Obviously, there can be no other subject. We are living through a truly historic moment. We are witnessing a genocide unfold before our very eyes. We are witnessing a medieval-like assault on a besieged people who have been repeatedly assaulted, time and time again. We are witnessing an actual ethnic cleansing, the displacement of an entire population. This time, however, it is in our so-called “post-colonial age,” and the countries blessing and sponsoring the ethnic cleansing are the same countries that feel superior to other cultures and races purportedly because of the strides they made in promoting the ideology of human rights, humanism, and humanitarianism.
Whether we are aware of it or not, our intellects seamlessly absorb the traces of history. We are the by-products of the generations that precede us. Whether we know it or not, it is as if history is molded into our very consciousness, our very cellular structure. If you were born a Muslim, and if you come from a Muslim-majority country, the sense of humiliation, powerlessness, and sheer frustration that you feel, whether you are aware of this or not, is born out of the fact that we have witnessed for generations the same, repeated dynamic. It has become as if encoded in our very cellular structure, in the blood that flows through our veins.
The dynamic is one in which Western colonial powers adopt a triumphalist discourse in which humanitarian ideals are cited as evidence, on the one hand, of the superiority of the Western ethical consciousness and, on the other hand, of the inferiority of Muslim consciousness. We saw this throughout the long history of colonialism. Whether British or French colonialism, it really does not matter. The colonial dynamic is the same. The colonial power assumes a narrative in which the colonized are consistently shamed for their lack of understanding of what we today call “liberal values.” In the colonial age, they were called “civilizational values.” But, at the same time, whenever the colonizer encountered an act of resistance by the colonized that hurt and offended the colonizer, the colonizer unleashed a tirade of violence that had no relationship whatsoever to the humanitarian ideals that the colonizer had preached to the colonized. And the violence that was unleashed by the colonizer, by the White man, by Western powers, time and again, was of genocidal proportions. You will hardly find a Muslim country that has not experienced this dynamic in relation to the West at some point in its history.
We are the repositories of these memories. We are the repositories of this history. Deep within the Muslim soul, then, the sense of tragic injustice feels incredibly familiar. It is as if our very psyches are saying, "We have been here before. We have been here many times." The remarkable thing about racist discourse, racist dynamics,and settler colonialism is that it is a narrative communicated in so many different ways but it always says the same thing, over and over.
That narrative is, “I, the colonizer, am a sophisticated, layered, and complicated entity. The only way you can deal with me is by being fully cognizant of all the ways that I am layered. You, on the other hand, you Muslim, Arab, African, Palestinian, are a rather flat reality. I will deal with you, for the most part, by ignoring all the ways you are nuanced and layered. I deal with you through sweeping generalizations. I deal with you through simplistic litmus tests that either categorize you as a “good” guy or a “bad” guy. Beyond that, I will not allow you to detain me or engage my attention too much. I will ignore your history, including any nuanced claims as to your land, your resources, and your right-to-self determination. I will largely ignore everything that makes you into a layered, complicated, and cultured human being. I ignore your poetry, music, and art. I ignore your emotions and feelings. I ignore your hopes and aspirations. You are only relevant to me to the extent that you disrupt my life. In fact, I expect from you that you do not bother me with your memory. I have neither time nor patience for your tragedies and memories of disempowerment and dehumanization. That does not affect how I relate to you.”
So Palestinians, for instance, if they want to deal with Israelis, must be very cognizant of the trauma of the Holocaust. Not only that, but they must be nuanced enough to differentiate between Israelis who came from Iraq, Yemen, Abyssinia, Russia, and Israelis who are the descendants of Holocaust survivors. “You must be fully cognizant of my complex theology and complex history, and it is unforgivable for you to make generalizations about me.”
Think, for instance, of how the entire Western world expects the other to be fully aware of the myriad ways that the attack on Israel invoked the memory of all the terrorist attacks the West has endured, including 9/11. The West is telling Gaza, “If you want to understand my response, you must understand my experience with 9/11, and my fears and anxieties after 9/11.” On the other hand, when we deal with Palestinian consciousness, we expect the Palestinian to present him or herself without even a memory of a massacre that took place as recently as 2018, in the Great March of Return, when peaceful demonstrators were shot dead, maimed, or paralyzed. We talk and deal with the Palestinian on the assumption that that is irrelevant. The countless violations of the sanctity of the al-Aqsa Mosque are irrelevant. The fact that Israelis regularly shoot to kill Palestinians, and have done so every single week since the start of 2023, without any investigation, is irrelevant. Palestinians are simply expected to have a blank memory, with no memories of tragedy, suffering, and trauma.
