Category Archives: Islam

The History Many Americans Don’t Know

In August 2013, I boldly took a stab at writing the history of Palestine (see here) because I suspected that many Americans, like me, didn’t learn this history in the U.S. public school system.

The Zionists defend their claim to the State of Israel on historical grounds, and so it’s important that everyone understands the historical events leading up to the current state of affairs.

A big part of my education about this history came much later in life when I read Professor Pappe’s book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006), looking at the history of the creation of the State of Israel from the contemporary documentary evidence rather than the myths and propaganda perpetuated by Israeli leaders over the past 60+ years.  I shared my thoughts about Pappe’s work here.

Most recently, a friend introduced me to this video, recorded in 2014, where Dr. Yasir Qadhi discusses the history of the Middle East and how the events of 1914 shaped the modern Muslim World. The video is about 90 minutes long. He presents a clear chronology of events which every American schoolchild should know, in my humble opinion.

 

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A wanderer

“Wanderer, there is no path,

the path is made by walking.”

— Antonio Machado

antonio-machado

Antonio Machado (1875 – 1939) was a Spanish poet

An American friend sent me these words a few days ago, and I’ve been mulling them over ever since. Undoubtedly, they reminded her of my elusive pilgrimage. I’ve been “on the road again” and walking for the past 7 years.

I always seem to be on the move, with my ultimate destination being Gaza. I certainly don’t have a well-defined plan or path which I suspect causes some concern or consternation to family and friends watching my journey.

Truth-be-told, I wake up in sweats some nights wondering if I’m on the path I’m suppose to be on, or have I lost my way? I never expected to be *here* when I turned 65.

Exactly where am I?

It doesn’t matter where I lay my head down tonight. What matters are my actions today, the people I’m meeting, the conversations I’m having, and the spirit I’m sharing with others.

It doesn’t matter what things are packed in my suitcase, or what ticket I have for my next travel plans.  What matters is that I travel as lightly as possible (for practical and spiritual reasons) and I travel safely, responsibly and with a good heart towards my fellow passengers.

Machado’s words can ring with different meanings for different people I suppose, but taking them literally, I think I’ve discovered the root of my “obsessiveness” over the Palestinians in Gaza. (Not my word, but the word of family and friends who have observed my attention directed towards Gaza over the past 5+ years.)

checkpoint

Israeli checkpoint for Palestinians posted by Husam Jubran on Facebook

Palestinian men, women and children in Gaza have been removed from life’s path through no fault of their own except for casting a vote for Hamas in 2006. Shortly thereafter, the government of Israel proclaimed Hamas a terrorist organization (probably as stunned by Hamas’ victory as Americans were shocked by Trump’s victory in 2016) and locked down the Gaza Strip in a suffocating siege and blockade that has tightened considerably year-by-year.

“You voted for the wrong guy!”

“We refuse to talk or engage with your elected leaders.”

“If we squeeze you tight enough, you’ll kick Hamas out.” 

“We believe you’re all terrorists, and this blockade is a legitimate security measure.”

Israel’s blockade has disrupted the lives of Palestinian students trying to travel a path towards their academic studies abroad; it’s prevented Palestinian scholars from traveling abroad to accept international awards; it’s stopped Palestinian poets and artists from presenting their talents to audiences overseas; it’s kept Palestinian soccer players from competing in FIFA tournaments; and it’s killed Palestinian men, women and children who were denied permission to travel outside of Gaza for life-saving treatment because they were deemed a security risk.

I know people personally in each of these categories. I’m sure there are many more categories.

Great_March_of_Return_2016-While there are many reasons why the state of Israel should be brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague and prosecuted for war crimes, I believe Israel’s decision to prevent men, women and children in Gaza from following their path, and denying them their right to travel, is the most heinous of all of Israel’s crimes, and that government must be held accountable.

 Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that:

  • a citizen of a state in which that citizen is present has the liberty to travel, reside in, and/or work in any part of the state where one pleases within the limits of respect for the liberty and rights of others,

  • and that a citizen also has the right to leave any country, including his or her own, and to return to his or her country at any time.

