"It All Comes Down to Your Individual Choices and The State of Al Aqsa"

We are already in the third jumu’a of Ramadan, and already in the last 10 days of Ramadan. This month of contemplation and reflection, the rare passing opportunity at rebirth, is already coming to a close. I wish that we could speak about the last 10 days of Ramadan without having to confront the reality of what is happening in the Aqsa Mosque, but before I delve into this, the entire plight of the Aqsa Mosque, which has become habitual - but not predictable in a mundane and unimportant fashion, but rather predictable in a progressive and increasingly dangerous fashion. 


Many Muslims like to pretend that what is unfolding in the Aqsa Mosque is a redundant performance that occurs year after year, that what happens in the Aqsa Mosque is just like the year before it and that fundamentally, there is no change. However, the reality is very different. A lot of Muslims do not know or do not want to know that from 1967 until today, the status of the Aqsa Mosque has changed drastically and dramatically. 


Israel has been undertaking a systematic and sustained program of changing the topography, the historical reality, and the population composition around the Aqsa Mosque. Israel has from 1967 until today increasingly been isolating the Aqsa Mosque to make it inaccessible to more and more Palestinians and to make that area accessible to more and more Jews. Israel's policy in evicting Palestinians from their homes around the Aqsa Mosque and turning over the same properties to Israeli settlers that have arrived from Europe, from the US, and from Canada, is unapologetically racist. 


Other than that, the Aqsa Mosque, along with access to the Aqsa Mosque, used to be under the control of the Islamic Awqaf. It used to be that the Awqaf made the decisions, controlled the entry points to the Aqsa Mosque as the topography, population control, and population composition around Aqsa changed. Israel transferred the control of the access to the Aqsa Mosque from the Islamic Awqaf to the Israeli army itself.  Entry, accessibility, who gets to attend a particular religious service, or even the decision of how many people get to attend a particular religious service, is no longer in the hands of the Palestinians or Jordanians, although Israel loves to pretend that it still recognizes the authority of the Hashemites over the Aqsa Mosque, The reality is that there is one authority that actually controls everything related to the Aqsa Mosque and that is the Israeli army. 


Now, it is not a coincidence that the Israeli army took over all the major and even minor decisions - because you cannot as much as clean the Aqsa Mosque without the permission and approval of the Israeli army. You cannot even fix the windows that the Israeli army just destroyed last week. The Israeli army destroyed all the windows of the Aqsa Mosque, and you cannot fix these windows without the Israeli army allowing you to fix the windows. 


The truth is that after the so-called Peace Accords, more Palestinians recognized Israel's legitimacy. The more Arabs threw themselves in the arms of the Israelis, the more aggressive the role of Israel became towards Jerusalem and towards the Aqsa Mosque. 


There is a truth that is rarely spoken of in Israeli media and even in Islamophobic circles, such as Campus Watch, Middle East Report, and Daniel Pipes’ organizations and the like; a truth that in Islamic circles and even Arab circles, everyone tries to avoid. That truth is that Israel does not look at the Peace Accords (including those that have been signed with Sudan, Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain, Oman, and of course the Emirates) as actual peace accords. 


Israel looks at all of this as Arabs recognizing that they have been soundly defeated by Israel and that these are the terms of surrender - that the Arabs are just coming to the realization that they have been defeated and that they are engaging in the terms of surrender. But Israel and its allies believe in effect that “because Arabs have a very tangential and precarious grasp over reality, let's humor them and not tell them to their face that they are surrendering, but we [meaning Israel and its allies, including the US] know what is up.”


They think, “We know that these Muslims, for all their rhetoric and all their bombastic talk of ‘Allahu Akbar,’ would have been defeated and these are the terms of their surrender. Because a defeated people can only appeal to the victor, they can only beg the victor for favors. Defeated people cannot make demands. We will do as we see fit and they simply have to put up with it.”


Sadly, when they talk about Muslims and Arabs, including Persians and religious, “noncivilized” Turks, and when they talk about our tangential grasp of reality, they always talk about this in historical terms, meaning that ever since Muhammad came to these people, and perhaps even before, these people have always had a fleeting, precarious and unsettled relationship with reality.


