Rethinking and Reimagining Dignity for 1/4 of the Population

Ramadan is at our doorsteps. I believe Ramadan will begin on Monday. There is no way we can receive this Ramadan without a deep sense of sadness in our hearts as we witness the ongoing genocide in Gaza, from children dying of malnutrition to adults starving to death. Dying from starvation is one of the cruelest ways to die. It is agonizingly painful, and we are already seeing pictures of severely emaciated children, pictures of flesh hanging onto the bare bones of children in Gaza. It is very much reminiscent of the pictures of the Holocaust. It is a safe estimate that hundreds of children are dying every day in Gaza from starvation, but the Western world, the world that controls this globe, continues to be not only oblivious but directly complicit.


I am going to talk about a number of programs and media outlets that speak the truth about Gaza. Before that, however, I am reminded of God's revelation. God speaks about those who have lost sight of the difference between what is moral and immoral, ethical and unethical; those who do evil and imagine this evil to be good (Q 35:8). The verse goes on to console the Prophet by telling him to not let sorrow overtake him (Q 35:8). Often, when dealing with tragedy, if we are not conscientious in reflecting upon tragedy, then we may be infected by truly a pernicious moral disease. This is the conviction that perhaps, because the world is so messed up, it does not make a difference whether we recognize what is good and differentiate what is good from what is not good, what is moral from immoral, what is ethical from unethical.


The nature of falsehood is anchored on self-deception. We see a world that, since World War II, has claimed to anchor its culture and civilization on the principles of human rights. We see a world that claims to anchor its civilization on the idea that there are peremptory norms in human order and peremptory prohibitions that are so impermissible, so unacceptable, that no one in our world order may tolerate such practices. These peremptory norms or grundnorms—what is referred to in international law as jus cogens—include the rules of jus in bello, or the way to conduct wars according to the Geneva Conventions. Since World War II, Western civilization has repeatedly claimed that the rules enshrined in the Geneva Conventions are inviolable, near sacred principles, and that violating such rules renders a person a war criminal or a criminal against humanity. 


Among those prohibitions is that the commission of genocide is a crime against humanity, and that anyone supporting, participating, or in any way aiding a genocide is also a criminal against humanity. Another prohibition that falls in the same category is the prohibition against slavery, the oppression of people, and the denial of a people’s right to self-determination. All these are lofty principles that have a long intellectual and philosophical history, but there is no way around the fact that the factory, the main place for the birth of these ideas in our modern world, is what we today call the “Western world.” These ideas existed in the pre-modern world, of course, and we find vestiges and roots for these ideas in many cultures and normative systems in history. But the act of turning such ideas into a philosophy, a system, and a civilization took place post-World War II with the dawn of a new age that claimed the end of colonialism and imperialism, and that heralded a new age of self-determination and basic fundamental human rights guaranteed to all. 


What makes Gaza special is that the United States, perhaps the main country that spearheaded these ideas, is fully complicit in the genocide. What makes Gaza special is that Western powers like Britain that are the birthplace of the ideas of jus cogens and the philosophy of peremptory norms are fully complicit in the genocide that has been taking place since October 7th.


The evidence is overwhelming. It was not long ago that Israel committed what is known as the “Flour Massacre.” Israeli soldiers shot, killed, and drove tanks over the bodies of hungry Palestinians who were trying to get aid. I ask everyone to look up Abby Martin, specifically her program called the Empire Files. Abby Martin interviewed an American-Palestinian doctor who worked in Al-Nasr hospital, the second-largest hospital in Gaza. Doctors explained in detail how they operated on patients on the floor, without painkillers, and how they were unable to help Palestinians with chronic conditions, which led to their deaths. The doctor testified in detail to Abby Martin about how newborns that needed medical help died as Palestinian doctors were entirely helpless. He testifies as to patients that came with gross burns that the doctors were unable to do anything about. He describes how Palestinians came to the hospitals, their bodies covered in shrapnel, and again, doctors were unable to help them, so these Palestinians died in great agony. He describes how children were emaciated, and how the doctors helping the patients were themselves hungry every day. The doctors themselves were worried about their family members and children chasing after convoys whenever there would be a rumor that a convoy got through. The doctor also testifies that, because he is an American citizen, he was able to cross through Rafah to the Egyptian side, and he saw long lines of aid. Everything the Palestinians needed to survive was on trucks stuck at the Egyptian border. He testifies how both Egyptians and Israelis are preventing the aid from getting into Gaza, and how, because of Israeli targeting of aid convoys, Palestinians are forced to unload the aid from the trucks that do get through and carry the aid on things like donkeys.


