Fedwa Wazwaz

Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian- American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US. By profession, she is a senior data warehouse programmer with the University of Minnesota. Read more about Fedwa Wazwaz.

Posts about Education and literacy

Fighting for survival, not destruction of Israel

Posted by: Fedwa Wazwaz Updated: July 13, 2014 - 8:26 AM

"When understanding is demented, destruction is near."  -- Sanskrit proverb

I was preparing an article to respond to the current violence in Gaza when I realized that recent history is repeating itself. Thus, I looked at previous articles and decided to simply update an article I wrote in 2012 about that year’s Israeli attack on Gaza. It seems to me that “peace”--to some--means a hope that the Palestinians will just disappear and stop seeking their rights protected under international law. Meanwhile, Palestinians are fighting for their survival, not for the destruction of Israel.

The process of peacemaking is a process that begins first with establishing healthy boundaries that protect both sides from each other, and then restoration and reconciliation takes place to heal wounds and promote forgiveness and healing.

It is a process that humanizes the oppressed in the eyes of the oppressors, who often live in a bubble and have no empathy for those other than their “own.” It also teaches the oppressed the meaning and value of grace.

Peacemaking embedded in forgiveness is not a process that compels the victims to deny their reality, identity, and their needs.  Peacemaking with forgiveness is a process that requires validation, acknowledgement of the abuse, and nurtures the victim to let go as a choice.  For peace to begin to take root between Israelis and Palestinians, the facts and narrative of the Other, the price paid by Palestinians must be told.

Let me respond to the questions floating in cyberspace.

Israel’s Right to Exist?

Which Israel and on which boundaries?  In order to answer this question, it is important to understand how Israel was created.

Before the creation of Israel, many Zionists’ plan was to ethnically cleanse the land of its Arab natives.  In 1895, Theodore Herzl, Zionism’s founder, wrote in his diary:

“We must expropriate gently the private property on the state assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying employment in our country...the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly.”

When Israel was created, immediately following the passage of the Partition Plan in November 1947, the Jewish forces, Haganah, and the terrorists groups (Stern Gang and Irgun) launched their infamous "Plan D," aimed at capturing as much territory as possible inside the proposed Palestinian state.  In the book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe writes: 

" ... on 10 March 1948 ... veteran Zionist leaders together with young military Jewish officers, put the final touches to a plan for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine."

Fast forward to 1967, the West Bank and Gaza Strip were occupied by Israel.  What does occupation mean to Palestinians?

See:  Occupation 101

The Occupation opened more doors for a continued “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians.  This was done mainly with the theft of Arab land, Arab-only home demolitions to build Jewish-only settlements, and connect them to Israel proper (pre-1967 borders) with Jewish-only bypass roads.  All of this is done in a culture which recognizes Jews with rights, while Arabs with no rights before the law.  Israel has no constitution that allows Arabs to challenge the system to fight for their rights.  Rather, it has basic laws that elevate Jews above non-Jews.  Hence, settlers are armed and protected by soldiers and Arabs are left unprotected.

SEE:  Israeli Settlements Explained
SEE:  Arab-only home demolition
Listen to Jeff Halper from Israeli Committee Against House Demolition

Israel's right to exist cannot come through massacres, deadly force, and the humiliation of Arab residents. It cannot come through starving 1.7 million Gazans unless they accept submission to Israel. It cannot come through carpet-bombings of civilians in Gaza and Lebanon. It cannot come through the expulsion of Arabs from their land, Arab-only home demolition, and construction of illegal Jewish-only settlements. It cannot come through violating International Law. It cannot come through allowing Israel the right to act without any sense of boundaries or accountability to any rule of law. Israel must earn its way to legitimacy and make amends for the history of terror and violence in the region as well as the numerous massacres and war crimes upon which it was built.

SEE: Biased myths confuse Arab/Israeli partition

Mapping of Shrinking Palestine

Jews and Arabs were fighting for centuries?

"The indigenous Jews of Palestine also reacted negatively to Zionism. They did not see the need for a Jewish state in Palestine and did not want to exacerbate relations with the Arabs.”   
John Quigley, “Palestine and Israel: A Challenge to Justice.”