Bear with me, because the point I am making is an important point. This notion, you can understand and unpack with a little bit of tafakkur, if we have tafakkur. The Israeli settlers that violated the sanctity of the Aqsa Mosque, consistently and systematically in the past few days - every single day, they march to violate the sanctity of the Aqsa Mosque, raise Israeli flags and chant, not death to Palestinians, but death to Arabs and insults against the Prophet Muhammad - of course, they are protected by Israeli police. Their very idea that the Muslim mind is incapable of having a firm grasp of reality comes from religious bigotry that since Muhammad, the Qur'an, and Islam are falsehoods, it could not be that the people that follow this falsehood would have any sense of reality, because they are following falsehoods.


It begins as religious bigotry, ie. “What you are following is such a falsehood, it cannot be true, but since you are following it, something is wrong with you.” But it mutates into racism. What it mutates into is: “We do not care what the details about your religion are, something is wrong with you people.” That is precisely why whenever you hear, watch, or read Israeli media, they never talk about Muslim concerns in any way as real or as legitimate concerns equal to those of Jews or Christians. It is a racism that is anchored in a religious bigotry that feeds racism - and racism that, in turn, feeds religious bigotry.


While it did not used to happen this way, in the mind of the Israelis, the more the Arabs surrendered, the more these settlers became emboldened. In the minds of these settlers, they announce that they are going to sacrifice their offerings in the compound of the Aqsa Mosque. The point is clear. “We have to put up with the sensibilities of these irrational Muslims, but the more Muslims realize that they have been defeated and the more Muslims get over their emotionalism and their irrational sensibilities, the more they get over their religion, their profit, their Qur'an, their history, the more they get over everything, the more they get over it.


“We will eventually tear down the Aqsa Mosque, restore the temple. After all, we have undertaken archeological digs all around the Aqsa Mosque. We have transferred the control of the Aqsa Mosque from the Islamic archives to the Israeli armies. We have declared Jerusalem our capital. The US moved its embassy to Jerusalem. We violate the sanctity of the Aqsa Mosque, and the Emirate, Saudi Arabia and Egypt welcome us. Anthropological, sociological proof shows that we have been right all along about these Muslims. They are just emotions. They are irrational people.” The belief that we are irrational people, again, is anchored in the idea that our entire faith, our entire tradition, and our entire system of passions is anchored in falsehood.


The proof that we are simply a passionate people without reason is that we followed this falsehood, but religious bigotry and racism overlap and marry. Why is that? Because, although it started out as religious bigotry, anyone associated with the religion of Islam becomes similarly racialized. Meaning, they become seen as if they are biologically flawed, intellectually inept, and incapable of reason, goodness, honesty and truth.


The third jumu’a of Ramadan, and the people that Israel bombed, and the homes that Israel destroyed last Ramadan, until now, those Gazans who became homeless, continue to be homeless. Israel controls the entry of construction material in Gaza. Egypt, who came in and said, "We will rebuild what the Israelis destroyed," in an entirely predictable fashion, never delivered. The Israelis know fully well that all Islamic and Arab rhetoric aside, that the firepower of Gaza is nothing. The rockets of Gaza hardly have an effect on Israel, meaning it does not disrupt its commerce. It does not disrupt its way of life. It does not really affect anyone, but the impact of the Israeli bombardment on Gaza is massive.


Most of the Gazan missiles never land and even if they land, the vast majority land with very little effect, but the opposite can be said of Israeli missiles. Israeli settlers are fully aware of the extremely limited power of the Gazans and that the entire Muslim world is complicit in the huge concentration camp that they maintain in Gaza. 


As a result, although this is Ramadan, how many of us continue following the news of how many Palestinians are killed every day? Just as I was preparing for this khutbah, an 18-year-old Palestinian died. No one cares. I have checked news agencies everywhere, and most of the western US agencies do not even bother reporting on it. Israel continues to hold on to the bodies of 60 Palestinians that it has killed. The families of these people have been demanding that the bodies of their loved ones be turned over to them so they can bury them, and Israel refuses. No one cares. Israel has stormed the Aqsa Mosque, assaulted, beat, gassed, and shot rubber bullets; rubber bullets are actually steel bullets coated in rubber. They are extremely dangerous and they cause grave injury.


