Beyond Palestine: Where the Ummah has Failed

The Prophet Muhammad sall Allahu alayhi wa sallam said: “You see the believers as regards their being merciful among themselves and showing love among themselves and being kind, resembling one body, so that, if any part of the body is not well then the whole body shares the sleeplessness (insomnia) and fever with it.” Narrated by An-Nu’man bin Bashir (Bukhari, Muslim)

This time, it seemed like something snapped within the Muslim community regarding Palestine. While far from enough, it was impressive nevertheless. Faster information-sharing, increased networking and communication, and a general sense of indignation, sadness and rage at the latest atrocities being perpetrated against the innocents of Palestine all combined for a stronger-than-ever community reaction to the siege of Gaza. Sifting through my email inbox, I got sometimes four or five copies of the same email from different groups and people, with action items and harrowing pictures of destroyed bodies and buildings.

I was proud of many in my community in the face of the tragedy, the genocide-in-progress. Through emails, I watched brothers and sisters in my community back home in the US protest, organize teach-ins and boycotts and synchronized appeals to elected officials to end the carnage or at least their support of it. Here in Turkey, I watched a stadium full of Turkish basketball fans prevent an Israeli team from playing a game amidst the Gaza crisis, daily protests in front of the Israeli Consulate, and watched as my office and others organized clothing and food drives even as normal people who don’t have much money donate as much cash as they could to send to their brothers and sisters in Gaza.

Even now, as the Palestinians of Gaza attempt to put together the remaining pieces of their shattered lives as the Israelis plan their next offense, I am still proud to see the continued work of Muslim activists to keep the dissent alive and the awareness spreading. Muslims are continuing to work, forming action committees for Palestine and creating workshops related to the issue for upcoming conferences, etc. May Allah swt accept, aid and reward them all, ameen. But what if we look beyond Palestine? What about Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Sri Lanka? What about the many Muslims in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe? While Palestine undeniably holds a special place in Islam, even as we must admit that we don’t do enough for our brothers and sisters there, we do far less – almost nothing – for our fellow Muslims in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and beyond. As little as we do for Palestine, we do far less for other places where our efforts would meet with far less opposition.

Many of us with practically no interest in international affairs or history still know more than the basics on Palestine. We know about the illegal and immoral occupation, we know about the Israeli lobby and Israel’s massive PR machine, the war crimes and peace crimes of the Israeli sate, the social aid Hamas provides and more. We can hold our own for a while in debates with Zionists. But when it comes to things like Darfur, it all gets a little fuzzy. What exactly happened over there? Is it still going on? Who were the sides involved in the conflict? Huh? We don’t even know the basics; and what’s more, many of us don’t really care. We’ll free Palestine; let the Peace Corps take care of Africa. The UN or the EU will look after the Muslims in Eastern Europe. And Chairman Mao will take care of the Muslim minority in China, right? What, there are millions of Muslims in Russia?

As Muslims, we see other Muslims, no matter where they’re from, as our brothers and sisters; we should love them for the sake of Allah swt. It’s as if Palestine is the “trendy” Muslim cause to support. How do we justify this situation to ourselves? Our siblings are dying and suffering, and we don’t have the slightest clue what’s going on, or the motivation to find out. It’s something to think about, because it’s something we’ll be questioned about.

“Abu Sa’id said: I heard the Messenger of Allah saying: ‘He who amongst you sees something abominable should modify it with the help of his hand; and if he has not strength enough to do it, then he should do it with his tongue, and if he has not strength enough to do it, (even) then he should (abhor it) from his heart, and that is the least of faith.’” Narrated by Tariq ibn Shihab (Muslim)

Ignorance and ignoring, racism, indifference, apathy, laziness and a lot of other ugly things are contributing to this problem on our part. SubhanAllah, what can we say to defend this sort of mass failure to even sympathize with our fellow Muslims facing hell on earth? It’s a deep-rooted problem. The first step in fixing it is to address the shortcomings within ourselves that have cut us off from any sort of lingering emotional response to suffering of Muslims; we should reflect on the meaning of Islamic brotherhood. The next step before action is education, learning what is going on and what we can do. We live in the so-called Information Age, where it’s easier than ever to educate ourselves. Seriously: Make a good intention, reflect upon the meaning of brotherhood and go read up on oppressed Muslims outside the Arab world. Africa, Asia, and the former Soviet Union are good places to start. Learn about one conflict affecting Muslims on each continent at the very least. And when you learn something new, spread the word.

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