Forty-nine Americans were murdered over the weekend because an American of Afghani descent objected to their sexual orientation. He murdered them in the name of ISIS. Freedom was attacked in an Orlando dance club, adding to last week’s terror act in a Tel Aviv market, the attack two months ago in a Brussels airport, and last year’s terror in the streets of Paris. It is essential that each time terrorists attack we recognize that their victims are people first and foremost.
It is impossible to reason with madness: common boundaries and definitions simply do not exist. For generations, members of the LGBTQ community have struggled for the right to openly declare their orientation, and today, they have begun to live freely and safely. Omar Mateem does not represent American values and he did not embrace the fundamental way of life in a democratic America.
We who live in North America have our own prejudices. We fight our own demons, and some of us even celebrate them. But when Omar Mateem murdered those young people on Saturday night, he attacked forty-nine human beings, not forty-nine members of the LGBTQ community.
When terrorists attack, their goal is to undermine public confidence, to spread fear and anxiety, to diminish the freedoms that underscore life in the democratic world. When atrocities happen, we must speak out and remind ourselves of the values that connect us: love, tolerance, compassion, empathy, and the primacy of democratic values.
ISIS promotes fear and hatred. ISIS supporters promote fear and hatred. Theirs is an ideology of destruction, terror and mental illness. The free world fears them, and rightfully so. They operate on the fringe of humanity and desperately try to short-circuit our laws and structure that would normally keep us safe.
But the terrorists fail to realize that each time we see pictures of weeping mothers and the shell-shocked wounded, we see the face of our humanity that they are not a part of.
Terrorism and radicalism knows no boundaries. The ideology is fully encompassing – if you are not with them you are the enemy – which makes us all vulnerable to attack. Despite their anger, hatred and desire to kill, humanity will prevail.
To the victims of terror past and present, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that these lives have not been lost in vain. We must make it clear to one another that we are all bound together in our common humanity. When a Muslim, Christian or Jew cries we all feel their tears. When any human being cries, we are all equally wounded. We share the planet. In the free world, we all seek peace, justice and freedom and must stand up for these crucial values.
Dr. Sima Goel is the author of Fleeing The Hijab, A Jewish Woman’s Escape From Iran.