In other words, their history is entirely irrelevant. This is precisely why, the minute the colonizer deals with the colonized, the very first question the colonizer asks is, “Do you condemn the attacks on me?” For that allows me, the colonizer, to file you away. It allows me to categorize you as either a “good” guy or a “bad” guy. But it is not that if I categorize you as a “good” guy, I will then recognize your history, your just claims, your rights, or do anything. No. When I categorize you as a “good” guy, I simply allow you to exist. That is all. Nothing more. I simply do not seek to put you in prison, lock you up in Guantanamo, have you disappear in a black site, or freeze your assets. If I categorize you as a “good” guy, you are effectively the compliant house slave. You do not make waves. You do what you are told. You serve. It is my economy, my wellbeing, and my happiness that is always the issue. For the most part, what I want from you, as a “good” guy, is not to interfere.
If you are a “bad” guy, however, then necropolitics sets in. You are already dead. This is precisely like how Israeli politicians have spoken about Gazans or Hamas. Part of the colonial dynamic is to use language that acts as a panhandle for generalizations about the population of the colonized. Today, “Hamas” is basically a code word for every Palestinian who does not submit in the same way that, once upon a time, expressions like “Muslim fanatic" were once a code word for every Arab who was not willing to accept French or British colonialism. The idea of the “fanatic” or “militant” was always a code word to refer to those who still had some desire to resist within them.
The deep sense of hurt, humiliation, and pain is because, intuitively, Muslims know all this. In fact, for a Muslim to deny any of this takes additional effort and a significant amount of cognitive dissonance. We all are familiar with the bitter taste of what happens when the colonizer is challenged or defied. In response to an Iraqi rebellion, for example, Winston Churchill, the hero of World War II, ordered British planes in 1938 to gas Iraqi demonstrators and rebels who were demanding Iraqi independence. They were gassed to death. Or think of the democratic revolution in Syria. Think of how viciously it was repressed, and how many lives were destroyed to repress the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people in the 1930s. It has been the same thing with every attempt by the Palestinian people to object to the way the British gave away their lands. There was, indeed, a Palestinian United Nations delegation that repeatedly tried to remind the United Nations from 1945 to 1948 that President Woodrow Wilson had just stated the Woodrow Wilson points of self-determination. The delegation declared, “We, the representatives of Palestine, have a right to self-determination like all member states, and indeed the very foundation of this new U.N. system is premised on ending colonialism. How, then, can it be possible that before you end colonialism in Palestine, your parting gift is to put an end to historical Palestine as it has existed for centuries?” It is a familiar history ingrained in the very molecular structure of Muslims who have grown up as African, Asian, Arab, and, of course, Palestinian.
“But don't you know that Hamas attacked people who were just listening to music and dancing? Don't you know that Hamas attacked civilians and children, killing and pillaging? How can you not be outraged and not immediately condemn?" I know that many people will ask this. They do not understand that part of what has been encoded within us, as a colonized people, is the distrust of the colonial narrative. Over and over again, history teaches us that the colonizer sees the colonized as presumptively barbarian, as a person devoid of morals and ethics. Time and time again, the colonizer tells narratives about the colonized that portray the colonized as absolutely inhumane and hardly human. We have seen this throughout the history of colonialism in the Middle East and Africa. We have even seen it in the United States, in the demonization of and narratives of barbarism around the Native Americans. We have heard the Israeli politician who referred to the Palestinians as “human animals.” I have heard the same narrative many times from many Israeli politicians. Time and again, when we go back and look at the claims made by the colonizer, we find the claims are unfounded or grossly exaggerated.
Obviously, without a shadow of doubt, if people who were enjoying themselves dancing were suddenly massacred, if babies were killed and women were raped, I have no reservations about standing up and praying to God, with all my heart, to curse any Muslim who would commit such acts. Without a shadow of a doubt, I would put them against who I believe is a far more powerful judge than any human, God.