“Before the 20th century, most Jews in Palestine belonged to old Yishuv, or community, that had settled more for religious than for political reasons. There was little if any conflict between them and the Arab population. Tensions began after the first Zionist settlers arrived in the 1880’s...when [they] purchased land from absentee Arab owners, leading to dispossession of the peasants who had cultivated it.” 
Don Peretz, “The Arab-Israeli Dispute.”

[During the Middle Ages,] North Africa and the Arab Middle East became places of refuge and a haven for the persecuted Jews of Spain and elsewhere...In the Holy Land...they lived together in [relative] harmony, a harmony only disrupted when the Zionists began to claim that Palestine was the ‘rightful’ possession of the ‘Jewish people’ to the exclusion of its Moslem and Christian inhabitants.” 
Sami Hadawi, “Bitter Harvest.”

SEE  The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict

Peace Process or Piece Process?

When the phrase "Middle East Peace Process" began to gain currency in the 1990s, the Western media defined the peace process as an end to the hostilities between Palestinians and Israelis.  After more than two decades of negotiating peace, the Israeli government continues to confiscate Arab land, build Jewish-only settlements, and demolish Arab-only homes in violation of international law.   As mentioned in the article below, Israeli policies did not change, rather the peace process was used as a cover while Israel continued with its ethnic cleansing campaign.

See Peace Process that produced violence


In the 2012 Israeli attack on Gaza, Juan Cole, a political analyst, wrote the following:

“Israeli hawks represent themselves as engaged in a ‘peace process’ with the Palestinians in which Hamas refuses to join. In fact, Israel has refused to cease colonizing and stealing Palestinian land long enough to engage in fruitful negotiations with them. Tel Aviv routinely announces new, unilateral house-building on the Palestinian West Bank. There is no peace process. It is an Israeli and American sham. Talking about a peace process is giving cover to Israeli nationalists who are determined to grab everything the Palestinians have and reduce them to penniless refugees (again).”

See: Top Ten Myths about Israeli Attack on Gaza

Israel unilaterally withdrew completely from Gaza?

Some will argue that Israel left Gaza. However, Avi Shlaim, a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford argued here:

The real purpose behind the move was to redraw unilaterally the borders of Greater Israel by incorporating the main settlement blocs on the West Bank to the state of Israel. Withdrawal from Gaza was thus not a prelude to a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority but a prelude to further Zionist expansion on the West Bank. It was a unilateral Israeli move undertaken in what was seen, mistakenly in my view, as an Israeli national interest. Anchored in a fundamental rejection of the Palestinian national identity, the withdrawal from Gaza was part of a long-term effort to deny the Palestinian people any independent political existence on their land.

Israel's settlers were withdrawn but Israeli soldiers continued to control all access to the Gaza Strip by land, sea and air. Gaza was converted overnight into an open-air prison. From this point on, the Israeli air force enjoyed unrestricted freedom to drop bombs, to make sonic booms by flying low and breaking the sound barrier, and to terrorise the hapless inhabitants of this prison.

There was ar eport by the IDF to determine what the minimum caloric intake for Gazans should be in order to determine how many trucks of humanitarian aid can be allowed into Gaza without the population facing starvation.

See: Israel’s starvation diet formula in Gaza and the expansion of the ‘Dahiya doctrine’

What if we were under attack?

Juan Cole, answered this best in his blog, Stop Saying ‘If X fired Rockets at U.S.’: It’s Racist, & Assumes We’re Colonial:

I’m old enough to remember the race riots in American cities of the late 1960s and early 1970s. I can remember a prominent pro-Israel columnist for the Washington Post, way back then, explicitly comparing Palestinians protesting their occupation by Israel to African-Americans protesting their economic marginalization. The writer’s hope was that white Americans would identify with Israelis and come to see Palestinians as “Black.” Or, let’s face it, as the N-word.

Someone recently sent to my blog such a screed, saying, what if rockets from Quebec were slamming into Maine?

