Student hosts vigil for terror attack victims
Recognizing the victims of terroristic attacks is important, even if certain attacks are able to be highlighted more than others, said Gabriel Schalom, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.
Connecting students from different backgrounds to recognize people from the recent terror attacks across nations was the goal of a vigil held last night on the steps of Brower Commons on the College Avenue campus.
“I hope everyone can see that we are all one giant community,” Schalom said. “We are all brothers and sisters of different faiths, different ethnicities and different backgrounds, but we are all part of the same Rutgers community and there’s no difference.”
Six different locations were attacked by nearly ten individuals, including four suicide bombers, resulting in 129 deaths and more than 350 other injuries in Paris, France last Friday, according to The Guardian. Seven attackers died at the time, with two more dying in Saint-Denis during a French police raid yesterday.
The victims of these attacks, along with victims from recent bombings or shootings in Kenya, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and other countries deserve to be recognized, Schalom said. He hosted the vigil after realizing no one else had yet planned one a few days after Paris.
He intended for attendees to bring flags from their native countries and to hold a candlelight vigil during the night, to show how united the Rutgers community is.
Speakers recounted the events that transpired during each attack, listing the number of victims and later playing the national anthem for each country.
The Kenyan attack from April, the Iraqi bombing last week and the Lebanese bombings of a few days ago are just some of the ones discussed during the night.
Having an interfaith or intercultural event is important to help people acknowledge the situation, said Peter Kharmandarian, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.
“This series of attacks (that) are going on are monstrous, and they’re not led by people of any kind of faith that they claim to be,” he said. “This might have been the Pearl Harbor or 9/11 of this conflict, it’s really easy for us to put blinders on.”
Even though people in North America live far from the site of most of the terror attacks, they should be aware of the violence, Schalom said. While residents in the U.S. might not think they will be affected, terror attacks overseas can still impact them.
He said his friend lives in Paris and while he was shaken up over what happened, he was physically okay.
Heroes of the attacks were recognized for their bravery during the night. Simone Lovano, a Graduate School of New Brunswick student, said it was important to acknowledge people like Adel Termos, who saw the first bomb detonate in Lebanon but tackled the second attacker before his device exploded.
Many families remain intact today because of Termos’ actions, he said.
Before the stadium attack, another man identified only as Zouheir prevented one of the attackers from gaining entry into the facility.
It is equally important to recognize the lack of religion in these attacks, he said.
“(A large number) of victims in Paris ... were Muslim residents of (the city and Zouheir was) another Muslim Parisian,” he said. “These things come from (a) political origin, not (a) religious origin.”
While Islam in particular is associated with terrorism, these criminals can come from any religious or ethnic background, he said. A 2013 Yale study demonstrated this by compiling data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and finding 94 percent of attacks were carried out by non-Muslims.
This has not stopped people from seizing the opportunity to dismiss refugees, Lovano said.
“A lot of prominent governors and politicians are using this as an excuse to bar Syrian refugees ... but we have to look at where these people are coming from,” he said. “They’re fleeing ISIS. It’s political ideologies that lead these people to violence and it affects all of us no matter what background we are.”
This can only further the cycle of violence said Mazhar Syed, a Graduate School of New Brunswick second-year student. The perpetrators of the attacks want to alienate Muslims from people of any other background.
“We don’t want any backlash from the government because it will feed into each other, “ he said. “The cycle of terror (will continue)."
Though the world refers to the organization as ISIS, they are in reality not at all Islamic, he said.
“The truth of the matter is that radical Islam is not representative of most people who are Muslim in the world,” Kharmandarian said. “They may claim to be Muslims but they’ve malformed this religion and tradition which has hundreds and hundreds of years of beautiful philosophy, poetry, medicine, culture, language.”
Schalom said attacks like the one in Paris cannot stop people from continuing with their everyday activities.
“You have to live your normal life (because) we only live once and that’s the only thing you can do,” he said. “Terrorists want fear. The way a terrorist wins is when (you stop doing) the normal daily activities that you (do).”