But even more than that, what do civilized people do when they have claims about atrocities? They go to a civilized institution, like the International Criminal Court (ICC), and give the ICC full access to investigate and verify. They do not believe politicians like Joe Biden, who claimed to have seen evidence of beheaded babies. They do not believe a politician like Benjamin Netanyahu who, before this happened, every Israeli recognized to be a liar. He is sometimes described as a “pathological” liar in Israeli media, in fact, and is thoroughly corrupt. That is not enough. If the dynamic was not between the colonizer and the colonized, we would invite Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the ICC to investigate, and any member of either the Israeli military or Hamas who has murdered, raped, or committed a war crime or a crime against humanity would be considered a criminal. We would support and fund a body that vigilantly seeks to arrest, prosecute, and punish.
What, then, is the problem? In 2007, the Palestinian Authority signed the Rome Statute that empowers the ICC to investigate and bring charges. Israel refused to sign the Rome Statute. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly investigated atrocities by both the Israelis and Hamas, and every time Human Rights Watch or Amnesty comes out with a report, Israel waives it away as “antisemitic.” I can tell you, however, that many of the folks who work on these reports in Human Rights Watch are not only Jewish, but even loyal Zionists as well. Not only that, but since the Palestinian Authority signed the Rome Statute, the United States and Israel has made sure that the ICC cannot make one step forward in its investigation of alleged war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas.
So we go back to the same paradigm, time and again. The colonizer says, "You are a barbarian." The accused barbarian says, "Not true. I am a layered human being. I am not out to just kill and maim. I have legitimate causes. I have legitimate rights." The colonizer says, "No, you are nothing but a barbarian" or, in our language today, a “terrorist.” No legitimate claims. No rights. No history. No nature. No art. Nothing. “You are but a barbarian, and it is my word or nothing,” meaning, “I must be believed because I, the colonizer, am inherently more credible than you, the colonized, and any outside party.” The colonizer always wants to be the claimant, the plaintiff, the petitioner, and the judge at the same time.
Of course, the response of the U.S. has been typically colonial. The U.S. did not say, “We will make every effort to impartially investigate what happened. We will make every effort, once the facts are established, to prosecute people, and we will enforce the law against those responsible." The U.S. response was to give Israel a blank check to inflict as much suffering, mayhem, and destruction as Israel wants, for how dare the Palestinians say, “We have not given up”?
It is American Zionists, not even Israelis, who tend to be far more militant and radical than Israelis themselves. In my own dealings with them, I was repeatedly told that the “problem” with the Palestinians is that they do not realize that they have been defeated. They lost. They should just accept their defeat. Like the Germans and the Japanese in World War II, they should accept the terms of surrender. Every honest American Zionist knows exactly what I am talking about. They know that they have heard this in their synagogues and churches. They have heard this repeatedly on Israeli media. “Palestinians should accept whatever terms Israel gives them because they have been defeated just like Japan and Germany.” Of course, this ignores that the Germans surrendered but still have a country. It ignores that the Japanese surrendered but still have a country. That part is conveniently ignored.
The U.S. conveniently ignores that it agreed, against international law, for Israel to declare Jerusalem, which is occupied territory, its capital. I remember when this was done. I remember the extent to which the U.S. diplomats feared that the response would be something like what has actually happened. I remember when people in the U.S. State Department told me how worried they were. "With moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, Palestinians are going to lose their mind." Nevertheless, the U.S. did it.
Palestinians were told to sign the Oslo Accords, and look what happened to the person who signed the Oslo Accords. Arafat was told to lay down his weapons and trust the Israelis, and look what happened to Arafat. Look what happened to the Palestinian Authority, which was empowered to become a watchdog against its own people, a bunch of corrupt, inept politicians bribed in millions of dollars by the West, nothing more. In other words, like a typical colonial power, we want the corrupt colonized. We want a bureaucrat who is ready to sell his very soul. That is how we like our colonized people: corrupt, unethical, and without any sense of royalty, fidelity, principles, or cause.
Look up what we did when we first invaded Afghanistan. The first thing we did was look for corrupt allies. We sent CIA agents to find corrupt allies willing to accept money in return for betraying their own people. Imagine if an American did the same thing. Imagine if China invaded the U.S. and sent people with bags full of money to buy American loyalty. I am sure that Americans would not think twice about punishing every single person who accepted money from an occupying power as a traitor. But we did exactly this to the Afghans and Iraqis, just as Israelis do it to Palestinians. A “good” guy, then, is corrupt and accepts bribes. A “good” guy is a traitor to their own people. A “good” guy does not create problems for us.
