|Posted by arrianebrahimi on December 22, 2015 at 9:40 PM|
On Monday November 16, 2015, I decided to do an act of social non-conformity by being outspoken about a prejudice in our society brought to light by the recent terror attacks in Paris. On Friday the thirteenth, last week, approximately one hundred and twenty-nine people were killed in a series of terror attacks carried out by IS. After the attacks, in a beautiful show of solidarity, peace and community, many people (myself included at the time) did actions such as adding the French flag filter to their Facebook profile pictures or by posting various French pro-peace photos on Instagram. I felt very touched by this act of solidarity and asked my step-mom why she was not doing this also. She told me that the support for the French is great and well justified but that no one is discussing the other two major terror attacks that happened as well last week in Beirut and Baghdad. That affected me. I decided that I wanted to stand out in my message. While the general societal message was "Pray For Paris," I decided to make what I believe is a better message, "Pray For Everyone." My purpose was to highlight the prejudices in our society that manifested in a selective sorrow for the French, who being a western, white and Christian culture are understandably more relatable to us, and attempt to replace that selective sorrow with a more universal humanity. I did several things. For my main act I wore a large sign on my chest the whole day that was a picture I made of the flag of Lebanon with the French flag filter used on it displaying the phrase, "Pray For Everyone," in French, English and Arabic. I also made that picture my new Facebook profile picture and posted it on Instagram with an explanation of my message with it. To anyone who asked about my sign, I responded saying I am trying to raise awareness and care for all humanity, which also made the hiding of the fact that this is for a project much easier. I also emailed my school anouncements speaker, Ms. Hagg, over the weekend asking that during the Monday prayers the attacks in France, Lebanon and Baghdad be recognized all together. (Father Tony did mention all three, however I am not sure if it is because of my request or not.)
Before doing the experiment, I expected several responses: that I am only doing this because I am Muslim and thus am fueled by my own ethnic nationalism, that the French attacks were more shocking while the ones in the Middle East are not anything new, and -one I unhesitatingly and absolutely reject- that I am justifying the terrorist monsters who killed scores of innocents. I was pleased that across the board people were very open-minded. Most either flat-out said they agree with me, or calmly posed me legitimate arguments that I answered likewise. I feel that my actions had a very positive effect in that they raised awareness. They did not necessarily make everyone agree with me, but people generally thanked me for giving them another point of view and a message of love. I learned through this project that, so long as one is not overly aggressive or alienating toward others, people generally are open-minded to individuals who step out of the norm to send a message. Unfortunately however, people do for the most part fall into the wave of society without thinking of what the wave is as even I did when I first used the Facebook French flag filter. Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay, "Self-Reliance," put it very well saying, "Society is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the water of which it is composed does not." In this case, the societal "wave" was the lone support of France with the French flag filter and symbols. The "water," us, just moved with the wave without "mov[ing] onward" at all by coming to new understandings through the process of independent thinking.
Overall, I am very pleased that I was able to spread awareness of an issue of ethnic bias by not conforming to the societal norm. I am even more pleased that I did not perceive anyone's reaction to be influenced by bigotry to my being Muslim. This project has renewed some of my faith in humanity and, I feel, has enhanced it.