The others

Last night I sat down to write my first blog. It was to be about something called ‘othering‘, a phenomenon where rhetoric and society can, often unconsciously, single out a specific group that’s different, and see and treat them as less important.

I was going to write about housing, particularly social housing, a topic close to my heart. I was to argue that possibly this ‘othering’ was happening in our society. And that welfare and housing policy played on this, making life even tougher for a specific group of people.

Sadly, many in society view those families affected by these policies as lazy, the undeserving, the poor. Other people. I guess understandably, in tough times, you look after your family first.

But then Paris happened.

Innocent people killed. Terrorists. Suicide bombs. Muslims.

Horrific and terrifying scenes.

Headlines we’re sadly getting used to.

My thoughts are with those whose lives have been touched by this terrible crime, in Paris, and around the world.

On Twitter there was outrage at an Arabic hashtag, which translated as #parisonfire. Some were using it to gloat, but many were using it to send prayers too, from all places and people.

But it shows the depth of the divide.

Earlier that day ”Jihadi John’ was reportedly killed in an armed drone strike. What he did was inhuman and unforgivable. But he had a name, Mohammed Emwazi, and he had a family. Who despite everything, also lost someone in this war.

So, both sides are guilty of othering the other.

A survey earlier this year showed Britons most associated the words ‘terrorism’, ‘extremist’ and ‘misogynistic’ with Islam.

What happened in Paris, and the hashtag, showed starkly what a few think of the West.

Barack Obama said immediately after the attack: “This is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share.”

He was possibly more right than he realised. This needs to be about all of humanity. Not a race, a religion, a class or a nationality.

We need to find those truly universal values of the majority, that cross geographic, cultural, racial and religious boundaries. We all need to respect every individual, and their right to a decent life.

It’s definitely the most difficult course, and one that’s hard to stomach after a tragedy like we saw yesterday, but maybe it’s the only way we’ll ever have a safe, inclusive and peaceful society.

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