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A Massacre, by Semaan Khawam 200cmx200cm Mixed Media on Canvas


words by Miriam Abdulla

Terrorism – or – murder, at its finest. It’s a matter of definition.
I, like many of my friends are non-practising Muslims, or otherwise.
Define ‘non-practising’.

We are obsessed with definitions, which when used to describe a people, become vectors of polarisation.

I struggle as I try to define my thoughts on the recent act of extremism in New Zealand. Perhaps it’s not the act I should focus on; it is, after all, old news now.

I refocus on the positives.

“What impresses me is the love and solidarity shown by our global community. If only we could express this without the need for a headline massacre.” A partly positive sentence, I blame the rest on my “Britishness”.

Equality in difference.

A simple phrase, simple to understand.
But to put into practise?

Well that’s someone else’s problem. Maybe the UN.

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” – Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

I’ll append “sisterhood” here.

There are several problems with this statement. Firstly, it is a statement, a theory.

But I will focus on the positives.

Now, how to apply this in the real world? Sometimes hard, sometimes easy.
But we must try.
I do try. Example – actively choosing to befriend people of opposing views, as a means to challenge, or justify my own ideologies, beliefs, and opinions.

Perhaps this is a manifestation of my upbringing. I was privileged enough to grow up in conditions which encouraged the intermixing of all races, religions and “classes” of society. A brown privilege, if you like.

Friendships have been tested on many occasion – all desperate for some kind of truth.

I believe truth is nothing. I believe we don’t really know much, or even anything at all.

‘Belief’ – I here define as being occasionally synonymous with hope, future.

Our beliefs, or ideas of them, no matter individualistic they may seem, are never removed from collective thought/conditioning.

Fact? I believe it.

We are collective as humanity. And with it, we are similarly different. Put another way – we are all differently equal.



I end with a quote from a man whose writing is a metaphor for our shared humanity.

“By travelling freely across cultures
those in search of the human essence
may find a space for all to sit.
Here a margin advances. Or a centre
retreats. Where East is not strictly East,
and West is not strictly West
where identity is open onto plurality.”

Mahmoud Darwish (Palestinian poet and author, 1941-2008)

‘Under Siege’ by Semaan Khawam.

Semaan Khawam is a painter, designer, graffiti artist, actor, writer and poet.
Instagram @semaankhawam

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