One of the very basic, and perhaps even theoretically undeniable moral precepts, is the equal value ascribed to human life. That at least at an abstract level, human beings are obliged to agree with what constitutes in religious traditions generally, often an article of faith, that God is the maker of human beings and that God made human life equal in sanctity to one another; that the sanctity of human life is undifferentiated and invariable.
Often, especially in the modern age, this preset has become the cornerstone of so much of the way we structure discourses and narratives in the modern world. At the level of international law, constitutional law, criminal law and civic law, we see an equal value ascribed to human life. It is a cornerstone of much of the philosophy that makes the modern world palatable to the consciousness of the modern human being. But the remarkable thing about this is that it is also undeniable, that once we step away from abstraction, once we leave the realm of pure theory to engaging sociological and anthropological realities that surround us everywhere, we find that much of the way that human institutions work in real life do not honor that basic moral precept.
We live in a world in which it has become entirely acceptable to live with the fact that 5% of the wealth of people like Jeff Bezos would end world hunger; would prevent the expiration of human life all around the world because of hunger; but not only that, it would prevent an untold amount of human misery and trauma that is caused by institutions like human trafficking, that are people often are trapped into because of poverty.
We live with and reconcile ourselves to this reality, but it is not just the distribution of wealth, indeed it is the way that the human psyche itself reacts to events in unequal ways, in ways that often betray a very different philosophical outlook than the one that we publicly proclaim and the one we teach to our children in schools, as values that are embraced by us. We live in a world in which the choice of awareness is the honest, true translator of our real value system, far more than our abstract, dignified, publicly held ideas. Human beings exercise choice multiple times every day. In the choices that human beings make, they translate a psyche in the choices they make, they translate, what is truly embedded within them.
These choices in which we translate what is truly embedded within are a far greater indication of the true philosophical outlook that we innately, sometimes even subconsciously hold; a greater indication than all the proclamations and all the dignified scholarly discourses in the world. Take, for instance, Americanscholars teaching in a law school that are oblivious to what many legal, moral and ethical institutions say about the American practice of targeted killings around the world. They choose to ignore what numerous institutions all around the world have been saying about American black sites about who ends up in these black sites; and what the fate of the people that end up in these black sites become. They choose to ignore an entire chorus that sounds about the horrendous practice of targeted killings all around the world. But then, that same scholarly community chooses to listen very attentively when the Israeli Supreme Court decides a case in which they write a long opinion about targeted killings around the world, in this case, of course practiced by Israel, not the US. But suddenly, American law professors reproduce the opinion of the Israeli Supreme Court in case books, give numerous lectures about that decision, invite members of the Israeli Supreme Court to their law schools, treat them as honored dignitaries, and pay attention and study what the Israeli Supreme Court says. This is a moral choice, and it is a far truer indication of the value system held than any abstract theory.
We Muslims exercise the same choice all the time. If you find yourself reacting to the loss of human life in different levels of passion, then you in turn have betrayed your real consciousness about the value of human life. How tragic is it when a Muslim’s true authentic value system ascribes, in real practice, a lesser value to Muslim life than others, whoever the others are. I wonder how many of us, and how many scholars and researchers, have heard about the horrendous case of Bilal Abdul Karim.
This case alone would be sufficient to make us rethink the entire trajectory of our modern institutions of human rights, the trajectory of American democracy, our understanding of the value of human life, and many other things. Bilal Abdul Karim is an American journalist, but as his name indicates, he is a Muslim. He is a dark-skinned Muslim. Karim chose to be a journalist in the Middle East, particularly reporting from Syria. He was present during much of the fighting with ISIS in Syria, including much of the bombing of purported ISIS locations by the American government.
Among the things that Karim reported on was that during the Trump Administration, when American forces were moving against ISIS, Americanforces fought this war largely through remote controls. The troops on the ground were special forces, highly classified, so classified that most of the time, we do not even know the name of the military units on the ground fighting ISIS. Every time the special forces would run into tough resistance, they would call in airstrikes, and these airstrikes often relied on imperfect, if not outright erroneous, information. I will add the factor that the airstrikes in Syria suffered from a very common element in the psychology of modern warfare, that simply being moral fatigue.
There are operators that guide American pilots to throw their bombs in one area or another. These American guided predators and drones have been engaged in an endless military conflict against "terrorism" for so long in Iraq and Syria, they have killed so many Muslims that they suffer from psychological and emotional fatigue. As a result of this fatigue, they often witness on their screens that American bombs have incinerated women and children but the way they relate to the image on the screen has now become through numbness. So Bilal Abdul Karim witnessed, among a long array of things, the so-called last stand of ISIS in Syria, in an area called Baghouz, where ISIS fighters are cornered into about a square kilometer location and with the ISIS fighters are many women and children.
