The original khutbah that I had prepared for today included a heart-warming story from the sirah, but I saw a news item that changed the entire khutbah in an instant. The point of the khutbah is not to educate a lazy audience, nor is it to replace the mandate to pursue knowledge and an education in the affairs of faith. The point of the khutbah every jumu’a is to bring to the forefront what should be a primary issue of concern for Muslims within a certain place at a certain time. The jumu’a khutbah, in many ways, is where we exercise the example of living a life where we call for what is good and speak against what is evil and bad. If the khutbah itself does not carry this example forward to Muslims, then it has failed in its main purpose.
The news item that made me change this entire khutbah just minutes before is yet again about Al Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem. Shaykh Jarrah is not the only area around the Aqsa mosque that the Israelis have been attempting to “ethnically cleanse” by kicking out the Palestinians who have lived in the area for hundreds of years, and giving their homes to Israeli settlers, who often come from Western countries, especially the United States, and who take that home in Jerusalem often as a second or third home. After they settle there for a period of time to establish residency, they will often close up the home and it becomes their summer home while living their permanent lives elsewhere, especially the United States.
Regardless, Palestinians who have lived there are people who have lived under illegal occupation since 1967, and who do not have any citizenship. The only citizenship they have is a Palestinian citizenship, which, according to the world, does not exist. In other words, all they have is travel documents. They are not citizens of Israel, nor are they citizens of any other country. Israel ejects Palestinians from their homes, forcing them to fend for themselves, and destroying entire families in the process, simply because they are Arab and Muslim, all to hand their homes to Israeli settlers. So many people in the United States want us to somehow look the other way and forgive this fact because, as they claim, Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.
They must not have not paid attention to the history of modernity, because even democracies are capable of creating very immoral things. The claim of being a democracy does not mean that the policies one pursues are moral. If a democracy is the rule of a majority, then all it needs is a majority that wills something immoral for it to become a policy. In the case of this democracy, it has a permanent Arab minority that, by law, can never hope to lead the country. By law, they are Arabs in a Jewish state, and by law, any Jew anywhere the world has rights that trump the rights of any Arab born and raised in Israel.
But these are the Arabs who even have Israeli citizenship, and they are a minority. The majority are Arabs who live under occupation, who are not granted any citizenship, who are kicked out of homes that have been theirs for hundreds of years by Israel; leaving them displaced, homeless, and fending for themselves in a hostile environment where they are a people without a country, without a land, without dignity, and subject to the whims of racism and bigotry.
Shaykh Jarrah is not the only place. According to the news that I have heard, Israel has now given the Palestinians of Silwan 48 hours to evacuate their homes. Silwan is made up of six neighborhoods, which have all been inhabited by Palestinians for hundreds of years. These are families that have lived there for as long as anyone can remember. Their grave sites have the names of these families going back generations upon generations.
But like Shaykh Jarrah, Israel wants to ethnically cleanse Silwan. Why? Because Shaykh Jarrah is to the north of the Aqsa mosque and Silwan is to the south of the Aqsa mosque. They are two neighborhoods that surround the Aqsa mosque, and Israel does not want Palestinians to be the majority living around the Aqsa mosque. Instead, Israel wants to ethnically cleanse the area around the Aqsa mosque and settle Jewish settlers there as part of a long, ongoing process of attempting to completely dominate and control the fate of the Aqsa mosque. Every time Israeli settlers violate the sanctity of the Aqsa mosque, it is the inhabitants of Shaykh Jarrah and Silwan that rush to defend the sanctity of the Aqsa mosque. Israel understands that very well, and this is precisely why both in Shaykh Jarrah and Silwan, nearly every family there has a family member that has been arrested, jailed, or killed by Israeli forces.
Since 1986, Israel has been trying to kick out Palestinians from Silwan using every trick in the book. Initially, they assessed very excessive costs that were supposedly due upon these Palestinians. When most Palestinian families paid the amount of money that Israel said they owed, Israel then claimed that Silwan was inhabited by Jews in the Ottoman period without any proof, historical or otherwise. They even claimed that this area once was part of the kingdom of David.
Are there any living witnesses from the time of David? Is there any written record? Is there any archeological record? There is none. But even if there were, these are people who have lived there for hundreds of years. It is not that Israel wants to demolish these homes to preserve history; Israel simply wants to empty the homes to hand them over to Israeli settlers.
