Is the IDF Flotilla raid an Islamic issue?
I woke up Monday morning, rolled out of bed and turned on al-Jazeera like I do everyday. Except this morning I was excited to see where the Flotilla ships had reached. I knew that by now they would have probably approached Gaza. I expected headlines along the lines of “Israel foreign minister issues strong warning to approaching aid-carrying ships”. Instead, I saw “at least 10 killed as IDF raids ships”. Huh?! I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I practically jumped to my laptop to check the numerous social media sites I follow, and was overwhelmed by all the articles and videos being posted. People in Turkey were outraged and trying to storm parliament.
What about Egypt – is anybody going to protest this? Sure enough, someone tweeted that there would be a protest in front of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry in a couple of hours.
I quickly got dressed and jumped into a taxi to begin my hour-long commute to the foreign ministry. As the taxi pulled up I could see around 100 protestors surrounded by the national security forces (a scary sight of hundreds of men dressed in black and carrying rifles), carrying banners and chanting anti-Israeli and anti-Mubarak slogans. I was proud that the protesters were making clear the fact that it is the government that is standing in the way of Egyptians taking action against Israel – and that a true anti-Israeli protest is not complete without protesting against the current regime.
What I didn’t like was when the chants took on an Islamic tone. I was displeased when the chants began to revolve around Jerusalem being an Islamic city and about the people of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) returning to bring justice to the world.
Aside from the fact that this attitude conflates issues and is not an effective way to build unity or garner support for an international cause, the plight of the Palestinian people and the terrorism perpetrated by Israel is not an Islamic issue. It is an issue of universally agreed upon human rights. It is an issue of a government consistently and regularly violating international law. This is not a cause exclusive to Muslims, nor is it the only cause Muslims should support. This is a humanitarian cause.
This is not to say that my Islamic identity is separate from political opinions. Quite the contrary. My motivations for defending this cause stem from my understanding of Islamic teachings that tells me that justice is more important than peace, and that standing up against tyranny is one of the greatest things you can ever do as a Muslim.
There is a hadith (a saying or tradition by Prophet Muhammad) that says “Support your brother whether oppressor or oppressed”. The Prophet’s Companions responded saying they knew how to support an oppressed brother, but how could they possibly support an oppressor? Prophet Muhammad responded: “By preventing him from oppressing others”. There is another hadith that says “the best jihad is to speak the truth before a tyrant ruler” .
It is these Islamic teachings that tells me that apathy towards the Palestinian cause is a crime. It is those same teachings that that tell me that apathy towards the plight of the Haitian people is a crime, as is apathy towards the many injustices being committed around the world.
But these are my personal motivations. Many of those who fight for the sake of justice draw motivation from different sources, whether that be their own religious teachings or a purely secular belief in universal ethics.
In learning how to react to public injustice individually, I encourage Muslims to turn to their Islamic teachings to provide motivation, inspiration, and courage. But in fighting these battles in the public arena, we must understand that a public injustice is an international cause, and must be fought for as such.