The comparison is not only repulsive because the author hopes that Americans are Anglo-Saxons who don’t like French Canadians (or French anything). Notice no one says “What if the white people of Windsor, Ontario, were sending rockets across the Detroit River onto Detroit?” That would get the race dynamics that the analogy is aiming at all wrong.

Human Shields?

As mentioned in the last blog, Mourning and a call for justice, when Palestinian children or civilians are killed, Israel blames Palestinians for their death.  In every massacre or attack, Israel responds to the death of civilians by accusing Palestinians of using them as human shields.  Commenting on the 2012 attack on Gaza, Stephen Zunes, a political analyst, posted this on his Facebook:

“Following the 2008-2009 war in Gaza, detailed on-the-ground investigations by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UNHRC and others took place that were quite critical of Hamas and accused them (and Israeli forces) of a number of war crimes. Yet they were unable to find a single case of Hamas using ‘human shields.’ (See pp. 75-78). And I'm seen no evidence that Hamas is doing that now, either. Yet members of Congress and others are still insisting that civilians being killed by Israeli bombardments are because Hamas is using ‘human shields’."

SEE: Amnesty International Report on Operation Cast Lead

Retaliation or indiscriminate killing?

With every surge of Palestinian violence, Israel has struck with an evident lack of mercy. In the past, we heard “put the fear of death into the Arabs,” “mow them down,” and Israeli Deputy Defense Minister, Matan Vilnai, threatening Palestinians with a “shoah,” which means a holocaust.

As mentioned earlier, Israeli defiance of international laws still continues. On April 18, 1996, less than three years after the famous handshake between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, Israel bombed a U.N. shelter in Qana, Lebanon, killing over 100 civilians. Israel denied that it knew about the civilians and labeled a U.N. report, which found conclusive evidence that Israel had intentionally killed the civilians in the U.N. base shelter, as "anti-Jewish."

In April of 2002, Israel entered Jenin in a military operation leading to 52 Palestinian deaths.  Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch charged that Israeli Defense Forces personnel in Jenin had committed war crimes. The April 2002 United Nations visiting mission on Human Rights was refused entry into Israel.  A UN fact-finding mission suffered the same fate due to the following conditions set by Israel:

That the UN agrees not to prosecute Israeli soldiers for any violations of international law that might be uncovered during by the mission.  And that the mission limits its scope exclusively to events in Jenin.

In the 2008-2009 attack on Gaza, the UN-commissioned Goldstone Report found Israel applied the “Dahiya doctrine.” The report said on page 23:

"The tactics used by Israeli military armed forces in the Gaza offensive are consistent with previous practices, most recently during the Lebanon war in 2006. A concept known as the Dahiya doctrine emerged then, involving the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations."

In 2012, Israeli transport minister, Israel Katz, recommended forcing the Gazan population into Egypt and cutting off their water and electricity.

See: Inciting war crimes: Israel minister says force Gaza population into Egypt, cut off water, electricity

Self-Defense?

Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at MIT, responded to this classic argument best:

“You can’t defend yourself when you are militarily occupying someone else’s land. Call it what you like, it is not self-defense.”

Security?

We must agree that security is a right for all, and not just for the exclusive set of people with nuclear arms. A state simply seeking security does not deny the right of another state or people to security. That is, unless it is not security that Israel seeks, but security from accountability for waging war crimes and ethnically cleansing Palestinians from their homeland.

See: Israel to counter Palestinian attempt at UN

"If the Palestinians go to the UN General Assembly with a new unilateral initiative, they must know they will be subject to severe measures by Israel and the United States," the station quoted Lieberman as saying on October 24.

Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?

In an interview with Norm Finkelstein, a political analyst and author of many books on the situation, I asked him the following question:

Wazwaz: Quite a few people assume that peacemaking means that you speak and act like Barney the purple dinosaur and they quote Gandhi and Martin Luther King selectively. In fact, both men were considered terrorists in their lifetime. MLK was very vehement against the war in Vietnam and very critical of American foreign policy. You recently explained that Gandhi also did not see nonviolence as allowing yourself to be raped and doing nothing. Can you explain nonviolence and respond to the call for the Palestinian Gandhi?