Silwan, like Shaykh Jarrah, has been under siege at least since 1986. And yet again, we see that Israel is escalating the confrontation, escalating the ethnic cleansing, and demanding, in violation of international law - and in violation of all morality and ethics - that these Palestinians pick up and leave. Then literally, the very next day, their homes are turned over to Israeli settlers.
We pass over this all too often, and all too quickly. All these Americans that support Israel: how would they feel if, almost immediately upon notice, they had to evacuate their homes and turn them over to the “right” race or religion? All of these people who swear by the life of Israel, all of them are comfortably nestled in their homes, paying their mortgages, owning their cars, planning their futures. Never would they imagine a scenario in which anyone had the right to tell them, "Leave! A different race is entitled to your home."
But, all kinds of so-called respectable people do not care. Law professors, medical doctors, educators; highly intelligent, accomplished individuals. Have they ever looked in the mirror and honestly asked themselves why they do not care? If they did, they would know the answer. It is because the victim is considered, in their subconscious, subhuman. The victim is Arab and, put bluntly, it is because they are racist. They use a variety of intellectual tricks to ignore the issue of racism, and they talk about democracy and the country of human rights, although Israel has a miserable human rights record when it comes to Palestinians.
It is thoroughly mind-boggling. If this is not colonialism, then what is? Imagine someone going to natives who have lived in a land, in homes, for hundreds of years, and saying, "Leave this house, because I am going to settle people who come from New York, from France, from the Netherlands…" If this is not colonialism, then what is? If this is not racism, then what is?
Silwan is, yet again, under siege. The remarkable irony is that Israel is very adept at exploiting the language of peace, tolerance and coexistence. This is the legacy of colonialism, they speak high principles while committing terrible atrocities. This is the legacy of colonialism. They speak about rights, human values, goodness, morality and ethics, while erasing a subcategory of natives who they do not even deem as human beings. Their feelings do not matter. Their plans do not matter. Their history does not matter. Nothing about them matters.
Most of us have not heard about Silwan in part because Israel censors with the full cooperation of YouTube and Facebook. Israel censors what the Palestinian people of Silwan can post about their plight. When Palestinians attempt to inform the world about their plight, Israel promptly takes down their content. These are the same supporters of Israel, like Daniel Pipes and Robert Spencer, who lecture Muslims ad nauseum about freedom of speech.
Every Muslim has an inferiority complex within them about whether they truly have the values of freedom of speech. But none of the same people who constantly talk about Islam and freedom of speech, for an instant, would condemn Israel for silencing and butchering a people. None of them would see the activity of Israeli censorship against Palestinians as contrary to human rights, contrary to democracy, contrary to the first amendment or to freedom of speech leave alone pontificating about whether Jews have an understanding of freedom of speech or not. That type of racist pontificating is only reserved for Muslims.
But when Israelis do it, it is justified as national security concerns. If Muslims are offended, leave alone do it, it is because they are incapable of understanding values like freedom of speech. It is not just the racism of Israelis and its supporters, it is not just the ethnic cleansing, it is not just the clear, unmitigated bigotry, but the way that Muslims have become fully complicit in this racial project. Israel would not be able to do what it does in Shaykh Jarrah or Silwan if it had not been for the betrayal of Egyptians. Israel would not be able to do what it does if it had not been for the fact that they know that they have nothing to fear when it comes to Egyptians; if they did not know that Egypt is led by a government that is equally Islamophobic and racist against its own kind; a government that suffocates Gaza for years, simply to have a good standing with Israelis and Americans.
Israel would not be able to do what it does if it had not been for the Emirates, for the Saudis, for the Moroccans, for the Sudanese, for the Bahrainis, all of which tell Israel, "You can ethnically cleanse all you want. You can usurp the Aqsa mosque and you can still count on our friendship."
A more degraded people do not exist on the face of this Earth. The leaders of Islamic countries are plagued by self-hate and all the elements of a broken ego that has lost the meaning of dignity and pride. Israel would not be able to do what it does if it had not been for the fact that the Trump administration can move the American embassy to Jerusalem and not even the Palestinian authority severed its ties with the Israeli government, leave alone authorities of the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, or Egypt.
