Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Edinburgh castle lit up with the colours of the Belgium flag

Edinburgh Castle lit up with the colours of the Belgium flag.

By Marcus Smith*


I know that I just posted a couple of days ago, but given the recent attack in Brussels, Belgium, I thought it would be worthwhile to compose my thoughts into another blog entry.

Edinburgh is about 12 hours away from Brussels, so I am quite far away from the epicentre of the horrific attack. It is, however, in close proximity to other cities that I plan on traveling to in the coming weeks. I have always been aware of these attacks at home and would share a Facebook post or two to express my solidarity, but I still felt so far removed from the situation that it never really registered with me. Now, living in a European capital city, I have no choice but to confront the harsh reality of terrorism, and it can honestly be frightening.

A girl in my program was in Brussels during the time of the attack, and I cannot imagine the level of fear there must have been to be in the area. Since the bombings, I have definitely noticed an increased security presence in Edinburgh, especially in transportation hubs. Though it initially made me anxious, I feel good knowing that the city is taking the necessary precautions to maintain its status as one of the safest places in Europe. It is truly a wonderful place to live, and I have not let the threat of terrorism distort that.

While the attacks in Brussels were downright inhumane and the outpour of support is absolutely merited, I can’t help but think: Why wasn’t this same level of global unity displayed when our brothers and sisters in Turkey and Ivory Coast experienced similar acts of terror?

When the innocent people of Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, were bombed there was minimum coverage and minimal care from the rest of the world. But once a European country became victims, I can’t help but feel like the world turned against Muslims, the very ones who have been victims as well. I’ve seen the hashtag #stopislam, surfacing around social media, and several displays of understood anger but misplaced hatred. The Islamic State is a complex entity. Terrorism is an unpredictable conflict that has plagued the modern world. And given these increasingly common acts of senseless civilian killings, it can seem plausible to blame the entire Muslim people for the acts of a few, but this is simply not the case.


Kind of unrelated to the post, but I had my first visitors come see me in Edinburgh!

I have made friends here from both Brussels and Istanbul, and after getting to know them, taking classes with them, and hanging out with them, I realized we are all a lot more similar than we preconceived. I firmly believe that if we all took the time to learn about each other before making rash assumptions, than we could take more substantial steps towards creating a better future. Studying abroad has expanded my global perspective, introduced me to ideas I have never considered, and exposed me to a handful of the beautiful sights and people that are in this world.

Having said this, I do not at all condemn those who have chosen to selectively mourn the tragedy in Brussels. Any showing of solidarity and empathy is appreciated, and the support of one cause does not equate to the irrelevance of another. Confronting all of the problems of the world can be a daunting task, and showing any signs of support is better than none.

I pray for Brussels. I pray for Turkey. I pray for Ivory Coast. I pray for anyone who has ever had to endure these heinous crimes committed by these despicable people. But I am tired of praying. It seems as if these tragedies are being more common every day, and has become more of a matter of “when” rather than “if” the next one will occur. I want this to end.

I want the world to change. But where do we start?

I’ll end this post on a more positive note by reiterating that I feel very safe here in Scotland. While it is not immune to terrorism, it is certainly in one of the safer regions in Europe. Traveling will prove to be much more difficult, but I would hate to see the terrorists win by deterring people away from Europe’s most beautiful cities. I have always taken careful note of my surroundings, but it has been harder to exercise a state of vigilance without it transforming into paranoia. Nonetheless, we all have no choice but to continue going about our daily lives, and I hope that one day we will live in a world where no one has to live in fear of a terrorist attack.

*Marcus Smith is a sophomore studying political science as well as ethics and public policy at the University of Iowa.. The Bolingbrook, Illinois, native is spending his semester on the Institute for Study Abroad at Butler University program in Edinburgh, Scotland.

*Student blog entries posted to this International Accents page may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UI Study Abroad and International Programs.  The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.