In Baghouz, the US undertakes a bombing run that incinerates about 80 to 90 civilians, women and children; all right there on the screens of US military. Every effort by those who witnessed the massacre to bring accountability to the American military for what is undeniably a war crime, has failed. Members of the military with a conscience, who have tried to go to Congress to get them to hold the military accountable for its continual and persistent slaughter of civilians in Iraq and Syria, were promptly fired.
Unfortunately, the United States has grown so accustomed to slaughtering Muslims that it no longer generates any type of reaction, not just in the military, but among the civilians in Congress who neglect their responsibility of having oversight over the military. There are no investigations, no one is held responsible or even reprimanded. It is undeniable that our attitude has become that these Arabs, these Muslims, are just like inanimate stick figures, just like in the video games that we play. We see a bomb heading their direction, and then there is a poof, a big explosion. As long as we do not allow journalists to focus too much attention, it is fine.
As a recent article published by the New York Times reveals, the US military has done everything to deny journalists' access to areas where we have committed massacres. In fact, having realized that we have killed 80 to 90 women and children in Baghouz, the American military went to the location and essentially buried all evidence underground. They razed all the buildings, destroyed all the earmarks of any type of massacre, simply cleaned their hands of the whole affair and moved on. At the time, Trump came out to declare a great American victory over ISIS and that was it. Among the people who were on the ground reporting on the massacre in Baghouz and others is this fellow Abdul Karim.
However, there is a problem, Bilal Abdul Karim notices that there were five attempts to kill him in Syria. In these five attempts, they were all drone strikes by the US military targeting him. Bilal Abdul Karim was never a part of ISIS, never a part of Al Qaeda. He is just a dark-skinned Muslim and a journalist who reports about massacres committed by the American military on the ground. It becomes quite clear that Karim is on some type of hit list for whatever reason, though he is not sure why. Regardless, he is on the American military’s hit list and they have tried, and failed, to assassinate him five times now.
Eventually he comes to the United States and he files a lawsuit against the government saying, "Here I am, I am not a terrorist. I am not under arrest, why are you trying to kill me? Why have you tried to assassinate me five times?" The district court dismisses the lawsuit on the grounds of state secrets doctrine and the US responds to the lawsuit saying, "We can neither confirm nor deny anything. We cannot even discuss the incidents that you are complaining about. We cannot say anything about anything, because if we do, it will endanger national security." The district court, without even looking at the state's evidence, accepted the excuse of national security and dismissed the case.
The circuit court affirmed the district court’s ruling, and so Bilal Abdul Karim and his lawyers fought review in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court did not accept cert, meaning the Supreme Court did not agree to review the case. So where does this leave Bilal Abdul Karim? He is a US journalist whose crime is free speech. As far as he knows, he has committed no crime, he has only practiced free speech. But where does that leave him? It leaves him nowhere because the judiciary branch has decided that it cannot have oversight. The American military may or may not have tried to kill him, we do not know, but we are not going to review this.
He went to Congress, who met him with disinterest and a lack of response. The attitude in Congress is the same with all the other targeted killings, and it is the same attitude with the massacre in Baghouz and with all other human rights violations, whether it be black sites, torture, murder, violation of the Geneva Conventions or war crimes, Congress prefers not to hear about it. As a US citizen, as long as he is in the US, theoretically, he is safe. But once he leaves the US and especially if he goes to a Muslim country - as the US feels free to kill people in Muslim countries, but not in countries such as France, Britain, Russia, Japan or any other non-Muslim nation - his life is very much at risk.
So we may wake up one day and hear news like that of Awlaki's son, who was killed 10 years ago - a teenage kid who was only attending a birthday party. His family's attempt for any justice, not even with the murder of Awlaki, the father himself, but the teenage son killed in Yemen 10 years ago, we see no recourse in courts or in Congress, nor even the admission of a mistake.
It is easy for young punks to pretend that there are sophisticated matters here: geopolitics, complex rules of jurisdiction and standing, complex rules that balance between the powers of the legislative, executive and judiciary branches. We can always escape to complexities in order to deny the obvious truth. The truth is, the way we handle the details betrays our understanding of the value of human life. It is undeniable that when we are talking about someone with a Muslim name, someone who is dark skinned, with these anxiety-inducing looks that the world of Islam generates in us, suddenly our reaction to the loss of human life is very different. If the person killed is a white person in France, or an Israeli killed, our reaction is very different. Not only that, but if a white person who is not a Muslim is silenced, our reaction is very different.