The testimony is frightening and compelling, because he also testifies how Israeli tanks surrounded Al-Nasr Hospital; how he was one of the few doctors that managed to escape from the hospital; how Israeli forces abducted 70 Palestinian medical personnel and led them somewhere unknown. He also talks about how a Palestinian doctor who was abducted from Al-Shifa Hospital and then later released showed up with severe signs of torture and two broken arms. Eventually, Israel bombed Al-Nasr Hospital. Eventually, a massacre was committed in Al-Nasr hospital, and the U.S. and Britain are fully complicit. Forget about grundnorms. Forget about peremptory norms. Forget about jus cogens. Forget about international treaties and instruments. The U.S. and other Western powers, the birthplace of these intellectual ideas, are fully complicit, because criminal complicity occurs when you have direct knowledge of the criminal act and you continue to aid the act despite your knowledge. Everyone knows this is criminal law 101.


If you know a crime is occurring and aid in the commission of that crime, then you are complicit. It becomes a criminal conspiracy. Alongside Abby Martin, there is another program I want to mention. Richard Medhurst has published a report showing numerous Israeli soldiers entering Palestinian homes joking and laughing as they show Palestinian toys. There is even a picture of an Israeli soldier sleeping in a crib in a Palestinian home, mocking the lives of Palestinian children, mocking the idea that Palestinian children have toys and are entitled to be children. It is a bizarre fascination. 


There is also a bizarre fascination among Israeli soldiers with the undergarments of Palestinian women, including lingerie. They dig up lingerie and other undergarments and are fond of taking pictures showing off the lingerie of Palestinian women. It is a deeply sexist act. We know the hidden subtext. We know how these Israeli soldiers are going to treat Palestinian women if they meet them. We know the war crimes that would be committed. We know the sexual violations that are being justified and accepted in a genocidal culture. Yet the West is complicit. No women's rights organization have spoken up and said, "How dare you." No one reminded these soldiers of what the Geneva Convention said about looting. No one reminded these soldiers about what the Women's Convention says about degrading mindsets that demean and devalue women. The very forces in our world that spearheaded the idea of sexual rights and rights to sexual choice are criminally silent as Israeli soldiers flaunt the extent to which they put no value on the rights of Palestinian women, their bodies and their privacy, let alone their self-determination. 


There is a CNN report about starvation in Gaza. One of the best journalists around, CJ Werleman, has also covered for us how Netanyahu, amid this genocide, has invented an entirely fabricated story that blames Palestinians for the Holocaust. According to Netanyahu, Hitler did not want to exterminate Palestinians—although he said it in Mein Kampf—but was only thinking of expelling Jews, until the Palestinian, Haj Husseini, told Hitler, "If you expel the Jews, there will be trouble for you down the line." So it was apparently Haj Husseini who convinced Hitler to exterminate Jews. It was apparently Haj Husseini who created the Holocaust. Netanyahu can promote an entirely fabricated narrative like this with no response or reaction, not even among distinguished historians of the Holocaust. Academia is silent. Human rights organizations in Europe and the U.S. are largely silent. Western governments, of course, are also silent, although they fully know that this discourse is being used to justify a genocide.


In the midst of all of this, CJ Werleman talks about an Israeli song that is being taught to Israeli children. This song openly calls for the extermination of the Palestinian people. CJ Werleman is prohibited by YouTube from playing the song—that is an indication of the song’s lyrics. The problem is not just that Israelis are teaching their children a genocidal song. The problem is that the song exposes the Israeli mindset to the world—the mindset of starvation and genocide— and the complicity of Western powers: the betrayal of human rights ideals; the betrayal of the ideas of humanitarian law; the betrayal of all basic and fundamental ethics.


