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Israeli Apartheid | Introduction

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Pre-req  Introduction  | Part I |  Part 2 | Part 3 |  Part 4

The Israeli propaganda machine is in full swing this time of the year. Israel’s image as the ‘only liberal democracy in the Middle East’ continues to be tarnished as Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) and BDS (Boycotts, Divestments, Sanctions) grow as a grass roots movements on campuses across the globe. Israel’s positive image in the North American psyche is the one thing which has allowed it to continue its brutality against the Palestinians without any backlash from the general public. The fact that its image is slowly undergoing a seismic shift shakes Israel to the core.

Israel’s nervousness and isolation is best indicated by the attempts to counter this movement. It has organized massive public relation campaigns, initiated events such as Israel Peace Week and has sent out delegations on speaking tours all over the world. Condemnation of IAW pour in from right-wing politicians and media outlets continue to brand the event as a hate fest which is rooted in misinformation and anti-Semitism.

All this comes at a time when informed commentators agree that Israel implements a system of apartheid. A recent report by the United Nations concluded that Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories ‘exhibit features of colonialism and apartheid’. B’Tasleem, Israel’s leading human rights organization, published in its report Land Grab that Israel ‘has created a system of legally sanctioned separation based on discrimination that has, perhaps, no parallel any where in the world since the apartheid regime of South Africa’. The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa also concluded in its legal study that Israel is guilty of apartheid crimes.

Why use apartheid?

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a multi-faceted one. At the core of it lies an illegal occupation coupled with innumerable human rights violations, war crimes, terrorism, ethnic cleansing, colonialism and apartheid. Solidarity activists of the past largely focused their struggle around ending the occupation, human rights violations and state-sponsored terrorism.

Focusing on the apartheid nature of the occupation represents a newer strategy in the movement, and perhaps the most effective one to date. This is a dimension of the conflict which was ignored largely in the past; partially because it is something which has developed overtime. It is the aspect of the conflict which affects Palestinians everyday.  Apartheid is a term which stirs strong emotions in the Western psyche; by exposing Israel as a perpetrator of this crime one has a much higher chance of changing public opinion towards the Zionist state. This has also allowed activists to structure their strategies in a similar fashion to the anti-apartheid movement of the 1980’s. The apartheid policies of South Africa ended shortly after US withdrew its support for the regime. By forcing our governments to change their unequivocal support of Israel, we have the greatest chance of aiding an end to the conflict.

Israeli Apartheid Week is a unique (and proud!) Canadian contribution to the Palestinian solidarity movement. It started off in 2005 at the University of Toronto by a group of dedicated student activists. It was shortly followed by the BDS Call (Boycotts, Divestments, Sanctions) made by 170 Palestinian civil societies. Through lectures, protests, concerts and film screenings, this week is dedicated to raising awareness about the atrocities being committed against the Palestinian people. It also focuses on measures that can be employed by average citizens to help end Israeli apartheid. The event is now organized on university campuses in over a 100 cities across the globe.

Success of the anti-apartheid movement for South Africa was rooted in educating the public about this inhumane system. Given the lack of knowledge about this issue amongst the masses and to emulate former movement, this series will seek to inform people about what apartheid is, why it applies to Israel and how we can help fight it.

Next Post: What is Apartheid?

Waleed Ahmed writes on current affairs and politics for MuslimMatters. He focuses on Muslim minorities, human rights and the Middle-Eastern conflict. Based out of Montreal, he's currently pursuing a Ph.D. at McGill University in fundamental physics. Waleed also has a keen interest in studying Arabic and French. He spends his spare time reading, playing basketball and praying for Jon Stewart to run in the next presidential election.

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Avatar

    JPeditor

    March 30, 2012 at 1:10 AM

    a/ Muslims living in Israel have more freedom in Israel than IN ANY Arab “nation” on the planet.

    ESPECIALLY MUSLIM WOMEN.

    THERE IS NO APARTHEID IN ISRAEL.

    b/ 90% of muslims living in Israel have NO DESIRE to live under the rule of the so-called “palestinian” Authority.

    THERE IS NO APARTHEID IN ISRAEL.

    c/ The so-called “palestinian” Authority has already declared that NO JEWS WILL BE ALLOWED TO LIVE in so-called “palestine”.