Just in this past week, Israel attacked worshippers of the Aqsa Mosque after fajr prayer. At 6 a.m., Israeli forces swooped in and indiscriminately attacked worshippers of the Aqsa Mosque. 500 Palestinians were injured, hundreds more were arrested.  The past three weeks of social media are full of videos of Israeli settlers dancing in the courtyard of the Aqsa Mosque under the protection of the Israeli army. Palestinians are beaten and arrested, and Israeli settlers are dancing, destroying the windows of the Aqsa Mosque, throwing gas into the Aqsa Mosque, and shooting rubber bullets into the Aqsa Mosque.


As one commentator put it, it is a classically colonial form of violence where the colonizer assumes that the only rational option for the colonized is to surrender and to readily recognize the supremacy and the civilization of the colonizer. When the colonized refuses to do so, the colonizer escalates the brutality, but in the mind of the colonizer, it is a righteous brutality because it is a brutality that is designed to bring the colonized to their senses. It is irrational, in fact, it is fantastical to resist. The colonized’s only option is to surrender themselves into the colonizer’s embrace, it is up to them.


Indeed, the assumption of the colonizers is that surrendering into our embrace is more merciful, more merciful than insisting upon your barbarity. You are barbaric and surrendering yourself to our will is a civilized act. Insisting on your barbarism is barbaric and this is precisely the tone that we hear in Israeli media constantly. But pause for a second, is it unreasonable?


Yes, this is the way they talk about Palestinians. Yes, this is the way they talk about Arabs. Yes, this is the way they talk about Persians. This is the way they talk about Turks. Yes, they do not distinguish between an Arab and a Muslim. They do not distinguish between a Palestinian and an Arab. They do not distinguish between one barbarian and another barbarian. 


The heart and soul of racism is for the racists to find confirmation for their prejudices in the behavior patterns of the racialized. It is like when a police force approaches a demonstration and fires tear gas, and then finds the majority of the demonstrators run away, while a small, small minority stands its ground. In a racist dynamic, the police force looks at this and says, "See? They are powerless. They do not have a cause. They are just a bunch of hoodlums and vandalizers, they are just criminals. Because if they had a cause, if they were like us, they would stand their ground, they would stand for a principle. They would fight for their cause.”


After all, in the mythology of the colonizer, “We fought for our causes.” Their history is full of heroic stances. Lo and behold, it must be because our cause is unrighteous. Our cowardliness is proof of the validity of their bigotry. Of course, the racist does not stop to think that, in fact, it is the most rational thing in the world that when tear gas is fired, that the people will run. They do not think that way. What is worse is in terms of the mega religious bigoted/racist narrative, the religious bigotry that mutated into racism and the racism that keeps being fed by religious bigotry.


Israel settlers, as they were growing up, used to hear that if you touch the Aqsa Mosque, the consequences will be so grave, that it is simply unthinkable; because if you do so, that that will be the cause that will unite all Muslims and make them wage their god-awful jihad in unison against us. As the years have passed, it has become obvious to them that they have given the enemy too much credit, and that they can, in fact, declare Jerusalem a capital. That Trump can come to power, Trump can vilify Islam, Trump can insult Muslims and Islam in a million different ways, and still have Muslims continue to favor Trump. You can do everything you can do and still have the Emirates be the Emirates, Saudi Arabia be Saudi Arabia, Egypt be Egypt, still have the Arabs hate the Persians and the Persians hate the Arabs, and still have the Arabs hate the Turks and the Turks hate the Arabs. You can do all of this and you can still have the Shi'a hate the Sunnis, and the Sunnis hate the Shi'a. You can do all of this and still have Arabs and Muslims sit there and be confused about the relationship between racism and religious bigotry. You can still do all of this to a people and these people will remain stupid. 


If you can do all of this to a people and they stay stupid, then what is your deterrence? Last jumu’a, Israelis already had a policy that no male of under 50 can access the Aqsa Mosque. Even this jumu’a, which was relatively better than last jumu’a, the Israelis severely constrained the number of even women and children who can reach the Aqsa Mosque. They have a million rules about why you have to leave your ID with Israeli authorities, and wait in a long line before you can just attend jumu’a.


