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Forgetting Yourself Forgetting Yourself
by Dana Halawa
2012-11-09 08:15:38
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‘In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel, Defeat Jihad’

That is the controversial disparaging phrase that has gone up in 10 of New York’s 400 subway stations inciting hatred of about a quarter of the world’s population after a federal judge ruled that the city’s metropolitan travel authority could not refuse the ads based on ‘demeaning’ language.

You're walking down a street and a little 12 year old girl in dirty old ripped clothes comes up to you begging for money, you give her a couple cents you won’t miss or nothing at all. Two seconds later you pass by a man missing a limb or two, you give him even less. Then comes the little five year old boy who shouldn't be out alone, let alone barefoot on a street full of broken glass and whatnot begging for a bite to eat. You ask them where they live and they name a refugee camp nearby.

You get into your car, drive a couple miles to the fancy cafe you're to meet your friends at. You gossip, talk about your new iPhone 5, then comes the politics. Takes about five to ten minutes of your time before someone proposes you end this forbidden topic. You manage to squeeze in a bit of your personal take on things while you hear your friends’ dissensions.

 One of your friends believes in armed resistance being the only means to freedom, the Gandhi amongst you believes in peaceful resistance while yet another of your friends does not believe in resistance at all. He thinks that Palestinians and Israelis could live side by side in peace if we both just stopped fighting one another and that we need to work on preserving the current ‘calm’.

You’re allured by the temptation of life. You forget the people you passed on the street. You’re coaxed by the lavished life you see before you. http://www.dci-palestine.org/content/child-detainees">The 195 Palestinian children under the age of 17, as of August 2012, in Israeli jails taken without their parent’s knowledge, interrogated without knowing their rights or having a parent or attorney present and tortured are the last thing on your mind. The unexceptional story about the http://www.dci-palestine.org/documents/voices-occupation-noor-ad-deen-and-others-settler-violence">"Daraghmeh Family" which you stumbled upon just two days ago is long forgotten. The unimaginable terror of an 11 year old boy who was awoken by the sound of his mother’s screams as tens of illegal Israeli settlers attacked their home, grabbing him from his mother’s arms and throwing him one-and-a-half meters before beating him with a stick. His 17 year old older brother and father were too busy trying to fight the rest of them off to help him. The Israeli army then arrived and arrested his older brother for attacking the Israeli settlers in his own home.

You go to your own home and watch your favorite American TV-series. You are enticed by America and all it has to offer. You become obsessed and subconsciously believe propaganda over the painful reality you desperately blind yourself from. You forget the ‘Jihad’ you were taught as a Muslim, the duty of fighting to free the oppressed and never for personal gain, the great chastise of killing an innocent even if an enemy during a time of war. You’ve forgotten that you yourself are a Muslim, you’re repelled by them. You’re brainwashed. Muslims are those terrorist ‘Jihadists’ that kill innocents for not believing in Islam. You're so trenched from these people that words like those of Pamella Geller, the Islamophobic who paid to put up those hate ads in NY subways, “Demeaning? Again, demeaning toward whom? Jihadists? Are jihadists now some kind of protected class?” Mean absolutely nothing to you and are naturally disregarded as they carry no personal meaning, dissimulation or religious xenophobia to you.

A friend asked me what the reaction would be if someone refuted the holocaust or demeaned Israel into the terrorist state it was. We were debating the anti-prophet Mohammed movie and I was too obstinate to admit he was right. Of course despite all the massacres they'd committed no one would dare ask if Zionists were some kind of protected class, of course the freedom of speech that allows you to hate 2 billion Muslim 'savages' would not allow you to hate  2 million Israelis. Norman’s Finkelstein’s words continue to resonate in my head ever since I first heard them several years ago, “How do you Arabs expect others to respect you when you have no respect for yourselves?” Some terrorists that know nothing about Islam disgrace the prophet even further by burning the US embassy and killing the US ambassador in a terrorist attack Islam greatly condemns, that may or may not be linked to the film. [http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/video/president-obama-killing-us-ambassador-christopher-stevens-libya-17218352]

As Muslims we must first prosecute ourselves for denigrating the message of Islam before we blame others. We owe it to our prophet, peace be upon him, and the sahabah, Muslims at the era of the prophet, after all they’d sacrificed for our freedom, to defend their honor and refute false allegations with the truth. As Gandhi wrote about Mohammed “I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the prophet, the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every trouble" in Young India, 1924.  

I venerate Mohammed not because he is my prophet but because of everything I know of him; Alphonse de Lamartine, a non-Muslim French Catholic writer and politician wrote of him in his famous book, Histire de la Turquie', "Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, of a cult without images; the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he?" However, do we seriously expect others to know and respect him when we, the followers of the religion he preached, know close to nothing? Sam Bacile, the anti-Islamist Israeli living in California who made the anti-Mohammed film, could not have possibly dreamt of receiving such publicity for his amateur film without our help. We customarily disgrace our faith pettily, yet when someone bluntly calumniates the prophet we’ve already defamed, we’re unhesitant in bestially attacking. With ignorance we allow others to vilify us.

As a Muslim, as an American-Palestinian, and as a human being I am a ‘Jihadist’. I may not be that strong or influential but I will continue to do what I can, to practice Jihad, to fight for truth, for the freedom of the oppressed with what I am capable of, my words.

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Emanuel Paparella2012-11-09 21:23:50
All well and good Dana, but the ethical problem seems to be this: those who are capable of going beyond words and fight with actions have in fact also called themselves “Jihadists,” as, for example, those who brought down the twin towers on November 11, 2001 killing close to 3000 innocent people. If those "jihadists" are indeed usurping that word, that usurpation ought to be repudiated loud and clear by all moslems of good will, for violence, especially that exercised against the innocent by anybody, is not and will never be the equivalent of free speech. I imagine you agree with that.

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