But Palestinians have something far greater than either Hamas or the Palestinian Authority to worry about. What is that? Sheer survival. We ignore that even David Cameron, the former Prime Minister of Britain, Jimmy Carter, leave alone anyone in the South African church, including Desmond Tutu, have referred to Gaza as the biggest open-air prison in the world. Even before the onslaught happened, the unemployment rate in Gaza was 50%. Heroin addiction in Gaza is out of control because people have no prospects, no jobs, no hopes, no aspirations, no dreams. Even before this happened, 70% of the water in Gaza was not fit for human consumption. We conveniently ignore that Israel even calculates the amount of calories it allows into Gaza, keeping the food items entering into Gaza at subsistence level. No healthcare, no job prospects, no life. Simple subsistence while Israel, every week, kills and maims. On top of that, there is the constant humiliation as Muslims around the world are forced to watch, on live television, the repeated insults, transgressions, and violations against the al-Aqsa Mosque.
Again, the colonizer looks to the colonized, and says, "Don't you dare. Don't you dare do anything that we would deem barbaric. The most you are allowed to do is scream in frustration and agony.” Meanwhile, consider the same colonizing West that supposedly taught the world liberal values and human rights. France has suppressed those who want to demonstrate in support of the Palestinian cause. Germany has banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Britain is considering making it a crime to raise the Palestinian flag.
We all feel the tinge of humiliation, the sense of painful familiarity. Even if we cannot articulate it, our very spirits are saying, "We have been here before. We have been here many times. We have been here time and time again as our will, our self-determination, and our sovereignty are stripped from us. We have been here before when we are dumbed down and stereotyped. We have been here before when the ‘superior’ race, the race that dominates, is imbued with sophistication, nuance, retrospect, and morality, while we are treated with stereotyped simplicity and idiocy.” We have all been here before, and that is precisely why the genocide taking place in Gaza is killing every decent Muslim around the world.
As I have already said, and I will continue to say it, we see that same pattern. The powerful party has a narrative, and the powerful party says, “You either embrace my narrative and shape your positions on the basis of my narrative, or you are a ‘terrorist,’ ‘criminal,’ or subhuman.” When we, the colonized, attempt to return the gaze and say, "But how about my narrative? Is there any possibility, because my narrative clashes with much of your narrative, that we Could find some dynamic, some process in which I do not simply surrender to your narrative as you do not simply surrender to mine, like the ICC or NGOs like Human Rights Watch or Amnesty?" The response is always, "No. If you do not embrace my narrative, then you are a barbarian. You are an antisemite. You are a terrorist. You are ISIS.”
If I was an Israeli, I could not imagine a worse path to pursue than what is going on today. I say this sincerely. This is an Israeli government that, from day one, was seen as corrupt, racist, and supremacist. From day one, Smotrich and Ben Gvir have been aching to obliterate Palestinians. It is an Israeli government led by a politician who you would have to be quite disingenuous not to see as an opportunist, a liar, and an unethical human being. Suddenly, overnight, this same government is trusted in its narrative. Suddenly, people believe whatever it says? This government reminds me of the government responsible for Sabra and Shatila, and the truth about the massacre of Sabra and Shatila did not come out until long after Sharon was no longer in power. But the U.S. and, indeed, the entire world has told this government, “We will forget your racism and fanaticism. We will forget your dishonesty and corruption. We will trust you simply because you are the colonizer. We will believe your narrative. We will pretend you are not racist, supremacist, and corrupt."
That is why it hurts so deeply. It should not work this way. Every time the colonized tries to find some impartial source that speaks the truth, the colonizer simply says, "I do not recognize that source." I remember the Goldstone Report about Israel in Gaza. One hundred pages of fact-finding by a prominent international law professor. I remember the reaction of Israel was to describe it as “antisemitic nonsense." I remember Richard Falk, himself Jewish, the U.N. Special Rapporteur who documented the racist regime that rules over Palestinian lives. Again, the Israeli and American response was to say, "Richard Falk? He is a self-hating Jew. We do not recognize the narrative." James Dugard is a well respected and prominent professor of international law, whom I personally studied under at University of Pennsylvania. He was also a Special Rapporteur for the U.N. What was the response to James Dugard? “He is an antisemite, it does not count." So we remain trapped.