Israeli officials may argue that Palestinians aren’t citizens of Israel, and certainly they don’t have a state of their own to which they can claim citizenship, and so Article 13 doesn’t apply to the 2 million Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel and the UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine should go head-to-head with their arguments on that issue before a U.N. body.  Keeping innocent civilians locked up in the world’s largest open air prison with no due process has turned the State of Israel into a putrified petrie dish. The experiment is rotting Israel from the inside out.

Day 1 Lora shadow

“Wanderer, there is no path,

the path is made by walking.”

— Antonio Machado

One day every Palestinian in Gaza will walk their path right back to the homes and villages from which they were forcibly removed 70 years ago. Until that day, they’re teaching all of us by the humanity they model for us day after day.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Elections, Gaza, Hamas, Islam, Israel, nonviolent resistance, Peaceful, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized

Tariq Ramadan – “Colonization and the Muslim Unconscious”

I began to write a book review today and ended up writing about the author instead.

The Messenger: The Meanings of the Life of Muhammad by Tariq Ramadan.

Maybe tomorrow I can find words to share about the book.

There are many books written about the Prophet, Allah’s messenger, and the origins of Islam. I chose this one as my introduction to the man and the religion because it seemed accessible (not overloaded with verses from the Qu’ran) and also because the author, Tariq Ramadan, is a well-known scholar of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford. A good friend in Gaza first introduced me to the writings of Tariq Ramadan.  شكرا

The back-story about the author was rolling in my head as I read his book.

In 2004, the author was offered a nonimmigrant tenured position at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. He was granted a nonimmigrant visa but 3 months later the State Department revoked the visa citing the  “ideological exclusion provision” of the USA PATRIOT Act. The university went to bat for him but the government refused to budge and Tariq Ramadan resigned his position.

In 2005, Tariq was invited to speak at several universities in the U.S. and applied for a B visa. The State Department did not respond and the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors and the PEN American Center – the three groups who had planned on meeting with Ramadan in the US – for revoking his visa under the “ideological exclusion provision”. They argued that the ideological exclusion provision was in violation of the First Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights of those three groups and that the government’s actions violated the Administrative Procedures Act.

The State Department rejected his second application for a Visa, stating: “A U.S. consular officer has denied Dr. Tariq Ramadan’s visa application. The consular officer concluded that Dr. Ramadan was inadmissible based solely on his actions, which constituted providing material support to a terrorist organization.” Between December 1998 and July 2002, Ramadan had given donations totalling $940 to two charity organizations supporting Palestinians. The U.S. Treasury designated both as terrorist fundraising organizations for their alleged links to Hamas. The U.S. Embassy told Ramadan that he “reasonably should have known” that the charities provided money to Hamas. 

The ACLU challenged the government again and the case ended up in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.  Am. Acad. of Religion v. Napolitano, 573 F.3d 115 (2d Cir. 2009).  Al-hamdulillah! The court ruled in favor of Tariq Ramadan. The federal law (Immigration and Nationality Act) required the Visa applicant to know that he was rendering material support to the recipient, and the government should have confronted Tariq about this allegation rather than unilaterally denying the application and telling him after-the-fact. In 2010, the ban was lifted and Tariq came to the U.S.

Why is my government fearful of an Islamic scholar? Why is my government rejecting cross-cultural discourse and critical thinking? Why is my government erecting obstacles to humanity’s progress and understanding? I’m saddened by the U.S. government and many Americans who prefer to build walls, not bridges. If the Prophet were alive today, I suspect he would have some answers.

In this 40-minute video, Professor Tariq Ramadan discusses the “Colonization and the Muslim Unconscious” in 2014 at the Muslim Group Conference in the U.S.  I find alot of truth in his words, and encourage my friends to watch.  He speaks about Israel and Palestine about 23 minutes in.

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The Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change

My twin passions — climate change and Gaza — are puzzling to some of my friends. “What’s the connection?”

Justice and Life – pure and simple. 

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Mohammed and Lora in Gaza on Earth Day 2013

The occupation of Palestine, and the destruction of our planet, are each the result of human avarice and a destructive sense of superiority over others.

Humans think we have things under control on this fragile planet. We treat all life-forms as garbage, but with a little tinkering here or there, we believe we can restore the necessary balance to maintain our dominance. Wrong!  It requires a whole new radical rethinking about our rightful place among all life-forms on this planet.