The Palestinian authority knows what is going on in Silwan and Shaykh Jarrah, but they have done nothing other than verbal condemnation. In fact, the Palestinian authority have arrested and jailed people on behalf of Israel. The Palestinian authority effectively is there to protect Israel's security.
One may be tempted to say, “Why are you telling us this? What can we do?" Let me give you a very small example. Again, I saw a news item from CAIR. A Muslim girl named Huda is graduating at the top of her class in the Wheatley School, Old Westbury, New York. As is the practice in this country, she was chosen to give the graduation speech. Ironically, Huda's speech was about being brave enough to speak up and to have a position.
In the midst of her graduation speech, Huda dared to mention the ethnic cleansing going on against the Uyghurs in China and against Palestinians in Israel. Reportedly, the parents of the graduating class attacked Huda so ferociously with numerous Islamophobic comments, that according to CAIR, Huda ended up being hospitalized with anxiety and trauma that evening.
Firstly, what Huda did was the right thing. Secondly, I wish that all American Muslims would teach their children to be like Huda; to speak what they have to say, to call it as it is and to take a personal interest in communicating the truth and in calling racists as such, right to their face.
If Huda would have come from the school of thought of Hamza Yusuf and his like, she would have kept her mouth shut and talked about co-existence and tolerance in vague terms, and continued to let Muslims be the victims in the world; to appease the dominant race and the dominant class, all so perhaps the dominant race and the dominant class can give her a place at the table. But Huda did the right thing. She did what Muslims should do.
But if Huda was my child, I would have warned her: when you speak the truth, you must understand that every racist and bigot on the face of the earth will target you. You must understand that when you speak the truth, those with guilty consciences will act most viciously against you. Expect suffering because that is the nature of jihad, but your reward for every second of suffering is with God. When people speak ill to you, your response should be equally aggressive, uncompromising and strong. When they tell you, "Go back home," do not just take it and internalize it. Look back at them and say, "You are a racist. You are a bigot,” and, “I do not speak to racists or bigots."
When your principal blames you for shedding light on ethnic cleansing, for being worried about the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Palestine, look him in the face and say, "You are a hypocrite. You are a coward.” The school apologized on her behalf. We get ethnically cleansed as Muslims, and the white dominant race apologizes on behalf of our children when they dare to speak the truth.
Huda, if you mean what you said in your graduation speech, know that life is but a struggle and hardship. It is your ill fate that you were born a woman, your ill fate that you were born a Muslim, and your ill fate that you were born a Pakistani; all the categories of people that are the constant object of racism and bigotry. But the response to bigots can only be to look them in the eye and speak the truth and to say, "You are a bigot, a racist and a sexist. How dare you talk to me?"
Do not land in the hospital because you said the truth. Do not give them that satisfaction. Understand that this is a jihad and your reward is with God, understand that all the people of Sheikh Jarrah and the neighborhood of Silwan in the Hereafter will pray for you and bless you for standing up for truth. Understand that racism, bigotry and colonialism has rotted the inside of Muslim societies to the core, and that you, Huda, and people like you are the only hope for our future.
For those who ask, "What can we do?" Be a Huda. If you yourself cannot be a Huda, the least you can do is to support Huda. The least you can do is to send a message of support to Huda. The least you can do is to send flowers to Huda. The least you can do is to send a gift to Huda. The least you can do as Muslims is to communicate to Huda that we are all with you, beside you, behind you, in front of you. That is the least you can do.
This past week, we got the news of the death of a wonderful woman. A wonderful, young, brave Muslim woman, a hijabi who did not fit the stereotypes of orientalism about Muslim women. A Muslim woman who did not have to take off her clothes to prove her worth. A Muslim woman who was proud of her identity and proud of her Islam and proud of her gender. A woman named Alaa, from the Emirates.
Alaa was killed in an accident in England. But the reason that her death is suspicious and troubling is because of who Alaa was. Alaa is the daughter of a well-known Emirati scholar of Sharia, Mohammad al-Siddiq. In 2012, the Emirates arrested Mohammad al-Siddiq, as the Emirates has done with most professors of Sharia, especially those who have any relationship with Jamiat al Islah, which the Emirates considers to be part of the Muslim Brotherhood. Not only did they arrest him, but they sentenced him to five years in prison and took away his Emirati citizenship. They also arrested several members of his family just to get at him, and took away their Emirati citizenship as well.