What this underscores for me is that Muslims have to wake up to the reality that, unfortunately, the colonial ego has never been able to let go of its colonial and supremacist premises and assumptions. The way that it sees the world is either, "You are subservient to me, or you are my enemy." We see this clearly when the U.S. gives Israel the green light to commit a genocide. We sent a warship to Israel to essentially tell other Muslims, "Do not even dare coming to the aid of your brothers and sisters in Gaza. If you dare, we will slaughter you. We are here to tell you we will pounce on you." No one points to the immorality of this. While the West is free to come to the aid of its brothers and sisters in Ukraine and Israel. And if you attack one member of NATO, of course, you have attacked all of NATO. It is inconceivable that anyone would commit an act of aggression against Britain, for example, without being fully cognizant that they would have to contend not just with Britain, but also the U.S. The West gets to act effectively as one soul. But the logic forced on Muslims is different, and the West sees us as Shi'a versus Sunni, Wahabi versus non-Wahabi, moderate versus fanatic. “We see you that way, so you will act that way.”
For this reason, any Muslim who accepts, internalizes and perpetuates this way of seeing Muslims, in my book, from now on until the day I leave this earth, is a traitor. I will meet any Muslim who speaks to me about the difference between Shia and Sunna as a contender and litigant in the Hereafter. I do not recognize you as anything but a traitor.
And I see any Muslim who recognizes the treacherous Muslim regimes of today as a traitor. Over two million people are being denied electricity, medicine, food, and water, and none of this would happen but for the treacherous government in Egypt that is fully cooperative with Israel and its blockade of Gaza, playing the role of the subservient errand boy. The U.S. has spent billions of dollars on the Egyptian military since Camp David. To what effect? Is it so that the Egyptian military will take a stand against the Israelis? Obviously not. The Egyptian military will use the weapons the U.S. supplies it with for one sole reason, namely, to oppress its own people. Since Camp David, the Egyptian military has used its arsenal only against Palestinians and Egyptians. Anyone who defends a regime like Sisi's regime, then, is neither my brother nor my sister. I will meet you as my opponent in the Hereafter.
The same for anyone who defends the treasonous regime of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, regimes that adopt the narrative of the colonizer without reserve, dismissing the narrative of the colonized. These regimes have internalized the colonial view that a “good” Muslim is a completely subservient Muslims, and a “bad” Muslim is a Muslim who is not completely subservient. Anyone, including Hamza Yusuf, Bin Bayyah, and all the people at Zaytuna College, defending the UAE is not my brother or sister, and I will meet you as my opponent in the Hereafter. Anyone who defends the regime in Saudi Arabia is not my brother or sister. Anyone who defends a regime that uses its unbelievable military arsenal to butcher civilians in Yemen by the thousands, and then sits on the sidelines watching their Muslim brothers and sisters in Gaza being exterminated, starved, and left with no food, is not my brother or sister. I will meet them as my opponent in the Hereafter.
I thank Israel for making things so clear. Muslims must wake up, read the reality, and see the extent to which Muslims are weak and subservient. But what is the secret for Muslim weakness and subservience? Why is it that Muslims do not matter? It is because the West does not deal with more than a billion Muslims in the world. The West deals with the rulers who claim to represent the more than 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. In other words, there are no Saudis, only the leader of Saudi Arabia. There are no Egyptians, only the President of Egypt. There are no Tunisians, only the ruler of Tunisia. There are no Moroccans, only the king of Morocco.
Wake up! It is not women showing their hair that have defeated us and brought us to our knees. It is not men wearing gold that have defeated us and brought us to our knees. It is not listening to music or women leading prayer that have brought us to our knees. What has brought us to our needs is authoritarianism, despotism, and the fact that these rulers do not have to be held accountable by their own people for their treacherous decisions, their immorality, and their betrayals! So any Muslim who does not condemn these authoritarian and despotic rulers, implicitly or explicitly, is not my brother or sister. They are, indeed, my opponent in the Hereafter.
You see, I learned well from my colonizer. I learned that my colonizer expects me to condemn something unethical and immoral if they, the colonizer, suffers from it. But if something unethical happens to me, the colonized, such as Israelis killing Palestinian civilians, children, or unarmed protestors, then my colonizer is not too bothered by that. And my colonizer is delighted if I am not too bothered too.
But I have learned that my colonizer is right about one thing. The unethical and immoral cannot be tolerated. So Muslims in this day and age who are able to witness, minute by minute, the extermination of their fellow Muslim brothers and sisters but still choose to talk about music, women's voices, or the hijab are, indeed, unethical and immoral. And in my chapter, I cancel them until the day of the Hereafter.