About a week ago I posted this photograph to Facebook. With it I made a few comments which had been inspired as a reaction against some of the anti-Islamic posts I have seen recently on Facebook. Here’s what I wrote:
PLEASE READ THIS POST CAREFULLY: Please do NOT ‘like’ it. Comment on it, by all means, post the ‘sad face’ emoji or even share it. But please do not just ‘like’ it.
This is a photograph of two Muslim children inside the courtyard of the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus. I created this image while visiting Syria in 2008. I know nothing about the two boys other than the fact that they were in a mosque. From this, I am guessing that they were being brought up as Muslims.
It is a photograph of two boys, NOT two terrorists. I am getting pretty sick of some of the anti-Islamic posts I am seeing on my FB feed these days. I’m not going to describe the posts I have seen – I don’t want those sentiments even quoted.
Let me make my position clear. I am a Christian (not a Muslim), I have travelled a fair bit in Islamic (Arab) countries and on whole I have found the Muslims I have met there a very kind and hospitable people. The same can be said the Muslims I have met here in the UK.
It is time we stop using terms like “Christian Extremist” and “Islamic Terrorist”. They are simply extremists and terrorists. There is nothing Christian or Islamic about them. It is time we started building bridges between those of differing faiths and of none. It is time we stopped the negativity. It is time we stopped highlighting the differences and time to look for what we have in common. It is also a time for those of us who have faith to pray. Pray for peace and those who are working daily to find it, pray for those who risk their lives to keep us safe. Play for love. Love is more powerful than hate.
With that in mind – I am not going to “unfriend” you if your views differ from mine. But if you post hatred or abuse against anyone whether it’s race, creed, gender, sexual orientation or whatever. I will call you out on it. If you aren’t a hatemonger (and I like to believe that most people aren’t) please do the same: don’t unfriend those who post hate – if we all unfriended them they would just end up in cliques of like-minded hatemongers where their hate would grow into extremists views.
Let me finish with one last thought. Those two boys I photographed in 2008 should now be in their teens. I use that photograph in one of my training sessions and whenever I see the image I wonder what happened to them? Did they have to flee Syria? Are they refugees? Are they still alive? That thought makes me sad. It is why I said to post the sad face emoji not the thumbs up – if you do that, or if you share the post I’ll know that you have read this and that you agree with the thoughts I’ve shared here.
The response that post got on FB was very encouraging and very humbling. One person commented about how the post and the photograph reminded him of Nick Ut’s “Napalm Girl”, which changed opinions about the Vietnam conflict. While I would never claim any resemblance in my work to Nick Ut’s image, it did get me thinking about the responsibilities that we have as photographers. When I created this image 9 years ago I had no idea that shortly afterwards Syria would be plunged not only into civil war to be partially invaded by so-called ISIS. Nor did I ever believe that this photo would be one to make people stop, think and reply to a post on Facebook. My job at the time was just to record the world that I saw around me. However, as photographers, as writers and as bloggers – if our work commands any kind of audience, we surely have a responsibility to use that work to challenge, encourage and inspire others.
What has moved me a lot about the post is the fact that a number of people who saw it felt the image and the text were important enough to share on with their friends on their own timelines. For that, I am very grateful.
If you want to see the original FB post, either to comment on it, react to it or maybe share it with others you can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10155483122508384&set=a.10150474573793384.423897.570183383&type=3&theater
Until next time, keep making great images,
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