The recent events in the Middle East have once again made the Muslim community in Canada vulnerable to anti-Islam propaganda and Islam-phobic stereo typing. While the Palestinians find themselves under siege by the Israeli army, the Muslims in Canada are also besieged by the religious bigotry being presented mostly in the print media. For example Barbara Amiel's column in Maclean's or Mr. Jackson's in Calgary Sun. What has also been absent from Canadian print media is the full publication of the Security Council's resolution 1322 that would have enabled Canadians to makeup their own mind as to our government's decision to support this resolution. It is also interesting to note that as the number of Palestinian casualties rise, both the print and broadcast media has stopped identifying the killed and injured as Palestinians. There are of course exceptions where balanced editorial and news coverage has occurred, for example Neil Mcdonald's coverage on CBC.
The plight of the Palestinians and their suffering under occupation is not only a concern for the Muslims but a matter of human rights and international law. The living conditions of the Palestinian people under occupation are subhuman and in direct violation of the Geneva Convention. The Israeli government continues to build Jewish settlements on confiscated Palestinian land in blatant disregard of International law. Collective punishment in form of home and business demolition is a standard practice of the Israeli government. In lieu of this it is extremely difficult to understand how reasonable people can render unconditional support to Israel. The supporters of Israel are however entitled to their opinion but what is ethically and morally unacceptable is that they in their zeal be allowed to cross the line of civil discourse by bending the truth and demonizing and dehumanizing a particular faith community. When words such as satanic, violent and barbaric are used to describe the Islamic faith and Muslims and Palestinians are equated to animals, terrorist and intellectually deficient infidels not by extremist fringes of society but by our main stream media, it is a reminder of a time not long ago when the Nazis were using similar language to describe Jews and the Jewish faith.
The Western world, and specially the Western media, continues to portray Israel as the bastion of democracy and human rights in spite of glaring facts to the contrary (see Amnesty International's latest report on Israel). This only enforces the view held by Muslims that the West condones Israel's state-sponsored terrorism against the Palestinian people. This however in itself is not a major concern, but when combined with anti-Islam rhetoric and fear-mongering directed towards Arabs in particular and Muslims in general can become a lethal weapon against an entire community and sets the stage for harassment, hate crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide.
An honest and intellectual inquiry is desirable so as to enable us to champion peace and to accord justice. It is our responsibility as Canadians to speak the truth in face of all odds and to offer a just resolution in spite of our personal affiliations. To trivialize and justify the pain of either party in this conflict is morally reprehensible and at the same time to equate the danger of stone-throwing youths to a full-fledged military machine is certainly not reasonable.
The anger of the Palestinians is a natural consequence of years of persecution and oppression. The Palestinians feel alone and desperate since they perceive the world community to be oblivious to their pain and suffering. The United Nations has been unable to deliver, the Muslim leaders unwilling to help and the Western world too Islam- phobic to accord justice. The arrogance with which the world has ignored their plight and legitimate concerns has bred, in an entire generation of Palestinians, a sense that the world has double standards when it comes to them. Every door has been shut in their face and every avenue to reach a just resolution has been compromised by political and economic interests. When, to appease the Israeli extremist, we turn a blind eye to the illegal settlements being established on confiscated Palestinian land, and when we insist that they agree to 90% of 20% of their land as a generous offer we must take a moment to reflect would this be good enough for us?
The collective memory of the Palestinians of being driven from their homes by the importation of European Jews to settle in their land has created a bitterness in the souls of the Palestinians that continues to be reinforced through Israeli military actions and the apathy of the world community. If we wish to bring peace to this area we must first accord justice.
The slogans for peace raised every time there is trouble in Israel and the occupied territories are becoming repetitive and hollow. Peace in the Islamic frame of reference cannot exist in a vacuum and cannot be willed merely by chanting it as a mantra. Peace in Islam is real, tangible and desirable. The Islamic system and laws promote protect and sustain peace. The objective of Islam is to establish peace at all levels of human existence however it also recognizes that peace cannot flourish unless there is justice. To have justice in Islam is to have peace. To have any type of persecution is to compromise peace. Islam proclaims that peace can be established when justice prevails and justice will prevail when persecution and oppression are eliminated. In fact the Quran considers persecution worse than killing "But if they cease let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression" (Q 2:193).
Israeli's are consumed with fear and the Palestinians with despair - this is the making of a dangerous mix that will only fuel desperate actions on both sides and give substance to the argument of extremist on either sides that the two people cannot coexist. The Israelis continue to sacrifice their young in the name of national security and the Palestinians theirs for statehood. Unfortunately to continue to hold power, their leaders have lost track of what is important - the overall welfare, peaceful coexistence and the sanctity of the holy sites revered both by the Jewish and Islamic traditions.