Zionists think they have the Occupation of Palestine under control. With a little Hasbara and military support from its best friend, the USA, Zionists have a destructive sense of security believing they can maintain their State of Israel as a home for Jews only, while treating Palestinians as garbage. Wrong! It requires a whole new radical rethinking about each other’s humanity and their rightful place living as neighbors.

The planet and the Palestinians are not garbage!

I’m mourning these injustices, and I’m mourning the willful blindness that plagues so many (the majority?) of Americans.

We can all do better. I know it. I can see it in my “mind’s eye” but it’s difficult to have hope as the COP21 comes to a close in Paris this week and as Israel’s security forces have killed 10 Palestinians in the West Bank so far THIS MONTH.

Pope Francis released his Encyclical on the Environment and Human Ecology earlier this year.

prayergraphiclaudatosipopefrancis2

In August, Muslims issued the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change. The full text is here. I’m not surprised that religious leaders from these two great faith traditions agree: (1) climate change is real, (2) catastrophic climate change is human-caused, (3) human greed and over-consumption are big factors, and (4) God/Allah will not save us from our folly. He/she expects us to wake-up and restore the balance in the creation God/Allah gave us.

Some excerpts from the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change follow:

The pace of Global climate change today is of a different order of magnitude from the gradual changes that previously occurred throughout the most recent era, the Cenozoic. Moreover, it is human-induced: we have now become a force dominating nature. The epoch in which we live has increasingly been described in geological terms as the Anthropocene, or “Age of Humans”. Our species, though selected to be a caretaker or steward (khalifah) on the earth, has been the cause of such corruption and devastation on it that we are in danger ending life as we know it on our planet.

An urgent and radical reappraisal is called for. Humankind cannot afford the slow progress we have seen in all the COP (Conference of Parties – climate change negotiations) processes since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was published in 2005, or the present deadlock.

We affirm that –

God created the Earth in perfect equilibrium (mīzān);

By His immense mercy we have been given fertile land, fresh air, clean water and all the good things on Earth that makes our lives here viable and delightful;

The Earth functions in natural seasonal rhythms and cycles: a climate in which living beings – including humans – thrive;

The present climate change catastrophe is a result of the human disruption of this balance –

وَالسَّمَاء رَفَعَهَا وَوَضَعَ الْمِيزَانَ

أَلاَّ تَطْغَوْا فِي الْمِيزَانِ

وَأَقِيمُوا الْوَزْنَ بِالْقِسْطِ وَلا تُخْسِرُوا الْمِيزَانَ

وَالأَرْضَ وَضَعَهَا لِلْأَنَامِ

2.5 We recognize the corruption (fasād) that humans have caused on the Earth due to our relentless pursuit of economic growth and consumption. Its consequences have been –

Global climate change, which is our present concern, in addition to:

Contamination and befoulment of the atmosphere, land, inland water systems, and seas;

Soil erosion, deforestation and desertification;

Damage to human health, including a host of modern-day diseases.

ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُم بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ

WE CALL

3.1 We call upon the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Meeting of the Parties (MOP) to the Kyoto Protocol taking place in Paris this December, 2015 to bring their discussions to an equitable and binding conclusion, bearing in mind –

The scientific consensus on climate change, which is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate systems;

The need to set clear targets and monitoring systems;

The dire consequences to planet earth if we do not do so;

The enormous responsibility the COP shoulders on behalf of the rest of humanity, including leading the rest of us to a new way of relating to God’s Earth.

3.2 We particularly call on the well-off nations and oil-producing states to

Lead the way in phasing out their greenhouse gas emissions as early as possible and no later than the middle of the century;

Provide generous financial and technical support to the less well-off to achieve a phase-out of greenhouse gases as early as possible;

Recognize the moral obligation to reduce consumption so that the poor may benefit from what is left of the earth’s non-renewable resources;

Stay within the ‘2 degree’ limit, or, preferably, within the ‘1.5 degree’ limit, bearing in mind that two-thirds of the earth’s proven fossil fuel reserves remain in the ground;

Re-focus their concerns from unethical profit from the environment, to that of preserving it and elevating the condition of the world’s poor.