Finkelstein: Gandhi's opinions on nonviolence are complex and not always consistent. But it should be clear that Gandhi ranked courage and bravery as high as nonviolence, and he repeatedly said that if you don't have the courage and bravery to resist the oppressor nonviolently then you should use violence. He repeatedly denounced those who used nonviolence as a cover for their fear and cowardice.

Hatred of Jews or Israeli Apartheid?

It's true that some Arabs have expressed unjust anti-Semitic feelings. Similar sentiments were expressed by Jews toward Arabs. However, this conflict is not about hatred of Jews or hatred of Arabs, but an illegal military occupation that is against international law. The anti-Jewish and anti-Arab feelings are byproducts of the conflict, not the root cause of it. 

This conflict is not a Jew vs. Arab conflict. It is not Judaism vs. Islam conflict. Israel remains in violation of abundant UN resolutions. There are quite a few Jews, some quoted in this blog, who came out and spoke against the Occupation. Some saw the striking similarity between what they suffered in the holocaust and what they are seeing in the lives of Palestinians.

Hajo Meyer is the author of The End of Judaism: An Ethical Tradition Betrayed. In this Huffington Post article, he writes of the similarities between his experiences in Germany and what he saw of the suffering of Palestinians. Here are his words:

See: An Ethical Tradition Betrayed

“I am pained by the parallels I observe between my experiences in Germany prior to 1939 and those suffered by Palestinians today. I cannot help but hear echoes of the Nazi mythos of ‘blood and soil’ in the rhetoric of settler fundamentalism which claims a sacred right to all the lands of biblical Judea and Samaria. The various forms of collective punishment visited upon the Palestinian people — coerced ghettoization behind a ‘security wall’; the bulldozing of homes and destruction of fields; the bombing of schools, mosques, and government buildings; an economic blockade that deprives people of the water, food, medicine, education and the basic necessities for dignified survival — force me to recall the deprivations and humiliations that I experienced in my youth. This century-long process of oppression means unimaginable suffering for Palestinians.”


Until we recognize the Palestinians as a people with rights protected under international law, the conflict will continue and the map of Palestine will continue to shrink. Calling for restraint while financing an illegal military occupation against international law and protecting the occupier from accountability for violations of international law will not produce peace or security for anyone, but violence and insecurity for all.

To follow the current conflict and stay abreast of the situation see the following on their website, Facebook or Twitter:

Electronic Intifada

Juan Cole

American Muslims for Palestine

Jewish Voices for Peace

Mourning and a call for justice

Posted by: Fedwa Wazwaz Updated: July 3, 2014 - 7:55 AM

"Do you construct on every elevation a sign, amusing yourselves, And
take for yourselves palaces and fortresses that you might abide
eternally?  And when you strike, you strike as tyrants."
(Quran 26:128-130)
 



Hebron

Twenty years ago, during the morning prayers of the holy month of Ramadan, my own nephews were praying in the Ibrahmi Mosque when Baruch Goldstein stormed the Mosque and started to shoot at Palestinians while kneeling in prayer.  Their classmates fell dead on top of them.  This was in the town of Hebron, known to Palestianians as Al Khaleel.  It is named after a title given to Prophet Abraham, which means, the Friend of God.  I will refer to this town later.

This is a town where mainly Palestinian Arabs live, but Israel has placed the most extremist of armed settlers in their midst, making life unbearable for them so a few hundred settlers can reside.  

SEE:  http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2014/02/remembering-ibrahimi-mosque-ma-2014223105915230233.html

Racism

Over a decade ago, Muhammad al-Durra, a Palestinian child was killed by Israeli soldiers.  His death was recorded and the recording went viral. 

SEE:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arRgkXDLwlM

Before Al-Durra’s death, Israel had enjoyed the anonymity of the Palestinians and the invisibility of their suffering for decades - and felt embarrassed at the exposure of its policies before the world. 

