We have truisms, things that we say as Muslims that we have become so accustomed to. The problem with developing habits of familiarity and becoming accustomed to things is that human beings often become complacent in their habits. With complacency, there is also often the loss of meaning. We as Muslims have the Qur'an in our midst. By conviction, the Qur'an is God's revelation. It is God's testament to us. What God affirmatively chose to leave to us as a will and trust. We do not know God's will, nor do we know God’s intentionalities. We are not privy to God's mind, figuratively speaking. We are not privy to God's plans. The only thing we do have are God’s words, a will and trust in our midst.
How did God's words become so ineffective amongst the people of the book, Muslims, who are quintessentially the followers of that will and testament, of that book—the repository of God's living words amongst us? As we reflect upon the events of the week, if one has even the slightest substantive association with Islam, they would always assess what occurs in the world around them in light of God's will, testament and trust. At the very minimum, they would think in terms of this world through the lens of what God has entrusted us with: God's revelation, God's book.
Consider for instance, in Surah Al ‘Imran (verse 118), when God tells us, “You who believe. Do not take as your intimates – literally those that become the bearers of your desires or your will; those that you entrust with your affairs and life – those who are “outsiders.” “Outsiders” are people who do not share your value system or your priorities in life; people who do not have the same understanding as to what this life is about or what it should be about. Do not allow those that you trust and, in effect, those you surrender your affairs to, to be those who do not share your commitments, who do not share your relationship to your Maker, or who do not share your fidelity to your book, or supposed fidelity.
But what comes after that is that we are told: Those people that God tells us not to trust; to not to turn our affairs over to; to not to develop the type of relationship with them where they play a substantial role in who we are, what we do, how we think, or how we make decisions – because those folks who do not share your value system, “they deprecate you.” The word used in the Qur’an, khabaal, is not just physical harm, but also lunacy; idiocy; loss of meaning and loss of purpose. Khabaal is to think that you enjoy your full intellectual faculties but in reality, you are a dunce. An idiot. A moron. When you turn your affairs over to those people because you developed a relationship with them, your role - what you stand for and what you become - becomes something not just incoherent, but idiotic. Nonsensical. Silly. Stupid. In reality, those people do not wish you the best. They do not even wish you well. Their preferences in life are to see you lowly, defeated, broken and subjugated. What is the role of Qur'an in our lives in light of what transpires all around us in life?
This week, we have all heard about how the Israelis assassinated yet another Palestinian journalist. Her name was Shireen Abu Akleh. She was shot in the head, although she was clearly wearing the clothes indicating her as a member of the press. Regardless, they shot her in the head and killed her. The reality is that Shireen Abu Akleh is just one of 50 Palestinian journalists that have been killed by Israel since 2001. WIth every single killing, the Israeli government goes to deflection. “It is the Palestinians who shot the Palestinian.” From the time that they killed Mohammed al-Dura as he was right next to his father, using his dead father for cover, what did the Israelis say? “Oh, he was killed in a crossfire by Palestinian bullets.” Fifty Palestinian journalists since 2001.
Shireen Abu Akleh was an American citizen, but she is not the first and sadly will not be the last American citizen who met this fate. In the same way that the Israelis murdered a Palestinian journalist - an American citizen - this keeps with a long record of violations against journalists and human rights activists. The organization Reporters Without Borders issued a report that documents how 144 Palestinian journalists have been targeted, assaulted, beaten and wounded by Israel since 2018. Fifty killed since 2001; 144 wounded or assaulted since 2018 alone.
This is a pattern and practice: Rachel Corrie, the US citizen who was killed by Israel in 2003. Tom Hurndall, the British reporter who was shot and killed by Israelis as he was covering their operations against Palestinians. James Miller, another British national who was shot and killed by Israelis. Miller was a documentary filmmaker who was killed while trying to document Israeli aggressions and violations committed against Palestinians. Iain Hook, who used to work for the UN. He actually was an employee of the United Nations and a British citizen, and he was shot dead by the Israelis as he witnessed Israeli crimes being committed against Palestinian refugees. Iain Hook worked for UNRWA, the refugee agency in the United Nations that is concerned with Palestinian affairs. This list goes on and on.
Mind you, Saudi Arabia killed a journalist in the Saudi embassy in Turkey, Jamal Khashoggi. Although, unfortunately, Saudi Arabia got away with his murder, compare the reaction to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi by Saudis to the reaction of the world when Israel exterminates journalists, whether British, American, Palestinian, or whatever other nationality. Here is the true lunacy. When Saudi Arabia killed Jamal Khashoggi, who went to bat for the crown prince of Saudi Arabia? Who went on a crusade to make sure that MBS was not replaced, or that he had to pay any consequences? Israel was quite open about its support of MBS and its insistence that, in the larger scheme of things, we should not alienate MBS just for a lousy Saudi journalist. Israel was extremely active in basically saying to American politicians, "This should not matter. When a Muslim kills another Muslim, it should not matter to us."