Invest in the creation of a green economy.

3.3 We call on the people of all nations and their leaders to –

Aim to phase out greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible in order to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere;

Commit themselves to 100 % renewable energy and/or a zero emissions strategy as early as possible, to mitigate the environmental impact of their activities;

Invest in decentralized renewable energy, which is the best way to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development;

Realize that to chase after unlimited economic growth in a planet that is finite and already overloaded is not viable. Growth must be pursued wisely and in moderation; placing a priority on increasing the resilience of all, and especially the most vulnerable, to the climate change impacts already underway and expected to continue for many years to come.

Set in motion a fresh model of wellbeing, based on an alternative to the current financial model which depletes resources, degrades the environment, and deepens inequality.

Prioritise adaptation efforts with appropriate support to the vulnerable countries with the least capacity to adapt. And to vulnerable groups, including indigenous peoples, women and children.

3.4 We call upon corporations, finance, and the business sector to –

Shoulder the consequences of their profit-making activities, and take a visibly more active role in reducing their carbon footprint and other forms of impact upon the natural environment;

In order to mitigate the environmental impact of their activities, commit themselves to 100 % renewable energy and/or a zero emissions strategy as early as possible and shift investments into renewable energy;

Change from the current business model which is based on an unsustainable escalating economy, and to adopt a circular economy that is wholly sustainable;

Pay more heed to social and ecological responsibilities, particularly to the extent that they extract and utilize scarce resources;

Assist in the divestment from the fossil fuel driven economy and the scaling up of renewable energy and other ecological alternatives.

3.5 We call on all groups to join us in collaboration, co-operation and friendly competition in this endeavour and we welcome the significant contributions taken by other faiths, as we can all be winners in this race

وَلَكِن لِّيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَا آتَاكُم فَاسْتَبِقُوا الْخَيْرَاتِ

He (God) wanted to test you regarding what has come to you. So compete with each other in doing good deeds.

Qur’an 5: 48

If we each offer the best of our respective traditions, we may yet see a way through our difficulties.

3.6 Finally, we call on all Muslims wherever they may be –

Heads of state

Political leaders

Business community

UNFCCC delegates

Religious leaders and scholars

Mosque congregations

Islamic endowments (awqaf)

Educators and educational institutions

Community leaders

Civil society activists

Non-governmental organisations

Communications and media

وَلاَ تَمْشِ فِي الأَرْضِ مَرَحًا إِنَّكَ لَن تَخْرِقَ الأَرْضَ وَلَن تَبْلُغَ الْجِبَالَ طُولاً

Do not strut arrogantly on the earth.

You will never split the earth apart

nor will you ever rival the mountains’ stature.

Qur’an 17: 37

We bear in mind the words of our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him):

The world is sweet and verdant, and verily Allah has made you stewards in it, and He sees how you acquit yourselves

Hadīth related by Muslim from Abu Sa‘īd Al-Khudrī)

Some friends and colleagues are totally engaged in climate change, but reject any criticism of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. While other “activists” are thoroughly absorbed with Palestine, believing “others will solve climate change.”   We must help each other recognize that our souls cannot be divided.  Life and justice requires our attention and action on both.

 

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Compassion in Action

I lived in Gaza for 9 months (September 2012 through May 2013) and I’m on a journey to return for an indefinite stay. Frankly, I want to move to Gaza. At the age of 61, friends and family understandably ask me WHY?!?

My blog Why Gaza? is my simple but inadequate attempt to provide an answer.

The following three questions, posed by a Professor of English at the Islamic University of Gaza, reveal a kernel of truth behind my desire to return to Gaza. Maybe if I can answer them, my friends and family will understand my “obsession,” as some have called it.

How has knowing Palestine and struggling for peace and justice in Palestine made me a better person?

How has the Palestinian cause made me aware of other struggles in my own community?

What does Palestine inspire in me?

Yes!  I am a better person. I instinctively knew it upon my return to the States in May 2013. Not a “holier than thou” better person; not a smug “I know more than you” about the Holy Land better person; and certainly not a wiser “I have all of the answers to the conflict” better person. I’m a newcomer to the Israel-Palestine tragedy, more motivated than ever to read, listen and learn.