There is a long line afterwards to receive your ID and in the process, you expose yourself to harassment, mistreatment, insults and impoliteness, and this is when they feel hospitable. Otherwise, they come to those who are doing worship [itikaf] at the Aqsa Mosque and violently eject them. If the worshippers refuse to clear out, the Israelis gas them and shoot plastic bullets at them. They violate the sanctity and dance and scream, "Death to Muhammad," in the courtyard of the Aqsa Mosque.


And does one Muslim country recall even its ambassador from Israel? Does the Palestinian Authority even alter its security arrangements with Israel? Did the Egyptians do anything? Look at how people who respect their own kind, act when Ukraine is invaded. But this disunity, lack of honor and lack of dignity is what they have come to expect from us, and because that is what they expect from us, this is what explains the racist and bigoted behavior.


When God tells us in the Quran,"Live righteously as God has commanded you,” and right after telling us this, God goes on to explain in the same breath: “God says, ‘Do not do exactly as the colonial racist mind expects you to do and that is surrender yourself as a defeated and broken people to the arms of those who have transgressed against you. Do not simply accept the injustice of the unjust as a fact of life.’” And in the same vein, God says, "If it was not for the fact that a small group of people in every age continue to adhere to the truth and fight to uphold the truth, God would allow the destruction of numerous societies by the injustice that these societies committed.”


We as a people, as Muslims, find our Jerusalem as occupied territory. We, as Muslims, know fully well who occupied Jerusalem. Jesus was not European, Jesus was not Latin, nor was Moses, but look at the ethnicity of those who violate the sanctity of the Aqsa Mosque, all of them have come from the West. All of them have come from the same colonial countries that have colonized this region. 


Before Islam and after Islam, the conflict over Jerusalem, like the conflict over Christianity itself, was between East and West. Islam became the successful vehicle by which Easterners reclaimed their sovereignty over Jerusalem. Colonialism became the vehicle by which the race that colonized the entire world - the white race - claimed its sense of entitlement to all the holy sites in the world, not just in Europe but in the world, claimed its entitlement to the history of the world, claimed its entitlement to the historical artifacts of the world. That is why when we go to European museums we see artifacts from all over the world, from languages and cultures that never stepped foot in Europe. The nature of colonialism is precisely that: “We are entitled to your language, to your history, to your archeology, to your religion. We are entitled to your culture. We can call up your culture and turn it into whatever we think makes sense, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam.” The entire edifice and enterprise of orientalism is precisely that: “We are entitled and you surrender.”


“No, no. Surrendering to God is backwards, retardant, barbaric, vulgar. Muslims talk about surrendering to God? Oh gross, surrender to us. Turn over everything, including your dignity and your honor, over to us.” This is why, brothers and sisters, I wonder how God looks at us. 


When God sees our great hero, our most popular religious figure with millions of followers - Mufti Menk. Mufti Menk, like all the other popular Muslim leaders of today in the pockets of the Emirates, is constantly and deeply in the pockets of the Emirates, and is a regular guest to the Emirates. Does he care about the Emirates’ human rights record? No. Does he care about the genocide that the Emirates has committed in Yemen? No. Does he care about the property around the Aqsa Mosque that the Emirates bought from Palestinians and sold to Israeli settlers? No.


When Mufti Menk goes to the Emirates and shakes hand with the chief rabbi of the Emirates, who is a known fascist and racist, and a known colonial apologist and colonial agent, and when there is criticism, Mufti Menk says, "I am above politics." Are you above istiqama? I thought that all you guys talked about was the Sunna of the Prophet. Was the Prophet above politics? Was the Prophet apolitical? Are you above justice? Are you above dignity? Are you above reason? To say “I am above politics,” what does that mean? To say I am beyond politics is to say I am beyond justice. Who are you to imagine that you are beyond justice? If God says, "Do not surrender yourself to the unjust. Who are you to come and say, "I am beyond measurements or concepts of justice or injustice. It does not touch me. It does not affect me."