    THERE IS THE APARTHEID, you intellectual midgets.

    Go ahead and delete, this, as you do not have the capacity, nor the facts nor the stones to argue it.

    So show us how cowardly you are, too afraid to let your big-time intellectual muslim and far left dhimmie audience read it.

    But everywhere you post the LIE OF ISRAELI APARTHEID,  the truth of the above FACTS will be plastered to make you the laughing stock of academia, and eventually of the Western world.

    THEN, you can go back live in YOUR apartheid cesspool.

    • Avatar

      Israelisaterroriststate

      March 30, 2012 at 3:13 PM

      I don’t find it surprising a jpost editor is spouting these retarded claims. Freedoms my ass. Go back to slaving for your Zionist masters you cretin. You know you’re lying and you are truly the scum of the earth.

    • Avatar

      Israelisaterroriststate

      March 30, 2012 at 3:16 PM

      By the way, do tell me where you got your sources(aka “false info”). It’s a shame you are no different than the holocaust perpetrators you cry about.

    • Avatar

      Shahriar Hussain

      March 31, 2012 at 7:17 PM

      Islam protects and free’s women infinitely more then your western standards ever will, so to say that Muslim women have no freedom in Islam is a big idiotic statement that would be said by someone who knows nothing about Islam. 

      The tyrants who are in power in Muslim lands are hated by the general Muslim people, and they are tyrants who are backed by the West because they serve not the needs of Islam and Muslims, but the needs of Israel, the greatest transgressor of the world.

      Wake up and face the reality. Muslims haven’t occupied anybodies land nor transgressed against any people, nor have we oppressed anyone..
      Israel has, America has, Britain has.

      • Avatar

        Jp

        April 3, 2012 at 5:11 PM

        “hey are tyrants who are backed by the West because they serve not the needs of Islam and Muslims, but the needs of Israel, ”

        Mu-ha-ha-, more islamic paranoia….”my little pee-pee shrunk, its the JOOS fault.”

        1300 years, you invent NOTHING but envy. Just another example of why islam is “death” not 
        “peace”.

        • Avatar

          Shahriar Hussain

          April 7, 2012 at 6:29 PM

          Do you live under a rock?

        • Avatar

          Shahriar Hussain

          April 7, 2012 at 6:31 PM

          Because it seems obvious that you aren’t aware of anything other than what TV told you.

      • Avatar

        Lior

        September 19, 2012 at 12:54 AM

        So the Ottoman and Persian empires weren’t colonialist examples of Muslim faith?

    • Avatar

      Robbie

      December 7, 2012 at 12:16 PM

      To JP Editor

      I have to agree, your post is 100% accurate !!

      However, I would suggest trying to tone it down a little, because your views are valuable in these debates and we really don’t want you to be barred from posting.

      Many of these RADICAL EXTREMISTS just need to be educated.

      Greg Abdul, whether I agree totally with your views or not, I appreciate your interest in lasting peace within these lands.
      LIVE AND LET LIVE

  2. Pingback: On Land Day, Australians March in Solidarity with Palestinians « KADAITCHA

  3. Pingback: Israeli Apartheid is Worse Than Apartheid Practised by White South Africa « KADAITCHA

  4. Avatar

    GregAbdul

    April 1, 2012 at 11:11 PM

    Yes Israel is an apartheid state. But that means the Palestinians are a part of Israel and they belong to Israel and they are being denied their birthright as Israeli citizens. And no Palestinian Arab will live with those facts. Arabs want to have it both ways. You hate Israel and say you want it abolished. Now you say they are a state who denies rights to its Arab citizens. You can’t be an oppressed minority without belonging to the state that you claim denies you full rights. Israel’s obligation is to its citizens. So if the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza want full Israeli citizenship, then you can holler apartheid and the world will be with you. If all you want is to drive the Jews into the sea,’ and this is another sorry cloaked argument, please save everyone time. Your drive the Jews into the sea nonsense has caused over 50 years of suffering. The Jews are going nowhere. If you want to live in peace with Jews and Muslims living with full rights in one state, the world will be with you. If you keep this Arab purity nonsense up, the Jews will soon completely own the West Bank and Gaza anyway. The only question is will there be Arabs there willing to live with Jews in peace or will Lukid drive all the Arabs into the sea? Please my Muslim brothers, end the nonsense. The Jews are going nowhere. So fix your political aims on living with the Jews, or prepare for the eventual mass migration of all Arabs from what used to be called Palestine. I think that’s a pretty simple choice. Please let us be a people of logic and reason and not stupid politics. 

