafe called him saying it was a good time to turn up and he walked in alone with a weapon, not pulling up with a van full of machete swinging buddies. Considering the man’s origin as an Iranian and being a Muslim, it is important we remember that this was just one madman and not an act of religious martyrdom by extremists. I think back to the beheading of the soldier in public that happened here a few years ago, an issue I wrote an article on which you can find with a little nosing around, and many many people stood by the opinion it was an elaborate terror plot and that these extremists were just a small example of a horribly corrupt religion. Of course, common sense prevailed for most of us but it’s no surprise to us by now that the moment you hear “An Iranian/Pakistani man killed…”, you then hear various colourful expletives being exchanged about Muslims and where they belong, usually being either in their own country or in the ground.

Extremism corrupts the world’s view of anything, mainly because extremism is news worthy whereas “Well I’m kinda more partial to this opinion” is pretty dull. You wouldn’t read a news article saying “MAN LEAVES CHURCH SERVICE BECAUSE HE FELT IT CONFLICTED WITH HIS OWN BELIEFS”, you’d instead read “MAN BURNS DOWN CHURCH, CALLING IT A DEN OF SIN”. The Muslim faith is a peaceful religion, it is not a religion that encourages violence because no organised religion would do such a thing, it’s preposterous and even if the texts say this or that the Bible has passages saying slavery and selling your daughter on the market are fine but I’ve never met a Christian doing one of the above. Religion does define a person but not in the sense that a religion compels people to commit murder or take hostages, that’s the person’s decision, these are the acts of individuals or like-minded radicals, there is nothing in any sacred text that says you can make the world a better place by holding up cafes with guns.

However, this is not all doom and gloom because in the wake of this tragedy, concerns over a growing intolerance towards the Muslim faith or those of Middle-Eastern origin has sparked the #illridewithyou initiative. Basically, if you are likely to be the target of harassment for your faith or such like, you can take to Twitter or Facebook and there will be tons of people posting information about their commutes and how they are willing to travel together with you to ward off people wanting to give you grief. The people of Sydney, in general certainly, have used social media to express their desire to be ‘bigger than this’, to not judge an entire race or religion by the actions of one man and it is not often I get to say this on my blog but this is an act of pure brilliance and humanity that makes me beam with delight. As a man who tries to be accepting of all walks of life, I always fear news pieces like yesterday will set the world back a step in being tolerant of all classes and creeds but the spirit of Australia isn’t one of judging a stranger, more a spirit of camaraderie, the idea that a stranger is a friend until they give you reason to think otherwise. Obviously I am generalising but it’s a positive image and it is the impression one gets when you read the tweets these people have put up on the public domain.

What happened was a tragedy, a truly horrific thing to have happened and my heart goes out to those affected by what has happened, especially the friends and relatives of the deceased. However, the people of Sydney had two paths to choose, the understandable low road of hatred and retaliation or the harder to walk but much more righteous high road and they chose the latter, it is a beautiful thing to behold. We are so quick to judge and rise to anger but rising even higher is a difficult feat that these people are uniting together to achieve as a community. The world can now watch and learn from the example set by a few good people – revenge begets a cycle of violence and anger that only escalates but if you see this incident and you see it is an isolated case of one lone madman, you can move on, you can be so much more and you can forge a brighter future in which we see people as people, not merely an extension of their background.

Thank you Sydney, for restoring our faith in the kindness of humanity in the face of tragedy.

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