The blame game began by pointing fingers at Palestinian “gun men.” Then, al-Durra was “caught in the crossfire.” Then al-Durra was depicted as a “trouble-maker” or a “mischievous” child who deserved this punishment for his “mischievous” behavior.  When the projection games to protect the Israeli image failed, the question fell like a bombshell upon the world.

Israeli propagandists asked the world, “What was he doing there?” What was al-Durra, a Palestinian child doing in his hometown traveling with his father shopping together during the day?
 

Context

Israel likes to present itself as a helpless state and its armed “Israeli civilians” surrounded by “hostile” Palestinians or Arabs.    Yet, behind this false PR image, Israel is engaged in Arab home demolitions, cruel torture, imprisonment of Arabs without charge or trial, land grabbing and illegal Jewish-only settlements connected to Israel with Jewish-only bypass roads slicing Arab land into Bantustans.

Palestinians are resisting Israel not out of hatred for Jews. The resistance is because Israel was built on massacres, ruins, graves and ethnic cleansing of Arabs which continue to this day. It was built by terrorists and war criminals whom Israelis freely choose as prime ministers.  Yesterday, Yasser Arafat was the scapegoat when things went wrong.  Today it is Hamas.

However, Israel deliberately implants the most radical of settlers in the midst of Arab towns as part of an ethnic cleansing campaign.  These Jewish-only settlements which are connected to each other and Israel proper are growing and illegal under international law.  Their growth results in continuous demolition of Arab homes and theft of Arab land, which result in the disconnection of Arab villages from each other. 

The presence of the armed settlers has resulted in the deaths of many children over the years.  Palestinians were robbed of their humanity and accused of “sending [their] children out to die” to “score media points.”

Recent events

The world did not call out this blatant racism.  They looked the other way, until the violence which Palestinians endure daily touched the lives of the occupier.  Then the world paid attention.

Recently, three Israeli teens: Gil-Ad Shaer, 16, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19 – were found dead in the West Bank village of Halhul.  They were missing since June 12 as they were visiting family in Hebron.  This is the town I mentioned in the beginning, where Israeli settlers annually pay celebratory pilgrimages to Goldstein's shrine.  

My relatives in Al Khaleel, or Hebron cannot visit our family in East Jerusalem, but these Israeli teens are able to freely visit their relatives in Hebron.

In a revenge attacks, three Palestinians: 7-year-old Ali al-Awoor,15-year-old Mohammed Dodeen, and 17-year-old Mohammed Abu Khudair were killed.

Abu Khudair was standing next to the masjid waiting for dawn-break prayer. He was abducted by Israeli settlers, beaten and stabbed to death, after which they set his body on fire and threw his charred remains to the side of the road. He was the 10th Palestinian killed by the Israeli soldiers or right-wing extremists since the Israeli teens were missing. 

I mourn their death as well as the Israeli teens as we should mourn all lost lives. Yet, we must demand the world change the conditions that nurture the violence in the region for our mourning to have meaning.

Let us not forget to also mourn the lives of 1,384 Palestinian children killed by the Israeli soldiers since 2000, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. That’s 1 Palestinian child killed every 3 to 4 days. 

Striking without mercy


Every life is sacred. 

Recently, after the 3 Israeli teens were found dead, the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu says that Hamas “will pay” for these latest deaths.  As usual, the entire city of Gaza is under heavy bombardment.  Over the years, striking Hamas has become a cover for striking like tyrants at Palestinians' civilian towns, killing hundreds of civilians, without a strong leadership from the world community.

SEE: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/06/israeli-netanyahu-responsible.html

Currently, across the West Bank the Israeli army has sealed off entire towns, arrested more than 400 people, and raided over 100 homes and over 34 bombing raids hit Gaza. 

In the past, Israel used events such as violence by Palestinians against Israelis, to strike with a lack of mercy. We heard “put the fear of death into the Arabs,” “mow them down,” and by Israeli Deputy Defense Minister, Matan Vilnai, who once threatened Palestinians with a “shoah,” which means holocaust.

Israel has played well the projection game and keeps hiding behind a Palestinian scapegoat to justify the occupation and the systematic ethnic cleansing campaign.  However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not Nelson Mandela.  He is not a man of peace.