We are not troubled by the First Amendment connotations of silencing a journalist who exposed an American war crime. Even my revered colleagues in law schools are not going to be passionately moved to hold symposia, exceptional lectures or special conferences about a figure like Bilal Abdul Karim. To them, he is just another Muslim. We often forget that we human beings are very good at fabricating fictions. In truth, law is a fiction. Institutions of governance are fictions. Even the currency we use is a fiction. The markets we handle and deal with are fiction. The institutions that we create as human beings are all fictions. But I choose to believe that ethics underlying all of this are not fictions, that morality and ethics are the only truth that we have. When we manipulate the institutions of law and politics, to undermine the only truth that we can actually rely on, nothing is left. I would be remiss if I did not say that sadly racism, ethnocentrism, cultural egoism and all types of biases is what we can expect.
But my question is, where is the victim? I, of course, looked up the lawyers representing Bilal Abdul Karim. And of course, as I expected, none are Muslims. I, of course, looked at how much help Bilal Abdul Karim is getting from his Muslim community. Organizations like MPAC in Los Angeles that often brag, "We do so much to help Muslims" are notably not interested here, they will not touch something like this. Muslim institutions, as I expected, run and duck for cover; they do not want Bilal Abdul Karim invited in their honorable Muslim events. They do not want Karim's lawyer to talk to them about how dangerous a precedent this is. They do not even intellectually understand the importance of having a discourse about Islamophobia and the impact of Islamophobia in undermining American constitutional values and American democracy. The Muslim ban did not just hurt Muslims, it undermined American democracy. The killing of Awlaki and his son did not just hurt Awlaki's family and hurt Muslims, it undermined American democracy.
This case, like the cases in Guantanamo where people are held without charge or trial indefinitely, does not just hurt Muslims, it hurts American democracy. Islamophobia and racism, which are the driving engine of Islamophobia, are undermining the foundations of American democracy, but Muslims are oblivious. They do not even want to hear a lecture about how race is an essential component in this process of dehumanization, and about that process of making the hypocrisy about the value of human life and our belief in First Amendment values acceptable.
They do not want to hear how race makes this hypocrisy palatable. No, they are too busy doing Muslim things. It is one thing for God in the Hereafter to look at non-Muslims and ask, "Why did you fail to value Muslim life equally?" But it is an entirely different thing when God looks at a Muslim and asks, "As a Muslim, why did you value the lives of your Muslim brothers and sisters as less, as not as important?
In 2019, the Emirates sponsored a document titled The Document on Human Fraternity, signed by a representative of Al-Azhar, by the Pope and by representatives from other religions, including of course, Judaism. The document of Human Fraternity was intended to be a document about human tolerance; religious tolerance; that all the major religions in the world would tolerate one another and keep true to. Of course, if we were to truly hold this document to its terms, I would like to ask many Jewish and Christian institutions, why do they tolerate bigotry and Islamophobia? It seems like this document, signed in 2019, actually works one way: it is about Muslims tolerating the other. But what Israel does with the Al-Aqsa mosque never becomes a subject of discussion. How Israel treats Muslim institutions never becomes a subject of discussion. Even how India treats Muslims and the increase of Hindu fascism in India never becomes a subject of discussion.
Then the Emirates made clear that it is building what has become known as the Abrahamic Family House, and this interesting architectural animal is the building of a mosque, an odd looking mosque without a minaret, an odd looking church and an odd looking synagogue. All in one complex, right next to each other, as a symbol of Abrahamic religious tolerance; in which Muslims, Christians, and Jews can coexist.
Interestingly, the Shaykh of Al-Azhar has played a rather significant role in this because as I said, he signed the document on Human Fraternity. He has a very famous picture in which he is shaking hands with the Pope after signing the document. As rumors say, despite the fact that Sisi, the President of Egypt, intensely dislikes the Shaykh of Al-Azhar and would love to remove him, the reason he tolerates him is that he is backed up by the Emirates, and the Emirates basically provides protection for the Shaykh of Al-Azhar against Sisi's despotic, authoritarian, fascist government.
In fact, it is well known that the relationship between the Shaykh of Al-Azhar and the government of the Emirates is stellar and wonderful. However, there was recently a significant development. The Shaykh of Al-Azhar took a very unusual, unexpected step. In a recent Egyptian celebration, the Shaykh of Al-Azhar got to the podium and started warning the Muslim world against a new religion that the Emirate is sponsoring, funding and disseminating. The Shaykh of Al-Azhar took the stand at great cost to himself - because that puts him in a clashing course with the Emirates itself, and only God knows what the Emirate is going to do now - but he could not stand it anymore and said, "Yes, I have signed the document on human fraternity.
