‘Don’t be a bystander while Gaza bleeds’

A. Rashied Omar

In Surah al-Buruj (The Constellations), Chapter 85, of the Glorious Qur’an, Allah, the Most High, describes a scene in which a group of believers who lived before the advent of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had been thrown into a huge pit of fire and burnt to death. This ghastly act of extermination is made all the more abominable and horrible by the fact that it was witnessed by scores of bystanders which the Qur’an describes as the ashab al-ukhdud, those who sat around the pit and did nothing to protest this evil atrocity.

Allah, the Lord of Compassion and Justice, reminds us in Surah al-Buruj that He is not oblivious to the suffering of the innocent and the oppressed. The surah concludes by exhorting us to remember the stories of Pharoah and Thamud. These oppressors and tyrants had a catastrophic end.

But the surah also issues a stern warning that the perpetrators of atrocities including their bystanders will suffer a painful doom. Allah, the Most Compassionate promises us in this instructive surah of the Glorious Qur’an that in the end the oppressed will have a great victory.

One of the key lessons of Surah al-Buruj is that bystanders (ashab al-ukhdud), those who witness human atrocities being committed and do nothing to stop it, are as guilty as the perpetrators and thus their fate will be the same. May Allah save and protect us from such a shameful and disgraceful fate.

On Friday, March 30, 2018, which coincided with the Christian holy day of Good Friday and the eve of the Jewish holy day of Passover, we received the tragic news of 17 Palestinians being brutally killed and close to 1500 wounded by Israeli military snipers in Gaza. We have no words strong enough to condemn this latest act of brutality and premeditated murder by the Israeli state against the Palestinian people.

In a detailed report on land Friday’s Massacre of Palestinians, Human Rights Watch held the Israeli state fully responsible for what it describes as “calculated” killings of unarmed civilians in violation of international law. Despite the clear evidence of atrocities committed by the Zionist State the world community has done little to sanction them and bring them to account.

Much of the world’s nations and leaders, including many Muslim countries, remain mute and silent in the face of atrocities committed against the Palestinians.
It is my considered view that those who do not protest the brutal killing of Palestinian children, women and men are the contemporary ashab al-ukhdud – the bystanders who witness atrocity and do nothing to stop it.
I would like to conclude by providing three modest guidelines as to what our role should be in support and in solidarity with oppressed Palestinians.

First and foremost, as conscientious Muslims and responsible citizens, we cannot mimic the bystanders of the pit (ashab al-ukhdud). We cannot imitate the apathetic response of the international community and remain silent while innocent human beings are being unjustly slaughtered, maimed and rendered refugees in the land of their birth.

As conscientious Muslims and responsible global citizens, we are duty bound to stand up firmly for justice and to show our solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestinian and everywhere else in the world, no matter their nationality or religious affiliation. We need to use all media platforms to speak out against these atrocities. The Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s everlasting peace and blessings be upon him) has proclaimed: “The best form of jihad (struggle) against evil is to speak a word of truth in the face of an oppressive and tyrannical ruler” (Musnad of Imam Ahmad)

Second, we should support the global nonviolent action campaign of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, to bring an end to the decades of state terror inflicted on the Palestinians.

The BDS campaign was launched in 2005, and is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law, withdraw from the occupied territories, remove the separation barrier in the West Bank, grant full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and promote the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

The alarming and draconian response from the Zionist State of Israel to the nonviolent BDS campaign is the most obvious and definitive indication that the boycott, divestment and sanctions strategy has been effective.

On 11 July 2011, the Israeli Knesset passed a controversial law making it a civil offence to publicly call for a boycott against the State of Israel. On 7 January 2018, Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs published a list of 20 specific non-government organizations whose officials would be banned from entering the country, including the BDS national committee, and BDS France, South Africa, Italy, and Chile.

It is palpable that the BDS movement is undoubtedly the most effective nonviolent strategy in advancing the Palestinian struggle for justice and human dignity.

Last but not least, we should intensify our du’a (prayer) for the oppressed people of Gaza and for all Palestinians. For the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has proclaimed that the du`a prayer of the oppressed person (mazlum) will never be rejected. Supplication is the undefeatable weapon of the believer, and if we cannot help our Palestinian brothers and sisters in others ways, we should never fail to remember them in our prayers.

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