A Note from a Canadian Muslim


The Israeli sniper fatally shooting a 21-year-old nurse Razan Al Najjar in the chest and the earlier shooting of a soft-spoken Dr. Tarik Loubani has disturbed me greatly. Dr. Loubani reminds me of another soft-spoken Dr. Abu Al Aysh, who was yelled at in a press conference just when the IDF killed three of his daughters through a missile strike. I also note the incarceration of Ahed Tamimi, a teenager who was sentenced by a military court. I recall the burning of a young Abu Khdeir and the murder of three Israeli boys — Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Sha’ar and Naftali Fraenkel.
The people I look up to Rev. Dr. Nancy Steeves, Dr. Dawn Waring, Dr. Sherry Ann Chapman, Rev. Betty Marlin, Rev. Audrey Brooks and Rob Wells are all extremely concerned about occupation, apartheid, and ongoing persecution of the Palestinian people. Four of them have been to the Holy Land to stand as witness to the suffering of the Palestinian people that includes Muslims and Christians. On the other hand, I have warm relations with the Jewish community. Conservative Judaism has inspired me, as the writings of the late Rabbi Harold Schulweis (alav ha shalom) have touched me greatly. I have also followed the Responza of Conservative Judaism on same-sex marriage and have borrowed from it in my writings.
I am neither a Christian nor a Jew. For that matter, I am neither a traditional Muslim. After all, I have a drastically different understanding of homosexuality, blasphemy, dying with dignity, all of which would put me at odds with many Muslims who like to pass themselves as carrying “majoritarian” viewpoints. This also includes many LGBTQ Muslims, who just tweak one element in religion to fit themselves but buy neo-traditional values on all other issues. I could be considered a heretic, but it is such heresy that allows me to push the frontiers of thought.
When I write, I like to get my pieces vetted before sending them out in the media. As such, when I compose articles I want them air tight and unassailable. On LGBTQ issues, I have created a formidable discourse with Dr. Hussein Abdullatif, who is Palestinian, along with our brilliant editor Dr. Samar Habib. However, I find myself unable to create a similar discourse on Israel and Palestine. For every argument, there is a counter-argument. The narratives of the two people are utterly different and dialogue does not bridge them. That is why writing on Israel and Palestine has been very difficult for me. I have noted that in the interfaith group I tried to set in Edmonton. The Jewish Rabbi and the Egyptian lady were just at loggerheads.
I have tried to invoke the best of Muslim and Jewish values in my blogs –futuwwa(spiritual chivalry – to do what is right without expecting the same in return) in Islam andhesed– (unconditional loving-kindness even for those we do not like) in Judaism. I have written the following blogs with the hope to draw the two groups closer on the basis of our common values.
1)Human Lives Are More Important Than Holy Books(Nov. 2012 strikes on Gaza)
2)Can We Use Religion for Justice — Not Evil?(January 2013)
3)In the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict Religion Supports Human Rights(July 2014)
4)Harper, Please Don’t Deport This Gay Palestinian Refugee(January 2015)
5)Offerings: There is no place for anti-Semitism in Islam(February 2015)
6)This Gay Palestinian Refugee Needs Our Help(May 2015)
7)Muslims must address ancient texts usurped for anti-Semitism(October 2017)
8)World Leaders Have Failed Palestinian Children(January 2018)
My objective was and remains to bring people together in our common humanity. For this, I am willing to go against texts viewed as religious because the sanctity of human life is greater than holy symbols and objects. This much Muslims know from the Prophet’s Hadith on the sanctity of the Kaaba.
However, it seems that people are becoming increasingly rigid. Muslims do not wish anything less than full BDS against Israel. This much has become clear in the isolation of the Muslim Leadership Initiative by the broader Muslim community. For many Palestinians the land from the river to the sea is Palestine. I have heard a youth invoking warriors like Ali and Khalid Bin Walid, even as so many Palestinians have been killed again and again over the decades. This is slow systemic eradication of a people. Yet, they remain defiant and will not budge an inch.
On the Israeli side, there is no such thing as Palestine. They refuse to look at the ongoing occupation, apartheid and disenfranchisement of the Palestinians. They too will not budge an inch. The Palestinians have the world with them, the Israelis have the U.S. Meanwhile, we continue to read of immense suffering of the Palestinian people, which seems to have no end. It’s like the Hunger Games with a prosperous nation and the sectors around it with a dehumanized people.