I’m a better person because I witnessed compassion in action, and I believe I’m a more compassionate person as a result.

The Golden Rule has been my guidepost most of my adult life (even though I admit to being an imperfect role model) but I never truly understood or appreciated its significance until my visit to Gaza.

Compassion and concern for others appeared to be infused in nearly every act of kindness I witnessed between family members, neighbors, professional colleagues, store clerks, farmers and even the taxi drivers. The Golden Rule came to life for me amidst the death and destruction following Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.

Under the most challenging of circumstances (the decades-long Occupation, 8+ years siege, and multiple Israeli bombardments) I thought it was astounding that everywhere I turned in Gaza (1.8 million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip) I found people struggling together but with open hearts and hands to help others. What was in the water they were drinking?

Palestinian whose house was destroyed by Israel the day before offers tea to his neighbors sitting amid the ruins.

Palestinian whose house was destroyed by Israel the day before offers tea to his neighbors sitting amid the ruins.

As best as I could tell, their compassion is not motivated by personal reward or expectation of gratitude. Instead, it seems to be in their DNA. I wanted some of what they were drinking.

Karen Armstrong’s Charter of Compassion is what I’m talking about. She’s calling for nations and communities all over the world to adopt a global compassion.

Surely, the Palestinians in Gaza are fallible human beings struggling with their own internal demons, as we all are, but I witnessed something there that I haven’t seen anywhere else. “Empathy for the other” is the only way I can describe it. Israelis could have the very best neighbors if the Zionists would only acknowledge the impacts of the Nakhba and end the brutal and illegal Occupation.

My friends and family will surely roll their eyes upon reading this. I can hear them saying: “Those Hamas terrorists certainly aren’t compassionate. The militants firing rockets into Israel don’t concern themselves with the innocent lives they put in danger!”

Setting aside the argument of who is and isn’t a terrorist, certainly violence in the name of resistance is just as counter-productive as violence in the name of self-defense. And more to the point, violence directed at innocent civilians by either side is a violation of international law — definitely not a sign of compassion.

This, I am sure — Israelis and Palestinians need to connect in deep and meaningful ways to be able to express the Golden Rule and share their compassion with each other and with humanity. Keeping one group locked up behind gates and walls and military checkpoints, and the other group immobilized by their fear and ignorance of the other, is not a path on which the Golden Rule will flourish.

How has the Palestinian cause made me aware of other struggles in my own community?

Connecting the dots started over thirty years ago for me when I became actively engaged in building a world beyond war. Check out Beyond War: A New Way of Thinking. Since then I’ve worked both professionally and personally on climate justice issues, social and economic justice campaigns, and joined the Occupy Movement in September 2011. I wanted to learn more about the Palestinian struggle for justice after I visited Gaza the first time in 2004. My opportunity finally came in 2012.

My understanding and appreciation of the Palestinian struggle came as a result of my earlier intellectual and spiritual growth, not the other way around. Although young New Mexican activists have opened my eyes to the common  struggles engaged in by the indigenous Peoples in New Mexico and the indigenous Peoples in the Holy Land, I have known for many, many years that “We Are One.”

WeAreOne-Med

What does Palestine inspire in me?

Consistent with my belief that “we are one”, I know that the future of the planet and the Holy Land belongs to everyone: Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and those who follow no religion. I don’t believe anyone has superior rights, but everyone has basic human rights to life, liberty and justice.

I’m drawn to the Palestinian struggle because the Israeli Occupation is so patently unjust and illegal. My spiritual heart and my legal mind want to help correct the injustices I see occurring every day in Gaza. Until the 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza are allowed to live and flourish in dignity and with justice, all of us will be poorer human beings on this small planet.

The Challenge:

Now I’m going to challenge my friend Pam Bailey to ponder these three little questions and share her answers … and to follow with a challenge to another person to do the same.

Lora Lucero

April 24, 2015

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Islam, Israel, Nakba, Peaceful, People, Spiritual - Religion

My stream of consciousness . . . the golden rule

With my thanks, as well as apologies, to Karen Armstrong for stimulating my thoughts about the acts of violence we see in the world. I’m listening to the audio version of her new book “Fields of Blood – Religion and the History of Violence.” I intend to listen to it a second time  . . . and more if necessary . . . to fully appreciate how she is connecting the historical dots between religion, politics, imperialism and colonialism, the oppressed and oppressor, and humanity.