In 1989, in a speech at Bar-Ilan University, stated:

"Israel should have exploited the repression of the demonstrations in China, when world attention focused on that country, to carry out mass expulsions among the Arabs of the territories."

Since then, Netanyahu has not renounced his extremism or his love of violence.  Several years ago, in 2006, Netanyahu commemorated the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the headquarters of British rule, which killed 92 people.  According to Netanyahu, terrorism is bad if you are the underdog and okay if you are not.

SEE:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2006/jul/21/sixtyyearssincethekingdav

The projection games that Israeli government has been playing on the world stage need to come to an end.

We cannot fight terrorism by turning a blind eye to the occupier as they oppress and violate every human and international law. And we cannot fight terrorism by justifying cruel measures against the weak collectively for wrongly resorting to violence to resist the occupation and the oppression of the occupier.  The world has to end this culture of impunity, and Israel has to abide by rules of law.

To monitor the situation follow the below:

Jewish Voices for Peace

“All lives are precious.
We refuse to mourn only the deaths of Palestinians, or only the deaths of Israelis. But that does not mean we can ignore the enormous power difference between Israelis and Palestinians, or pretend it is just a ‘cycle of violence’ with no root cause or context. Each of these horrific incidents that harms both peoples happen in the context of an ongoing occupation, itself inherently a system of daily violence. And it is a system that by its very nature puts the lives, dignity, and human rights of all in jeopardy.”

Electronic Intifada
Suspected revenge killing of Palestinian teen comes after intense incitement

Distinguishing free speech from hate

Posted by: Fedwa Wazwaz Updated: June 24, 2014 - 8:43 PM

"People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use."
--Soren Kierkegaard

It is the same story.  

Around the country, speakers are warning Americans about the danger of Islam and the threat of the Muslims within.  Islam maligned, Prophet Muhammad attacked and the speakers threaten lawsuits if they are denied the space to spew their venom in an unchallenged manner.

They argue this is "freedom of speech." To such individuals, regurgitating your dirty saliva without any critical thinking or understanding of the subject matter at hand is free speech.  Yet a society that values freedom of speech is best known by the presence of the voices of its minorities and politically weak in the public square. To my knowledge, the Muslims in many European countries and here remain mainly marginalized.

There is a strong social pressure for Muslims to speak the right way, breathe the right way, sneeze the right away or fear being accused of extremism or terrorism activity.

Let us play an imagination game.

Imagine in your mind's eye the following cartoon: a Muslim with a thought bubble that reads, "What is freedom of speech?" The Muslim figure is looking at two prevailing images from Western countries with Muslim minorities: One image shows some Westerners bashing Muslims, Islam and Prophet Muhammad, and another image shows law enforcement persecuting, spying, bashing and censoring Muslims for unpopular opinions and speech.  In the first image a crowd surrounds the speaker attacking Islam and Muslims, and in the second image a drone is aiming at the Muslim speaker spewing venom at non-Muslims.  What makes one speech socially and legally acceptable under free speech and another as in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, grounds for a drone attack for his inflammatory speech against the US?

Let us continue the imagination game.

Imagine a Muslim speaker who claims that American Christians and Jews "will kill your children" and that "we are in war with Crusaders," was invited to speak at Bagley High School. 

Imagine the speaker incited the audience such that some neighbors felt endangered and decided to attend to challenge the speaker with their attendance and "Love Thy Neighbor" signs.

Imagine said speaker stopped his presentation and singled these people out, demanded they leave or threatened to throw them out.

Imagine the incited crowd yells, 'Get out' and 'You weren't invited.' 

Imagine people getting up to their feet and moving towards them to lay hands on them and kick them out.

Imagine one Muslim upset at the Christian and Jewish presence, later approached the officer and asked: "Can I borrow your gun?"

Imagine one member describes the event as "The audience doesn't know where the line is, or that a line even exists. When [Muslim speaker] works a crowd, he does so skillfully, provoking responses and goading reactions. After listening to fear mongering messages the previous night, such as 'Christians are destroying the world,' 'Jews are coming to kill your children and grandchildren,' 'The day will come and Christian and Jews in America will have the upper hand, and they will kill your children for not eating what is liked. For not eating the lawful foods,' and 'Killing you is a small matter.'