This is when Alaa appeared on the scene. Alaa first escaped the Emirates to Qatar. The Emirati government demanded that Qatar turn over Alaa, who had not committed a crime nor done anything wrong. Again, this is the “country of tolerance.” The Emirate repeatedly demanded that Qatar hand over Alaa, and when Qatar refused, the Emirate accused Qatar of being a state that supports terrorism and severed its ties with Qatar.
Alaa understood that Qatar could not withstand the political pressure, so she left Qatar and went to live in England. In England, she started a campaign not just to help her father, who was being severely tortured, but to help other abused and tortured Emiratis in political prison. And Alaa, in her calm, confident, majestically beautiful way, would speak about the human rights violations committed by the Emirates, and the hypocrisy of the Emirates pretending to be the country of tolerance with a ministry of tolerance.
On Alaa's birthday, days before her father was due to be released from prison, Alaa was killed in London under mysterious circumstances. A car hit her; only God knows the truth. Her poor father who, if the Emirates releases him - because the Emirates has continued to detain people after their prison sentences are served - will find out that his daughter is now dead. This poor woman who has, since 2012, struggled to see her father released, or just simply see her father, has left this world without seeing her father.
But Alaa is not the only one. Alaa now is with God, and may God count her as a martyr. So many women have perished in Emirati prisons. Alya Abdulnoor*, a highly educated Emirati woman, was imprisoned for daring to have an opinion about things that does not simply rubber stamp what Mohammed bin Zayed wants and wishes. Alya Abdulnoor was a cancer patient, and the Emirates refused to treat her until she dried in prison.
Or someone like Maryam al Baloush*. Again, a highly educated woman. A proud Muslim who dared have an opinion that is not to the liking of MBZ. She was arrested, tortured, disappeared, abused, and only God knows what state she is in now because she continues to be in detention. What kills me is, where are the feminist voices? All these self-declared Muslim feminists that love to pontificate about what they consider about feminism?
Are these women not heroes? Is Alaa not a woman hero? Why is she not the example of your feminism? Why is Maryam al Baloush not an example? All those who point their finger at Muslims and say, "They do not understand freedom of speech," did you defend the freedom of speech of Maryam al Baloush? Did you defend the freedom of speech of Alya?
We live in a world of many lies and hypocrisies, aided by the stupidity and ignorance of non-thinking human beings. I am so tired of the ignorance and stupidity of non-thinking human beings. The biggest hypocrisy of all is any Muslim in the West who continues to have their name associated with the Emirati government - the Emirati government that did not only kill Alaa and cause the disappearance of countless women and countless shaykhs, but that has also murdered thousands upon thousands in Yemen and Libya, and has helped overthrow the democratic government that used to rule Egypt and replaced it with a fascist military; the Emirati government that has consistently worked to overthrow democracy in Tunisia, and that has been directly involved in the murder of thousands upon thousands in Syria; the Emirati government that has created a fund not to resist the expulsion of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, or in the neighborhood of Silwan, but that created a fund to support Israeli settlers seeking to expel and ethnically cleanse Palestinians; the Emirati government that has bankrolled the genocide committed in the Muslim country of Mali by the French military. The Emirates pays for the French military to slaughter Muslims in Mali at will.
Everything in which there is persecution of Muslims, the Emirates has bankrolled. The Emirates bankrolls India and what it does in Kashmir. The Emirates defend China and what it does to the Uyghurs. Yet, there are Muslims who call themselves Muslims, who still pray and fast, who sit there and admire so-called Muslim leaders who continue to have their names associated with the fascist, criminal government of the Emirates.
I will bear witness against you in the Hereafter - all of you who know of a so-called Muslim religious leader in the United States who is supported by the Emirates or who supports the Emirates, and yet you continue to fawn over them and applaud them. All of you are complicit in the murders being committed in Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Kashmir, China, and Mali. You are as complicit as those Muslim leaders that support the Emirati government.
If you go to a fascist or a tyrant, applaud them and say, "May God bless you, may God help aid you, may God strengthen you," leave alone giving them money or giving them a mic, you are complicit in the criminal enterprise of immorality. You are complicit. Instead of supporting Hamza Yusuf, go support Huda. Give your life meaning, and stop being a symbol of living immorality in our lives as Muslims.