I realize that Abrahamic religions can be wielded to have quite an exclusivist and supremacist narrative. This narrative blinds us to the humanity of the other. So far, Jewish and Muslim elders have decided to not let what happens in the Middle East affect their lives in Edmonton. But those elders will not be there forever. Larry Shaban has long passed away. Soraya Hafez is not actively present with us. In their place we have youth who wield strong narratives, which will change the fabric of our societies.
Additionally, our values in real life do not mirror those in movies. I recall Thor 3, where Asgard gets destroyed. Odin tells Thor, “Asgard is not a place, never was, this could be Asgard, Asgard is where our people stand,” This is what I noted about Wajahat Ali’s documentary when he notes this fanatic love of land over human lives. He tried to bring that out through the Hadith of the Prophet. I am also reminded of 4:97, which comes across as quite harsh.
Surely (as for) those whom the angels cause to die while they are unjust to their souls, they shall say: In what state were you? They shall say: We were weak in the earth. They shall say: Was not Allah’s earth spacious, so that you should have migrated therein?
Ofcourse, Wajahat Ali has been painted as someone who is siding with the Zionist narrative by towing the line on BDS, even if he says otherwise. He is one of our brightest minds in the Muslim community but no longer enjoys the support of the larger community.
Wajahat is not alone to be isolated. I recall an Islamic scholarMaulana Wahiduddin Khanin India was criticized because he had a dialogue with the RSS, a Hindu fundamentalist group. Likewise, in Pakistan, Islamic scholar, Javed Ghamidi, who had to go into exile, holds a very different opinion than many Muslims. He assertsin a videothat solution is the same as proposed by King Abdullah, that is, for Israelis and Palestinians to accept each other. Additionally, he asserts that violent struggles are dangerous, for they result in the destruction of nations and future generations, and while in such cases we present some people as heroes, they are actually responsible for the downfall of their nations.
I do not know what will become of the future. I recall how Muslims and Jews were forming circles around mosques and synagogues in the wake of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. That was possible because of interfaith dialogue. Are we now to give up on all that?
On my small part, I will support the Palestinian people, the ordinary, everyday folk. I buy Zatoun oil, as it is the best. I buy my Hummus from Paramount, as the taste is the same as I grew up with in Dubai. BDS is irrelevant for me in terms of goods, as there is nothing I buy from there. I make it a point to listen to Rabbis for Human Rights. However, I am not interested in any talks by Israeli politicians, some of whom are quite right wing. But I will continue to keep good relations with my Jewish friends and family, even as our narratives are 180 degrees apart.
Peace has to be brought forth by Palestinians and Israelis. I cannot and will not usurp the voices of the Palestinians. I will continue to withhold comment and I hope other non-Palestinian Muslims will do the same to allow Palestinian voices to assert themselves. I am quite pessimistic right now. I do not foresee peace and instead expect the status quo to perpetuate, just as I do not see any hope for LGBTQ acceptance in Islam. But I also hope against hope that one day there will be peace, even if it is long after I am gone.
Dr. Junaid Jahangir is an Assistant Professor of Economics at MacEwan University. He is inspired by the elder Muslim mystics. With Dr. Hussein Abdul Latif, he has co-authored Islamic law and Muslim same-sex unions.

2 thoughts on “A Note from a Canadian Muslim

  1. This article makes me despair. How long do the Palestinians have to suffer and die? We need BDS to help the world to see the state of apartheid in Israel/Palestine. Being good, kind, understanding of all people is a given, but when there are so many deaths of innocent people, strong, nonviolent measures are needed. The world need to stand against the barbarism of Israel and isolate it as was done with South Africa..

    • Does Israel have a partner in peace? Hamas? Hezbollah? Iran?
      I’m sure you might look at this as a diversion, but when have you mentioned the atrocitis Syria perpetrated by Assad’s army?

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