Are we as Americans in favor of such speech?  Are we in favor of the views of Anwar al-Alwaki and other Muslims who spew such venom?  Would we be open to our schools allowing such views to incite crowds?

Noam Chomsky said, "If you're in favor of free speech, then you're in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise. Otherwise, you're not in favor of free speech."

The US killed Anwar al-Alwaki, and his children with drones.  They did not commit acts of terrorism, but al-Awlaki was guilty of spewing hatred against America.

So I would like to ask Bagley High School, are you open to a Muslim speaker who spews venom towards Christians and Jews?  I ask the Police and Law Enforcement in Bagley - had this been a Muslim speaker spewing venom against Jews and Christians - would you have handled this situation the same way?

I ask the radio stations and media in Bagley and around - had this been a Muslim speaker spewing venom against Christians and Jews - would you have favorably promoted the event on your station and paper?  Are Muslim voices that you despise heard? This demonstrates whether it was hate or freedom that is motivating speakers and the audience.

I ask the FBI who is constantly asking us to keep our eyes and ears open to questionable behavior by Muslims and to aid them in preventing terrorism - had this been a Muslim speaker spewing venom - would you have remained silent?  

According to Islamic teachings, freedom of speech is a valuable concept when embraced with a spirit engaged in the search for truth and is not laced with insults and vulgarity. For example, Islam forbids Muslims from cursing or attacking other faiths. Islamic teachings also prohibit sitting in the company of those who ridicule and mock God or the prophets.  There is no value or critical thinking in such speech.

In the Qur'an, one hears arguments raised by Satan toward God as well as the objections toward Prophet Mohammed, upon him peace and blessings, by the early Makkans. God does not censor these voices but responds to the charges raised.

Satan was given time till Judgment Day to prove that God's ennoblement of human beings over him was a mistake.  If you are for free speech, then you are for an equal platform for those you disagree with, who oppose or challenge your views and ideas, openly and transparently.  

Speech that seeks to incite a crowd and rage at any opposing voice and muzzle everyone who can respond and challenge their argument - is not free speech, but hate.  

In addition, in the Quran we are told of a conversation between Prophet Solomon, upon him peace, and the Queen of Sheba.  The Queen of Sheba was of a different faith, different gender, and different ethnicity, in other words, the "other."  When a subject of Prophet Solomon shares with him negative news regarding the Queen, Prophet Solomon responds with a call for verification and investigation.  He respectfully writes to the Queen and engages her directly, openly and transparently.

(Solomon) said: "Soon shall we see whether thou hast told the truth or lied!  "Go thou, with this letter of mine, and deliver it to them: then draw back from them, and (wait to) see what answer they return"...  (The queen) said: "Ye chiefs! here is delivered to me - a letter worthy of respect. (Quran 27: 27-29)

When a crowd is easily incited by negative comments on the "other" and fails to accept its responsibility to verify, investigate, and engage openly and transparently, then that is not freedom of speech, but hate.

The quotes shared above in the imagination game were not the quotes of a Muslim speaker; rather, they are the quotes of Usama K. Dakdok, a Christian speaker, who came to Bagley, Minnesota this past weekend to warn Minnesotans about the "disease of Islam."  I changed the quotes to help us understand that were similar quotes to be said by a Muslim toward non-Muslims, we would not be so open and receptive to such speech and we would not call it free speech.  We would easily recognize it as hate speech.

SEE:  Three-day Bagley Islamophobe event turns nasty as crowd harasses Muslim woman at high school

I do not ask for the US to hit Dakdok with a drone, but why is al-Awlaki hit with a drone, while Dakdok and others are allowed to speak in public schools or spaces under the banner of "freedom of speech?"  That is not imagination, but reality.