I then come back to the most painful reality of all. As we prepare to meet this Ramadan, to figure out our relationship to God this Ramadan, to figure out what we want to tell God this Ramadan, how we want to pray, and how we want to worship, I then realize the most painful reality of all.


Muslims are a quarter of the world's population. There are 2 billion Muslims in the world. The genocide unfolds, but the reality is that Turkey and the UAE are two of the largest trade partners to Israel. Why has Turkey not cut relations with Israel? Why has the UAE not cut relations with Israel? Why has Egypt not cut relations with Israel? Why does Saudi Arabia allow its territory to be used to get supplies and merchandise through to Israel? Why does Jordan allow it? The truth is that 2 billion Muslims completely lack a single word: ‘izzah (dignity). What did Islam give its adherents? What was the fire of Islam to humanity? The fire of Islam to humanity was the single word ‘izzah: dignity, honor, and a sense of self-worth. 


In Surah Fatir, God warns us about those who do bad, who are part of an evil enterprise, but who can no longer see that what they do is evil (Q 35:8). Think of everyone who continues to see no problem with the UAE government and its role in this genocide. If you continue supplying a genocidal force with resources, then you are part of the genocide. The very idea of jus cogens is that whoever commits these crimes becomes an enemy of humankind, and that enemy of humankind becomes a pariah. You do not deal with them. You do not talk with them. You do not visit them. You do not give them comfort. Israel is committing a genocide, the West is complicit in this genocide, and the UAE gives quarter to the Israelis despite the genocide. Saudi Arabia gives quarter to the Israelis. Egypt gives quarter to the Israelis. Turkey gives quarter to the Israelis. Any Muslim who does not see a problem with other Muslims giving quarter to the Israelis despite the genocide are exactly like those whom Surah Fatir is talking about.


Those deeds are deeds of evil (Q 35:8), and yet somehow they become oblivious to this evil. In the very same surah, God tells us the heart of the problem. The heart of the problem is this: where do you find your ‘izzah? What is the source of your honor and dignity? God tells us that if you want ‘izzah, then find it with God and none other than God (Q 35:10). Does God not remind us not to take the unbelievers as our allies instead of believers (Q 3:28)]? How about those who find their honor, dignity, and sense of worth in allying themselves with disbelievers against their fellow Muslims?


God asks these people rhetorically, "Do you think this is where your ‘izzah is? If so, if you think that your sense of dignity, honor, well-being, goodness, morality, and ethics comes by allying yourselves to the Israelis as they commit a genocide against your fellow Muslims, by allowing your lands and airspace to be used to make sure that Israel does not suffer in this genocide—as the Saudis, Emiratis, Jordanians, Egyptians, and Turks have done—then there is a fundamental and basic problem. Your sense of ‘izzah is so flawed that you fall into the category worse than kuffar. That is the category of nifaq (hypocrisy). God does not aid or support either the hypocrites or those who aid and support hypocrites.”


As Israel continues to bomb Palestinian hospitals, abduct and dissappear Palestinian doctors and nurses, torture them, and sometimes to even execute them, I saw a video in which Richard Medhurst talks about a British fellow who volunteered in the Israeli army and filmed himself showing off Palestinian toys and Palestinian women's undergarments, mocking these Palestinian women and children. This person returned to Britain after having served his round in the genocide and was received as a hero. In fact, there was a fundraiser for which he was the keynote speaker. I pause and think. Participating in a genocide is not less than being a terrorist or participating in a terrorist act. If this person would have gone to the Middle East and joined a terrorist group, he would have returned to Britain to face a whole set of charges. But this fellow went to the Middle East, took part in a genocide, and returned to Britain a hero. In God’s name, how?


