Quds Day is an occasion to speak the truth, the full truth, and nothing but the truth. It is a time and place where the Hezbollah flag is carried with pride, in honor of those who are willing to confront Israel and defend their homeland, and all those who are not deterred by the multi-billion-dollar system that is in place to protect Israeli benefits at the expense of Palestinian lives. Exactly 30 years ago, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran proposed a far-sighted plan to ensure that all Muslims would use their collective power to denounce the Zionist regime that oppresses Palestinians. Imam Khomeini suggested the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadhan be used for this purpose. Fasting Muslims who have felt the hunger and thirst of the deprived for nearly a month would now turn their gazes to the land of the oppressed, raise their voices in defense of the voiceless, and in so doing, create the full-circuit connection between the Ummah.
For nearly one month, we have thanked Allah as we prepare to break our fasts at night with the provisions He provides us daily, still remembering the difficulty that others face, others who do not have the chance to ‘end’ their fast at night, and continue on in hunger and thirst far after sunset. Is it enough to thank our Creator for the comforts he has given us, while we remain fully aware of the stark contrast between our own living conditions and those with less? They could be Muslim or not; in a developing country or in the slums of our own inner cities; in ravaged Gaza or Washington, DC. It makes little difference. Our Creator wishes for us to constantly reach out to our brothers and sisters, treat them as ourselves, and spend in the way of Allah of our time and efforts. So why is it that in the last decade, a cause as significant as the Palestinian struggle for survival has seen such little support from Muslims?
Case in point: Muslims of the Washington DC community. Many might recall a robust gathering on any given Quds Day, where Muslims defied the cold and rain to stand in solidarity with other Muslims and human rights supporters. This gathering eventually began to dwindle to a mere handful of students and veteran demonstrators with their families. Some years, there was either confusion as to who had obtained a permit for the gathering (a simple visit to the National Park Service office), or fear of law enforcement and intelligence, especially post-9/11. The once active brothers and sisters of the area, who had extensive experience reaching back to the days of the protests in support of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, had lost their courage, or time and ability, to organize this event. “Save Palestine” and “Down with Israel” had become generic slogans, empty of any real implications or understanding of the most current affairs, and the movement seemed to have come to a standstill.
The last year has brought some changes to the scene. A small handful of youth, organized loosely and informally from various masjid communities, have teamed up to revamp Quds Day from the grassroots level. They have reached out to various universities, faith groups, and human rights organizations. The older presence of a mostly-Iranian crowd has been replaced with one that is increasingly multi-ethnic and even multi-faith. More importantly, there is no room for an apologetic viewpoint that tries to excuse Israeli policies.
This perhaps has been the greatest difference between Quds Day and other pro-Palestine events. For instance, in many ANSWER-sponsored events, organizers and demonstration leaders call for an end to bloodshed and illegal settlements, but fail to recognize that the oppression and aggression of Israel is rooted in the Zionist ideology. This belief is by no means limited to Muslims: many scholars from the Jewish world, such as the Neturei Karta group of Orthodox Jews and American scholar Norman Finkelstein (whose parents were Holocaust survivors) openly denounce Zionism as a racist and illegitimate ideology. The former, decked out in the most conservative religious regalia, denounce Zionism and call for an end to the Zionist state of Israel, while the latter has made known his deep support of Hezbollah. These personalities are well-informed and well-prepared to support the truth, even though it seems to go against their own personal gains. Why then do we, as Muslims, seem to shy away from the truth?
The perspective of many “progressive” Palestine supporters may seem to suggest that the time has come for non-violent resistance and non-hateful speech, but in reality they are espousing a watered-down rhetoric that does not address root problems, or shies away from recognizing them. Quds Day is an occasion to speak the truth, the full truth, and nothing but the truth. It is a time and place where the Hezbollah flag is carried with pride, in honor of those who are willing to confront Israel and defend their homeland, and all those who are not deterred by the multi-billion-dollar system that is in place to protect Israeli benefits at the expense of Palestinian lives.
Let’s say that you are aware of all this as you read, but you do not know of any demonstrations in your city. While it helps to plan in advance, it is never too late to organize a rally or demonstration. Use existing resources, such as lists of companies to boycott and recent publications by well known scholars (www.inminds.co.uk is an excellent resource). No act is too small to recognize truth, especially in this blessed month. (More information about the Quds Day rally in Washington DC can be found here.)