The Abrahamic Family House is one thing. I am fine with the Abrahamic Family House: a church next to a mosque, next to a synagogue, fine.” But he warned that there are parties who are aggressively funding and disseminating a new religion called the Abrahamic faith. This new religion basically says that Muslim, Christian, Jews, are all one thing. There are really no differences, and any differences are artificial and should be smoothed over. We should take Judaism, Christianity and Islam, put them in a blender and come up with a single religion called the Abrahamic religion.
In Ramadan, you could choose to fast the Muslim way, the Christian way, the Jewish way or not fast at all. God is fine with all of it. In prayer, you could choose to pray the Muslim style, the Christian style, the Jewish style, God accepts all prayers. It does not matter. In fact, all the disagreements that could appear significant to anyone are just false. The Prophet Muhammad did not care if you follow Jesus, Moses or him, it would have all been the same to him. Interestingly, this idea of spreading a single religion for the entire middle Eastern region is an old idea.
It was an idea initially held by American neocons. It was attributed to Henry Kissinger at some point, though I cannot verify that, but American neocons claimed that the solution to the Palestinian Israeli conflict, that would make Israel safe and secure in this region, is to get these Muslims to be less fanatic, and the way to get these Muslims to be less fanatic, since we cannot work with their Sunna and their Qur'an, is to tell them it is all one religion. Of course, Israel and the neocons that were excited about this project in the '90s could not find a foothold to disseminate it. They wrote about it a considerable amount, they tried to create grants and institutions in the West to push for it, to interface that, “We are all one, there are no differences, whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, it does not matter.” That is until the Trump administration and the so-called “Deal of the century,” which is supposed to dissolve the Palestinian issue, ended the conflict over Jerusalem and blend Muslims.
Now the irony of this is, Christians do not do much blending. No Christian is told to pray five times a day, and Jews continue holding on faithfully and religiously to their rituals. Yes, it is only Muslims who are expected to dilute and lose any significant or distinctive characteristics in this Emirati paradigm. The reason that Shaykh of Al-Azhar could no longer hold his silence is because the Emirates, with Emirati money, is gaining a significant foothold in spreading this newreligion. It is being taught as the modern religion, the religion that is appropriate for the age, the period now is the age of no Jerusalem and no Mecca. They are both insignificant. They do not say anything about the papacy of Rome, of course, and everything that I have read is about Jerusalem is for Muslims. Jews are supposed to continue caring about Jerusalem, that is different.
There are converts that have been bought by the Emirates, that are given significant time on the airwaves and are making significant grants and financial rewards available; including for the first time, the Emirate convinced Saudi Arabia to make Saudi citizenship available to certain target people, including some very famous Muslim scholars who were given Saudi citizenship, like Ridwan Al-Sayed. Ridwan Al-Sayed, the famous Lebanese scholar, was given Saudi citizenship in return to disseminate this new religion. I do not know if the Shaykh of Al-Azhar is aware of this, but this is not a new thing. You know the history of Bahaiism, and you know that Sikhism was an invention of the Muslim ruler of India who got the idea of mixing Hinduism and Islam into one religion, which became the Sikh religion. Bahai’ism emerged initially as an idea of mixing Judaism, Islam and Christianity into one, and here we go again.
Now since Shaykh of Al-Azhar warned the Muslim world about this. Let me warn those who hear me or care to listen to me, whoever you are. If you have a conscience, the Islam that the Emirates is funding in the US is an Islam that is equal in every respect, except some ritualistic aspects to the new Abrahamic religion. The orders from the Emirates is to push what they call the Abrahamic creed, to convince Muslims that it is uncivilized and contrary to tolerance to fight for any cause. These are the instructions from the Emirate to Al-Baya and to his kids, to convince Muslims that it is radical, fanatic, that they should not care about the Muslims in China, in Myanmar, in Palestine, in Jerusalem, in India or Kashmir; none of these issues matter.
They should not care about targeted killings. They should not care about Guantanamo. They should not care about black sites. They should not care about Black Lives Matter. They should not care about race. They should not care about anything. What they should care about is getting married, because that is half your religion. “You are coming to talk to me about all these causes? No, no, go get married and raise your children, that is Islam. Do not think for a second that this is the product of a systematic, intellectual dynamic. There is no intellectual anything here. What is behind this is Emirati money.
It also requires people who are willing to fudge their beliefs, to turn their convictions vanilla, so their pockets can be full of Emirati money. Maybe some of you will wake up before it is too late, you leave this world and God holds you fully accountable for what you chose to ignore and what you chose to do.
wherever you are.