When there was a coup in Egypt and the Egyptian military committed an urban massacre in the full view of the world, with hundreds of people murdered, who was lobbying European countries and the American government to quickly forgive the Egyptian military for its slaughter? Who was defending President Sisi of Egypt in the hallways of DC? Of course, it was Israel. Yet again, Eyal Hulata, the well-known right-winger who is part of the Israeli national security apparatus, makes rounds in the US and Europe to tell the United States and Europe to stop pressuring Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt on human rights issues, staunchly arguing that al-Sisi is a good man despite arresting, torturing and killing tons of Muslims. Despite the abysmal human rights record, who is out there? Most recently, Eyal Hulata. Just one episode in a long series of episodes since the coup where Israel is at the forefront of defending Muslim tyrants, arguing that Muslims do not need democracy or human rights, and that the West should embrace MBZ, MBS, and al-Sisi.
Here is the thing: Is it that we should embrace them despite their genocidal psychopathy, or because of their genocidal psychopathy? I submit to you that it is because. There was a Harvard professor who, some years ago, wrote a shameful article in The New Republic where he said Muslims' conception of life is so different from non-Muslims. The proof is in how they murder each other, and that is precisely why we should not worry about Muslims having the same human and constitutional rights as other human beings. How do we end up with that image? Because we have leaders like MBZ, MBS and al-Sisi, who have absolutely no regard for human rights or particularly Muslim rights, because they might respect a Christian or Jew but not a Muslim. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will honor the Israelis that come to visit, they are untouchable. He will honor the American non-Muslims who come to visit, they are untouchable. But for al-Sisi, MBZ and MBS, Muslim lives are cheap.
The amazing thing is that this is precisely why Israel can kill Shireen Abu Akleh and kill 50 other Palestinian journalists since 2001, and know that this is part of the universe that they engineered. Because the Saudis can murder Khashoggi and there can be no consequences. It is part of the world that they created. They can murder Shireen Abu Akleh and there be no consequences. Israel's national security advisor goes on a mission to defend al-Sisi of Egypt, to insist that the West should stop harassing al-Sisi about his human rights violations. Fanatically arguing in Congress, in Downing Street, everywhere he goes that Egyptians do not need democracy. That Egyptians cannot handle democracy, they need Sisi. They need someone who throws them in prison, tortures them, and murders them.
Do you want to see how your Lord told us about all of this and spoke to us? As has been reported now by The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and every respectable newspaper, MBS and the Saudi government have a very close relationship with Jared Kushner, one that has earned Jared Kushner millions and millions of dollars. Just recently, Saudi Arabia gave Jared Kushner five billion dollars to invest in his business. Kushner then asked Saudi Arabia if the majority of this money can be invested in Israel. At a time where people of conscience are advocating divestment from an apartheid state, Jared Kushner is using Saudi money to invest in Israel and the Saudis gave their approval.
Does it matter that Jared Kushner is married to Trump's daughter? Does it matter that Trump has rode freely to the presidency on an Islamophobic Trump card? Does it matter that Trump has the infamy of instituting the first Muslim ban in the United States? Does it matter that Trump is deeply in bed with all the big Islamophobes in the world? Does it matter that Jared Kushner is from the very school of thought that sees Muslims as lowly animals who should be happy with material things, and should not aspire to human values like democracy, human rights, civil rights and dignity? Does any of that matter? Obviously not. The Israelis can annex Al-Quds, they can move the embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied territory in Al-Quds, they can violate the Aqsa Mosque through Ramadan time and time again. What is their punishment? Their punishment is major financial investments from MBZ in the Emirates and from MBS in Saudi Arabia.
That is precisely why they can kill Shireen Abu Akleh and know that there are no consequences. That is precisely why God tells us to beware when we associate ourselves with those who degrade and deprecate you to the point where you become like mindless lunatics. How does the world look at the likes of MBS, MBZ or al-Sisi of Egypt? Exactly that, like mindless lunatics. Exactly as the Qur'an tells us.”When they speak, they attack your Prophet. They attack your religion. They attack your faith. They deprecate everything that you are. And the hate that they have for you in their hearts is even bigger.”