SEE: US cited controversial law in decision to kill American citizen by drone

The issue for me is not that Dakdok and others like him are allowed to speak, but the platform in which they speak is a platform where Muslims are marginalized, mocked and silenced.  It is a platform devoid of critical thinking, investigation, transparency, and verification.  It confuses feelings with facts, projection with analysis and promotes a demented understanding of one another, which creates an atmosphere that is unhealthy for Muslims and all citizens in Bagley, Minnesota and America at large.

Reflect

An Invitation to Grow Together

Posted by: Fedwa Wazwaz Updated: May 17, 2014 - 12:47 PM

"Everybody wants to be somebody; nobody wants to grow."
--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ninowy was invited to the Twin Cities by Muslim Volunteers to fulfill one of the group's main objectives: promoting tolerance, peace, mercy and understanding within the Muslim community and with people of other faiths.

Shaykh Al-Ninowy acquired knowledge in many fields of the Islamic sciences.  He particularly specializes in the fields of Hadeeth (sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad) and Tawheed (Islamic monotheism). Besides a strong knowledge in Islamic sciences and disciplines, he is also a scholar on Islamic spirituality. 

The group came together and discussed topics that our community is in need of, and has planned a few events to benefit the Minnesota community.  We would like to invite you to the following:


May 17th at 7pm - 9pm


Interacting with Your Non-Muslim Neighbors
Lessons from Prophet Muhammad
(upon him peace and blessings)

Dinner available for purchase at 6pm 
Islamic Center of Minnesota
1401 Gardenia Ave
Fridley, MN 55432

May 18th

  • 10am - Noon

Answering Your Questions on Islam and Islamic Spirituality
Nuruliman Institute 
2221 15th Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55404

 

  • 1 pm - 3 pm

Rights of Children in Islam
Plymouth Masjid
3300 Plymouth Blvd
Plymouth, MN 55447
 

Readers Note:  Your questions on Islam and Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings are welcome at any of the events above.  A special event on Sunday was planned for answering questions from people of other faiths.  Face to face interaction over coffee and refreshments is the best approach to responding to your questions on his life and character.

Your attendance to any of these events are more than welcome.

A Respectful Muslim-Christian Dialogue about Drones and Violence

Posted by: Fedwa Wazwaz Updated: May 7, 2014 - 8:01 PM

"A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song" 
-Chinese Proverb

The Minnesota Council of Churches has a program called, Respectful Conversations which opens the doors to communicate across difference on areas of disagreement.  The program tries to frame the topic and design some questions for attendees to meet with trained facilitators, to have a conversation in a spirit of empathy for those with there is strong disagreement. 

If you are interested in a Respectful Conversation to bless your community, contact Jerad at (612) 230-3211.

Since the start of the project, MCC had over 1500 people throughout Minnesota who have gathered together for a Respectful Conversation on important, often divisive issues in our community. This month MCC will hold their first one in an Islamic Center!  Now is your chance to join the conversation as participants from the Islamic Center of Minnesota and the Minnesota Council of Churches adopt the Respectful Conversation model, a method of discussion promoted by Minnesota Council of Churches and designed not to change minds, but soften hearts.

In conversation with MCC, we have chosen a conversation about Drones and Violence.  

Conversations across differences and disagreement can sometimes be emotional and challenging, pick-a-side and fight-it-out discussions that leave us feeling worse about the people we disagree with, and sometimes worse about ourselves. But there is a way to talk that feels open, honest and impartial, where you can actually be heard and learn about the people with whom you disagree.  

We have designed some questions that we will use to help us explore this topic across our differences and disagreements.  We will share the questions with participants at the conversation itself, to allow each the experience of searching for themselves for the answer, and to build empathy.

Join us for refreshments and discussion and RSVP today!

Please read the this article on Respectful Conversations and see this video for further information.

When
May 18, 2014
2:00pm – 4:00pm

Where
Islamic Center of Minnesota
1401 
Gardena Ave. NE
Fridley, MN  55432

Parking
Participants in the Muslim Christian Dialogue are invited to park on the street,  in the parking lot of the Islamic Center of Minnesota or in the parking lot of Totino Grace High School directly across the street.

Please foward to friends and family and spread the word.

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