Fields of Blood

I’m convinced that if President Obama and every member of Congress knew and understood how our government’s actions in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Israel . . . everywhere goddamnit . . . fueled the extremism that we consider so threatening today, our leaders would be making wiser foreign policy decisions.

One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.   
One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated.

What if we conducted our global relationships consistent with the Golden Rule? Could we deflate the violent reactions of extremists, such as Daesh (aka ISIS)?  U.S. military leaders (and maybe most Americans) might think this suggestion is naïve and dangerous. Certainly, the weapons manufacturers (aka military industrial complex) would not approve.

Repeating the same failed policies of the past seem much more dangerous to anyone with an ounce of humanity and courage.

Einstein

If the U.S. government treated its global relationships by following the Golden Rule, we might do the following:

  • Realign our budget to reflect our values, not our fears.
  • Condemn foreign leaders whose actions and conduct are antithetical to the Golden Rule.
  • Establish a compulsory year of humanitarian service for every high school student, either at home or abroad.
  • Reform our primary and secondary education curriculum to require mastery of a second language, teaching world history and religions from a more holistic perspective, and developing our critical thinking skills.
  • Reforge the military industrial complex into the global compassion complex.

einsteinthemeasureofintelligence

 

 

 

 

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A message to my friend

When a friend in Gaza recently told me he supports ISIS, I stopped dead in my tracks.  WTF?

My friend is not a half-crazed, ignorant nut-job —- what I thought were the prerequisites for pledging allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) otherwise known as Daesh, the acronym for the group’s full Arabic name, al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham.

My friend is a university graduate with a great command of foreign languages and cultures, and a bright future ahead of him — if he lived anywhere but Gaza.  Just like thousands of other young, disaffected men in Gaza, he’s lived his entire adult life under Israel’s brutal 8 year siege, lost opportunities to travel abroad for graduate studies, and given up looking for non-existent jobs.

Wall mural in gaza

Wall mural in gaza

On a side note, I’ve decided I’m going to jettison ISIS from my vocabulary and refer to the group as Daesh.  Why? Because the term apparently really pisses off the group’s leaders who have threatened to cut out the tongue of anyone who uses the term. So there! Daesh! Daesh! Daesh!

I asked my friend “Why?”  “Why do you support Daesh?”

Paraphrasing, I think his answer was: “Because it’s a strong group that stands up against the corrupt Arab leaders in the Middle East. Eventually, a strong caliphate will redeem our struggle and free us from Israel’s occupation of our lands.”

I tried to understand how he reconciled the atrocities committed by Daesh with the teachings of Islam as a religion of peace.  I reminded him of this passage from the Qu’ran 5:32

Whoever kills an innocent human being,

it shall be as if he has killed all mankind,

and whosoever saves the life of one,

it shall be as if he saved the life of all mankind.

My friend acknowledged this passage but then spouted another from the Qu’ran that he argued provides exceptions.

That’s when I decided I can’t argue in terms of a religious text and a religious tradition that I know very little about.  So I have to learn as much as I can about Daesh. Where did it come from? What are its intentions?

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Graeme Wood‘s article in the March 2015 issue of The Atlantic was a real eye opener. I highly recommend it. Although it’s long and requires a thoughtful couple of hours to digest, I have a better understanding of Daesh as well as why my friend might be swayed to support it.

Here are the take-away points from Graeme Wood’s article:

  • Daesh is most definitely Islamic despite the fact that the vast majority of Muslims worldwide disavow it, and want to distance themselves and their religion from the actions of Daesh.
  • Daesh members follow a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment guide their actions.
  • Daesh has declared a caliphate and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom.
  • Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been the self-declared leader of Daesh since May 2010, but his power really took off in July 2014 when he delivered a Ramadan sermon from Mosul. Recruiting efforts for Daesh went into full gear.
  • Daesh evolved from al-Qaeda but is very, very different and Western leaders are making a big mistake when they fail to grasp the differences.
  • Daesh is committed to returning civilization back to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.  Daesh leaders see their role as central to this plot.
  • Any Muslim who doesn’t follow Daesh’s interpretation of the Qu’ran must be killed, which means roughly 200 million Shia are marked for death. Daesh is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. However, Christians who do not resist the caliphate and pay a special tax (jizya) may be spared.
  • The Taliban, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and other Islamist groups have participated in the political process and thus, in the eyes of Daesh, are apostates and must be condemned (killed?)
  • Leaders of Daesh have taken emulation of the Prophet Muhammad as a strict duty and have revived traditions that have been dormant for hundreds of years. The closest thing to Daesh was probably the Wahhabis of 18th-century Arabia, but the Wahhabis did not practice such wanton violence.
  • The last caliphate was the Ottoman Empire which peaked in the 16th-century and then declined for many years until Ataturk replaced the caliphate with a secular government in Turkey.
  • The caliphate is not just a political entity but also a means to salvation. Daesh propaganda (the group has its own YouTube channel, Twitter account, and magazine) says that a “Muslim who acknowledges one omnipotent god and prays, but who dies without pledging himself to a valid caliph and incurring the obligations of that oath, has failed to live a fully Islamic life.”
  • If Daesh succeeds, all of my legal education will fly out the window. A more robust version of Sharia law than is found anywhere in the Muslim world today will be the law of the land.
  • What sets Daesh apart from other jihadists?  The group’s focus on the End of Days, the apocalypse.
  • The apocalypse will happen when Daesh slays an enemy army at Dabiq, a Syrian city near Aleppo. Until that time comes, the duty of the caliph is to wage war to expand the caliphate.
  • Daesh and Al-Qaeda are very different and, in fact, they are completely at odds with each other.  Al-Qaeda is like an underground political movement, while Daesh requires territorial authority. Caliphates cannot exist as underground movements. Western intelligence services haven’t figured that out yet.
  • We can thank George W. Bush and his cronies for the invasion and occupation of Iraq as the catalyst for the rise of Daesh. What a legacy he has left!
  • Graeme Wood surmises that “properly contained, the Islamic State is likely to be its own undoing. No country is its ally, and its ideology ensures that this will remain the case. The land it controls, while expansive, is mostly uninhabited and poor. As it stagnates or slowly shrinks, its claim that it is the engine of God’s will and the agent of apocalypse will weaken, and fewer believers will arrive. And as more reports of misery within it leak out, radical Islamist movements elsewhere will be discredited: No one has tried harder to implement strict Sharia by violence. This is what it looks like.”
  • Graeme Wood believes that denouncing Daesh as un-Islamic is counterproductive, “especially if those who hear the message have read the holy texts and seen the endorsement of many of the caliphate’s practices written plainly within them.”
  • “There is another strand of Islam that offers a hard-line alternative to the Islamic State — just as uncompromising, but with opposite conclusions.” They are known as the “quietist Salafis.” They agree with Daesh about not engaging in voting and political parties, but quietist Salafis are strictly forbidden from dividing Muslims from one another.

 

The key (miftah) to open the door to return.

The key (miftah) to open the door to return.

After reading Graeme Wood’s article, I watched this video about a young Egyptian named Islam Yaken who grew up in the nice Cairo suburb of Heliopolis, attended a private school and became a strong body builder with six pack abs.  He had friends, dreams and goals but, without saying ‘goodbye’, he left his family and joined Daesh. His story is one that probably mirrors many young men in the Middle East.

So what would I tell my friend in Gaza if I could sit down with him over tea?

I wouldn’t talk religion because I’m not a Muslim and can’t begin to tell a Muslim how he should live his life.

I wouldn’t talk about dreams because I don’t have a clue what it’s like to be a young ’20-something’ living in a community which is worse than a prison, with no jobs, no movement, and no opportunities.

I wouldn’t talk about politics because no politicians ANYWHERE have shown themselves capable of lifting Israel’s interminable occupation.

I wouldn’t talk about hope because I can’t promise anything will change.

I will listen. And I will tell him I love him. I hope I get to see him again when I return to Gaza. Until then, I’m going to do my best to educate Americans and U.S. leaders about my country’s complicity in this immoral and unholy occupation.

 

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