The point is not Mufti Menk. The point is to look at who the Ummah admires and follows. The point is that even after the scandal, Mufti Menk's status and position was hardly affected and I am sure he is going to continue being extremely popular. This is precisely why I keep telling you - you, individually - you determine the fate of humanity in every microdecision you take in your life, including something as small as who you decide to follow. Who you decide to like. What topics you talk about. What your preferences are.


It is all interlinked. CAIR recently did just a casual survey. In California, they interviewed 700 Muslim students. Of the 700 interviewed, 47.1% reported that they were harassed, discriminated against, abused or insulted. Half, 55.73% reported feeling unsafe, unwelcome, or uncomfortable at school due to their Muslim identity. At the same time, since the beginning of Ramadan in numerous territories in India, Hindu nationalists do exactly like the extremist Israeli settlers. They have rallies where they show up in front of mosques and chant “Death to Muslims,” instead of “Death to Arabs,” and then, when Muslims attempt or do anything to defend themselves against these fanatic, Hindu nationalists, the Hindu nationalists film any act of violence and use social media to incite lynchings against Muslims.


Since the beginning of Ramadan, hundreds of lynchings against Muslims all over India have taken place, and Modi was just welcomed as a great partner in the UK. There are numerous articles about how well he was received, and of all the treaties and agreements signed between Modi and the British government, what has the British government discussed with Modi? Not Kashmir, not the genocide, not even Jerusalem, nothing but Ukraine.


This is because as a Muslim, you grew up choosing your example of religiosity - your example of what istiqama is - to be the likes of Mufti Menk and Hamza Yusuf, the so-called apoliticals. It is because that is your example. These are your choices in life. Your children and my children grow up belonging to a religion of a lower caste, a lower caste religion, the religion of the barbarians, the religion of the irrationals, the religion of the backwards, because these were your choices. Your children will experience bullying and see nothing in their parents, in their spaces, in their communities, or in their societies to inspire strength, resistance, or resilience.


What the vast majority will do is respond to this bigotry and prejudice by abandoning everything that reminds them of their feeling of degradation and lowliness. Meaning, they will abandon their Islam and their Islamic identity. They will be like the vast majority of our children, who, when asked, will say, "My parents are Muslim." People like to belong to what gives them pride and gives them a sense of victory and because they saw none of that in you, rest assured that will be their response to the bigotry that they experience, because they never dare tell you.


They will say: “I have always been made to feel that Muhammad stands for backwardness and primitiveness. I do not understand. What you seem to care about is a bunch of jargon that does not inspire anything in me. You do not stand for any of the causes that the victorious, proud people stand for. Since you and your generation are incomprehensible to me, I will leave you, your religion, your culture and everything that reminds me of you behind. Since I have learned that even honesty is not prized among you as Muslims, I will not be honest with you about my rebellion. When I am with you, I will be politely quiet. I will not say things that hurt your feelings behind your back. When I am in college, when I am in law school, when I am in medical school, I will tell my friends what I really feel. That is, ‘My parents are Muslim. But me, I am not sure.’”


It is all interconnected because we Muslims know of the common genocide in India, and not one Muslim country dares to do with India what the Western world has done with Russia. Not one door has been shut to Modi. Since we Muslims do not even care to inconvenience ourselves about the Muslim women who are sexually assaulted and raped in India, or the Muslims who are lynched and killed in India.


We Muslims hardly bother ourselves with the violations against the Aqsa Mosque, we do not bother organizing even a demonstration protesting the violations against Aqsa Mosque. The height of our Ramadan is following the likes of the people that you know and I know. You think this is all about you, but it is not. This is precisely why your children feel bullied and they do not feel empowered enough to do anything about their bullying - because YOU were bullied throughout your life with colonialism and by colonialism. You never did anything about it. While you might not have had the guts to rebel against your faith, I assure you, THEY will have the guts to rebel against their faith. Just keep it up.


As God warns us in the Qur’an, when you surrender yourself to prejudice in this way, you surrender to bigotry, to prejudice, to racism, and to ugliness. You surrender everything and nothing remains. All God wants from you is an honest and truthful Shahada, where you commit yourself to caring about what is right and condemning what is wrong in the choices you make, from the smallest choice to the biggest choice.

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