But what do we do with a people who pretend to care about their God? Who have sold everything, betrayed everything, abandoned everything? What do you do? They violate the sanctity of the Aqsa Mosque. It doesn’t matter. They kill whoever they want. It doesn’t matter. They annex whatever they annex. It doesn’t matter. They strike us, spit on us, insult us, and yet we keep coming back like a lowly dog begging for love. “Accept us, please. Have us, please. Take our money, please. Take our land, please. Do whatever you want to us, please. Just allow us a space on your table.”
Khabaal…You become worthless things because of your relationship to these people. You develop a close and intimate relationship with Islamophobes who hate Islam, to the extent that they become your defenders and protectors. Sisi does not care about what the Egyptian people think of him, he cares only about what Israel and America think of him. One hundred million Egyptians all have absolutely no value. In the same way that all the Saudi citizenry have absolutely no value. What matters is what Kushner, his father-in-law and Ivanka think or feel. Kill a million Muslims, but do not bother Jared for a single moment. Exterminate all the Muslims you want, but do not hurt the feelings of Ivanka for one second.
The disaster is that this basic awareness is not common or present among Muslims. We still have plenty of Muslims who think Sisi is only an Egyptian problem. They do not understand how Islamophobia works. They do not understand how the Qur'an works. How we are a single Ummah. How when Muslims are devalued and made worthless in China, in Burma, in Saudi and in Egypt, I am made worthless. I, as a Muslim living in America and working in a law school, in turn become worthless. They do not understand how khabaala works.
Egypt, a major Muslim country that played a central role throughout Muslim history; Saudi Arabia, the custodian of the two holy sites; The Emirates with all its wealth. When the fate of the historical Muslim Ummah is in the hands of those who think of you as worthless things, as beings inferior to them; in the hands of those who think human rights, civil rights and democracy are good for them, but for the rest of us: “You are savages.” As the journalist who covered the Ukrainian invasion said, "This is not Iraq or Syria, these [the Ukranians] are civilized people."
When Muslims all over the world witness Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American citizen, assassinated in the full view of the world and then you hear a Muslim point out that Shireen Abu Akleh was a Christian and ask, “Can we pray for her?” That is your issue?! Instead of understanding why it is that the Israelis can shoot Shireen Abu Akleh in the full view of the world? Why it is that the Israelis can silence free speech and the only people who are seen as a hindrance to free speech in the world are Muslims? Why is it that the Israelis can make the policy of silencing and exterminating an indigenous native population, and get away with it? No one, not even the most intelligent intellectuals that inhabit our law schools, think tanks and schools of public policy and schools of international relations, all of these people fail to see the obvious. With all of what you say about Islam and freedom of speech, you ignore the elephant in the room - how, for decades, the Israelis have perfected a policy of muting and silencing any voices they desire.
Why have they killed all these American and British citizens? Why do they target journalists? Why did they target Shireen Abu Akleh? It is obvious: Because they want to send a message. This is a dangerous assignment. If you are going to report on the Palestinian conflict from an Israeli side embedded with Israeli forces, representing the Israeli persceptive, you are safe. But if you are going to be like Shireen Abu Akleh or any of these other journalists that I named, where you refuse to be embedded with Israeli forces and you say, "I will go out there and be independent. I will report from whatever side I see as fair and professional," then that is a very dangerous assignment. That is precisely why, today, very few journalists dare do what Shireen Abu Akleh did. This is precisely why the vast majority of journalists who go to Palestine are embedded with the Israeli forces. Journalists have gotten the message very clear: You either report the Israeli perspective or you risk grave danger to yourself. That is precisely why all the reporting from Washington DC to the British papers are embedded with the Israeli forces. They are not embedded with Palestinians, or even independent. They are embedded with Israelis. Shireen Abu Akleh had become a rare breed.
Is this freedom of speech? Obviously not. But why can they get away with it? Because of the khabaal factor, just as God warned us. They can do whatever they want to a Muslim or, in this case, what is symbolically part of a Muslim cause. An American Christian Palestinian who reported on the truth. Because she reported on the truth, she became of a Muslim value and a Muslim morality. They can kill her and know that there will be no consequences. In the same way that Sisi of Egypt has learned he can slaughter as many Egyptians as he wants. As long as you have the Israelis as your friends, you are fine. MBS got the same point. You can kill, execute, murder, whoever you want, as long as you have the Israelis, neo-cons and Islamophobes as your friends. Same thing for Bahrain. Same thing for the Emirates. And now I read that next on this line might be Indonesia. Israel is talking about Indonesia investing in Israel. Intimacy with “outsiders” will turn you into dunces. Lunatics. Entities that lack any dignity or any respect.
