Palestine And The Millennial Muslim Consciousness

{Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al- Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.} (Qur’an 17:1)

It has been difficult for me to articulate my feelings about Palestine these days. In the onslaught of graphic images and videos, the appeals directly from Palestinians, and the tireless work of activists, I don’t want to appear as though I’m merely jumping upon a trend, or claiming to speak over those who are truly suffering.

Instead, I have been reflecting.

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I am, like many likely reading this, a Muslim millennial raised in the West. We have been raised on a mixture of awareness of social justice and the watering down of Islamic identity at the same time, navigating being Muslim and being safe and being accepted and still being Othered, all at once. But all of us, at some point or another, have known about Palestine.

Palestine has been part of my Muslim consciousness since I was a child. I remember being… what, 10 years old? and seeing the tragic, iconic image of Jamal and Muhammad al-Durra – a father protecting his terrified, screaming son from an onslaught of Israeli bullets – tacked up on the bulletin board at our local masjid. I stared at that image many, many times every time I was at that masjid, waiting for my father to finish talking to masjid uncles. That image has forever been emblazoned in my memory. I didn’t know the full story of it, then; I heard only snatches, here and there, muttered between masjid uncles, until I was much older. In fact, I only really got the full story when I read this piece, an interview with Talal Abu Rahma, the photographer – and I remembered the horror and sadness and confusion that ten-year-old me felt, staring at those pictures for the first time, the second time, the hundredth time. 

I grew up hearing my father bellow powerful words from his minbar on Jumu’ahs, reminding the Muslims of the situation in Palestine and the horrific evils of the Israeli colonizers, invoking Allah’s Curse upon them. He did not mince his words, ever; as a result, I witnessed the consequences: his videos posted on MEMRI TV, media immediately harassing us, hate calls and nasty voicemails left on our answering machine at home, and worse – the censure of other Muslims, embarrassed by his words, throwing him under the bus publicly to the media and the Muslim community alike. After all, speaking out too harshly meant compromising their popularity and their public image and potential funding and their comfortable relationships with the same federal security apparatuses that spied on our community anyway.

I grew up hearing du’a for Palestine in every Jumu’ah khutbah, in every qunoot in Ramadan. The ameen of the jamaa’ah was powerful, every time; there was always weeping at the mention of Palestine, of the devastation that was wrought day in and day out. And yet, the same people running those masaajid and community organizations would turn around the next day and rush to play nice with Israeli-supporting politicians and “interfaith” efforts where Palestine was forbidden from being mentioned. There was more eagerness to appease the viciousness of B’nai Brith, which maliciously monitors every mention of Israel for what does and does not suit their agenda than there ever was a sense of walaa’ and gheerah for the honour of the Muslims in Palestine. 

Over the years, Israel stole more land, murdered more men, women, and children, jailed innocents, starved more people, bombed more hospitals and homes, and still… Muslims did nothing. A few protests here and there, maybe; fundraisers, until those channels were shut down for “suspicion of terrorism,” and then no one wanted to send a penny out of fear. Muslim countries normalized political and economic ties with Israel, Muslim community leaders in the West had the gall to embark on Zionist-sponsored MLI trips and to beg for a seat at White House iftars where they were mocked to their faces and told to accept Israel’s existence. Muslims policed other Muslims for being “radical” and “extremist” and accused one another of being armchair jihadis simply for speaking with frustration about Palestine and Afghanistan and Kashmir and Iraq and Syria; Muslims groveled for politicians’ attention and invited them to masaajid on Jumu’ah and ‘Eid – the same politicians who constantly reiterated their support of Israel and ignored our existence once they got elected. 

It has been wearying to see this over and over and over again – and to say that is in and of itself a privilege of being safely removed from the daily violence and devastation of Palestinian life. For so many years, it has felt as though nothing has changed for the better, that Muslims have been too complacent in being half-hearted bystanders. 

But perhaps we are finally seeing a change. With the violent displacement of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, the attacks on Masjid al-Aqsa in the last ten nights of Ramadan, and the ongoing massacres in Gaza, we have also seen social media being utilized to broadcast the violence at a grassroots level, shattering the false narratives of mainstream media and politicians. We are seeing Muslims finally realizing that yes, Palestine is a religious issue – not just a secular one. We are seeing Muslims renewing their commitment to BDS, contacting political representatives, and actively dismantling Zionist propaganda on social media. We are seeing Muslims – fresh from Ramadan – remember the importance of maintaining tahajjud and making du’a for the oppressed. Perhaps we are finally rising up and taking the steps towards the true liberation of al-Quds.

May Allah strengthen this Ummah in faith and perseverance, and make us the generation that witnesses the freedom of Palestine from its illegal occupiers and colonizers, ameen. 

{[They are] those who have been evicted from their homes without right – only because they say, “Our Lord is Allah .” And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned. And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might.} (Qur’an 22:40)

Photo credits: Alisdare Hickson