    • Avatar

      WaleedAhmed

      April 2, 2012 at 4:17 AM

      It’s a bit presumptuous and extreme for you to suggest Greg, that we are calling here for expulsion of the Jews from Israel. It is as absurd as saying the the anti-apartheid movement of the 1980’s wanted the expulsion of white’s from SA. 

      Israel is an apartheid state because it implements apartheid policies on the Palestinians. The end to this system could come through a two-state or one state solution…the latter of which is unlikely. 

      Muslims and Jews living in peace is nothing new; in fact that has been the historical norm. It will happen again God willing. 

      I encourage your to read the remainder of the series before jumping to conclusions about what is being called here.

      • Avatar

        GregAbdul

        April 2, 2012 at 7:30 AM

        as salaam alaikum,

        It is not presumptuous. It’s old clearly articulated and spelled out political dogma. It is an Arab dream to see the end of the State of Israel. That is why many do not recognize Israel. The reason for the Western insistence of the two state solution is that many Palestinians have no desire to live in and share a country with Jewish people. Brother if we are all honest, this decades of debate takes only two seconds. There is ONE land. There are two peoples. Jews and Muslims living in peace has happened in the past. Today, in Israel, it is clearly not happening. This thing where we deny obvious realities works against oppressed Muslims. The Jews are not going anywhere. So if we want peace and prosperity for the Palestinians, the goal has to be full Israeli citizenship and not a separate state. Then your cries of apartheid are real. Right now the Palestinians are nothing more than Arab separatists, refusing to move off to Arab lands, in the hope that one day they can drive off the Jews. The hardliners on the Jewish side think exactly the same way. What my Muslim brothers and sisters need to realize is that the Jewish hardliners have the advantage, so if there is a real separation at this point, it is the Palestinians who will be left holding a bag of nothing. There is no second state to be had. So either the Arabs of the region have to move to Jordan and Egypt if they are really stuck so much on pure Arab blood, or they have to truly join modern integrationists and begin to demand Israeli citizenship. I will read your series brother. Al hamdulillah for Muslims Matters. But this is not a new issue. How many hundreds of thousands of Jews live in the West Bank? I am no Zionist. I know they take unfairly. The question is how to stop them. The answer does not lie in separatism. In South Africa, no one demanded the whites leave. So if you are going to copy the name of the freedom struggle of Africans, then see that they never sought to drive the whites away and even more importantly, set up reconciliation as a central goal of the new democratic state once apartheid was abolished. Are the Palestinians interested in a reconciliatory one-state-for-all existence in the Middle East? If not, it will be the Arabs who end up leaving. The choices here are old and simple and the problem is all the cloaked and fake language. May Allah guide us to be open and give us guidance. 

        • Avatar

          N Iqbal

          May 22, 2013 at 4:51 AM

          Brother.

          When the crusaders occupied Jerusalem for 100 years there were Muslims like you who came out with various reasons why the occupation could not be reversed. Then Allah (SWT) blessed the Ummah with Salahudeen Ayubi (RH) who achieve what Muslims like you thought was impossible but Muslims of belief never doubted.

          Your belief in Allah is weak or you would never think the things you have said let alone propagate them in them writing.

          I suggest you do sincere taubah and learn what Allah (SWT) says on this matter and stop following your own desires. May Allah (SWT) guide you.

          The only Islamic solution for Palestine is for it to be liberated under the leadership of a sincere Khalif. The responsibility on our necks is to work for the re-establishment of the Khilafah based on the method of RasulAllah (SAW). Any other solution is a false solution which deserves humiliation in this life and severe accountability in the Hereafter.

      • Avatar

        Jp

        April 3, 2012 at 5:13 PM

        “It’s a bit presumptuous and extreme for you to suggest Greg, that we are calling here for expulsion of the Jews from Israel. ”

        Are you stupid or naive?