A British journalist named Peter Oborne recently wrote a book, “The Fate of Abraham,” In this book, Oborne, among other things, documents how the emergence of a right-wing think tank in Britain changed British policy towards its own Muslim citizens and how the language of "we are targeting Islamists and political Islam" became a trope for violating the civil rights of Muslims throughout Britain – and how that, in turn, also became the politics of language that is played around Muslims all over Europe. “We are not targeting Muslims, we are targeting Islamists. We are targeting political Islam.”
What Peter Oborne does not talk about is how the infection of thinking, “We do not have a problem with Islam, we have a problem with political Islam,” spread to Muslims themselves. What Peter Oborne doesn't realize... Although his book is wonderful, what Peter Oborne does not realize is that the potency of a concept developed by ideologues became intellectualized by Muslims so that they can kill their own faith. What he does not realize is how they can kill Khashoggi and if anyone opens their mouth, they say, "That is political Islam, do not criticize." They can kill Shireen Abu Akleh and if any Muslim wants to object, they can just say, "You cannot, that is political Islam." They can invest billions of dollars in the apartheid state of Israel and if anyone tries to protest, "That is political Islam." If you ask, "How can it be that people of conscience called for divestment from Israel and you Saudis, the custodian of the two holy sites, are investing billions of dollars in Israel?” and they answer, "That is political Islam." If you say, "How can you, the custodian of the two holy sites, have such an intimate, chummy relationship with the pioneers of Islamophobia in the world?" they will respond, "That is political Islam."
You see what the extent of the lunacy is? When God told us, “Be careful because if you lose your relationship with my book and you get your value systems, your epistemology and your awareness of the world from elsewhere other than this book, you will become like dunces, idiots and lunatics in this world. No one will respect you. No one will have any regard for you.” Do you think the Israelis respect the murderous, genocidal Sisi? Not for a second. Yes, they defend him and they think he is good enough for Egyptians, but a Jewish Sisi or an Israeli Sisi would be locked up in prison in a second. An Israeli MBS would be locked up in prison in a second. But for Muslims? “You are barbarians. You are good enough for your own people, for barbarians like you, but for us? No!”
This is precisely what racism is. You see, the murder of the American Christian Shireen Abu Akleh is an act of racism. It is part of the paradigm of taking outsiders as your intimates. “We can spit on your holy sites. We can violate your holy sites throughout Ramadan. Spit on them. Degrade them. Deprecate them. And murder your bearers of truth and know that you are lunatics. You will not have the wherewithal to even coordinate an appropriate response. You are going to protest. You are going to promise that you want to take it to the International Criminal Court of Justice. Then, we will do an internal investigation and whitewash the whole matter and nothing will happen.”
Why? And here is the final big point. “Because we, the Islamophobes, the Zionists, are willing to sacrifice for our cause. You Muslims are willing to simply pontificate and talk about your causes. We raised $20 million to support pro-Israeli Democrats in one night, while you talk about whether praying for Shireen Abu Akleh because she is Christian is halal or not. We will build societies that are very technologically advanced, that explore the issues of civil rights and human rights for us and people like us. Meanwhile, you will be concerned about whether you can bury someone wearing nail polish or not.” Again, in the words of God, “You are lunatics. We are rational people. We treat you like you deserve to be treated, as lunatics.” In other words, we are barbarians while they are the civilized people.
We inevitably get these young Muslims who say, "Come on, why are you telling us all of this? What can we do about it?" This is part of how they made you a lunatic. A khabaal. A dunce. When we see no value in intellectual understanding, that is part of the paradigm of khabaal. When we understand why Shireen Abu Akleh is a Muslim issue. An Islamic issue. When you understand why every Muslim this jum'ua should be talking about the assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh. When we understand why every Muslim at every khutbah around the world should be talking about the assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh in connection with the continued Israeli violations against the Aqsa Mosque. In connection with the two billion dollar investment by MBS through Jared Kushner in Israel. In connection with the genocide against Muslims in China and in Burma. Then we realize that we as Muslims finally might be emerging out of the idiocy stage in our existence.
But as long as, after the fact, it is a single jum'ua, one jum'a... and I bet it is a handful of jum'as around the world and probably the only jum'a in the United States... that will talk about the assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh in context, in relation, to the Jared Kushner investment of Saudi money in Israel, in relation to the violating of the sanctity of the Aqsa Mosque, that's precisely... We are the khabaal of the world. We are the lunatics of the world. We are the dunces of the world. Because awareness is the first step towards the construction of a dignified identity. Without awareness, there are no further steps.