It just so happened that Richard Medhurst talked about one example. But how many American, British, and Indian citizens have taken part in a genocide and returned home as heroes? I got into a great deal of trouble because I spoke the truth about Indians joining the Israeli army for the pleasure of killing Muslims. But it is happening, and there is no way of holding the Israeli army accountable in terms of who they permit to join their forces. We had that type of oversight over the Iraqis, the Syrians, and every Muslim force. But the Israelis get a carte blanche. 


The Israelis committed a massacre in Al-Nasr Hospital, and every major or minor hospital in Gaza has now been targeted. Massacres against hospitals have become so commonplace that Western powers do not even bother protesting anymore. I saw the most disgusting letter signed by Israeli doctors who were defending the targeting of Palestinian hospitals. The letter said, "It is not Israel's fault. It is the fault of Arabs," blaming Arabs, "who have used hospitals as bastions for terrorist cells and as cover for terrorism." In the letter, these doctors say the Israeli army should not allow “Arabs” to exploit Western morality in order to protect their “terrorist elements” by hiding them in hospitals. The letter exemplifies the entire logic of the racist genocide that is taking place. Muslims are not entitled to the protections of jus cogens, peremptory norms, or human rights, because these are really “Western concepts” for “civilized people” who understand what these moral concepts mean. They do not apply to Arabs. They do not apply to Palestinians. They do not apply to Muslims, because Muslims, Arabs, and Palestinians do not understand these lofty Western standards. It is the very logic and ideology that colonialism adopted as it destroyed indigenous culture after indigenous culture.


An Israeli advisor to Netanyahu went on American television and said, "By the standards of Western wars, Israel is acting morally." I paused and thought. What Western wars is he talking about? His point is that if you hold Israel to the standards of wars launched by the West, then you will come to the conclusion that Israel is acting morally. Is he talking about the siege of Warsaw? Is he talking about the siege of Berlin? Is he talking about what the U.S. did in Vietnam? Is he talking about our impunity over Iraq and Afghanistan? The very logic that Israel constantly relies on is that, "Look, what we are doing to the indigenous Palestinian people is not that bad if you compare it to what the Dutch did in South Africa, what the Australians did in Australia, what the Spaniards did in South America." They are actually referring to the wars of the 17th century and the erasure of indigenous cultures, saying, "If you compare us to this morality, then what we are doing in Gaza is not that bad."


As I allow myself to be shocked, I am quickly reminded that what is even more shocking is the behavior of Muslims toward their fellow Muslims. Then, as if a sign from God, I got the urge to check out CJ Werleman again, and I found a most curious video by this non-Muslim journalist. In his video, this non-Muslim journalist says, "The genocide is a living evidence of the utter disempowerment of Muslims all around the world." He says that Muslims are a failed project after Sykes-Picot, the French-British agreement that divided the Middle East and ultimately decided that there will be a Saudi Arabia, borders between Egypt and Sudan, Egypt and Libya, and so on. CJ Werleman says, "Isn't it time for Muslims to realize that they need an entire paradigm shift?" This non-Muslim fellow asks, "Can you imagine if Muslims united under a single banner and became a single power? Can you imagine what Muslim presence in our world would mean?"


I agree with CJ Werleman. We need an entire paradigm shift. The current nation-state order for Muslims is not working. We need to reimagine the Muslim khilafah (Caliphate). Our record since the abolition of the khilafah has been nothing short of horrendous. We need to reimagine bringing back that symbol of Muslim unity and demanding that the world order accommodate that symbol of community. We need to reimagine our sovereignty over the holy sites. We need to reimagine our demands over the al-Aqsa Mosque. We cannot continue in our present state, a state that utterly lacks any ‘izzah. The leaders of Muslim nations have forgotten what it means to ‘izzah in God (Q 35:10). All their ‘izzah is directed towards the same West that is complicit in the genocide. We need to bring back to our souls, hearts, and spirits what ‘izzah in God means in our current world order. Not in the insanity, barbarism, and cruelty of a movement like ISIS, which did nothing to bring ‘izzah to Muslims and only resulted in the victimization, murder, and torture of Muslims, but as a rethinking of the world order of which we are an integral part, as a quarter of the world population.

The Movement to Reinvigorate Beautiful and Ethical Islam has begun.  Join us.

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