        WHH do you think arafats’ keffiyeh crease AND the PA maps are all about:

        “From the Jordan to the Sea, koranustine Will be Jew-Free!”

  5. Avatar

    concernedstudent

    April 23, 2012 at 11:08 PM

    Hi, I’m a rising academic trying to learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I have heard of claims, like the one on this site, that Israel is considered an Apartheid state. I don’t see how this is possible, as, after doing extensive research, I have discovered that Israel provides full equal rights to its Arab citizens. How could it be that an Apartheid nation would condone an Arab-Israeli Supreme Court judge to punish a Jewish Israeli PRESIDENT of Israel. Israel has indicated, as far as I’m concerned, that it is surely not an Apartheid country.

    On the contrary, I have heard the claim that in the West Bank, the Arabs there are not given equal rights; however, they are not citizens of the state of Israel. Many of these supposed refugees seek to undermine Israel in every respect, so how could Israel attempt to embrace them? 

    I really do not understand these claims of Apartheid, but I would like to hear an enlightening perspective. Can someone please inform me further on this issue? Thanks.

    • Avatar

      WaleedAhmed

      April 27, 2012 at 1:42 AM

      Keep reading the series. You will be able to look past the propaganda that is being fed to us. 

    • Avatar

      Robbie

      December 7, 2012 at 12:22 PM

      To Concerned Student

      You have obviously studied well !!!
      Your views are 100% accurate and we need your views to be heard on web sites like this.

      Please keep up the posts as many of the writers on this site(not all) only want the destruction of Israel and the Jews.

  6. Avatar

    Special K

    May 1, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    Israel will be viewed historically as
    1. An oasis of democracy in a despotic desert.
    2. An island of modernity in a medieval sea.
    3. etc.

  7. Pingback: Why Israel is an Apartheid State | Introduction « BloomingPeaches – Sit. Think. Imagine

  8. Pingback: Israel and Apartheid | Part 1 - MuslimMatters.org

  9. Avatar

    Lior

    September 19, 2012 at 12:52 AM

    All this article states as proof is a UN report stating the recent settlements are unjustified and nothing about Israeli “apartheid.” Nice try guys….If Israel is truly apartheid, why have 63 Arab Israelis been elected in parliament? Why are Arab Israelis granted the same rights as any other Israeli???

  10. Pingback: Israel and Apartheid | Part 2 « BloomingPeaches – Sit. Think. Imagine

  11. Pingback: Israel and Apartheid | Part 2 - MuslimMatters.org

  12. Avatar

    Robbie

    January 2, 2013 at 7:05 AM

    Haha !!

    Sorry to laugh on your website, let me explain!!

    Over the last couple of months i have been reading the debates and opinions on MM, a lot of which has been based on the Israel/Gaza conflict,Apartheid Israel and who started the last round of trouble in Gaza.

    I have to say and this is not aimed at ALL readers/writers, I was flabbergasted at the attitude of some of your patrons, some of whom live in the western world.

    However my reason for laughing is quite simple:
    On every ANTI ISRAEL / JEWISH TOPIC, the right wing fanatical nutcases, have been silenced by writers posting accurate facts about each situation!!

    I mean if you read above from the intellectual who calls himself ISRAELITERRORISTSTATE, it is a delight to see these fools are being given accurate lessons and have no grounds to reply!!

    Keep up the good work guys, you know who you are

    LIVE AND LET LIVE

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#Society

Ya Qawmi: Strengthen Civic Roots In Society To Be A Force For Good

Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari

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For believers the traditions and teachings of the Prophets (blessings on them), particularly Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), are paramount. Each Prophet of God belonged to a community which is termed as their Qawm in the Qur’an. Prophet Lut (Lot) was born in Iraq, but settled in Trans-Jordan and then became part of the people, Qawm of Lut, in his new-found home. All the Prophets addressed those around them as ‘Ya Qawmi’ (O, my people) while inviting them to the religion of submission, Islam. Those who accepted the Prophets’ message became part of their Ummah. So, individuals from any ethnicity or community could become part of the Ummah – such as the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad.

Believers thus have dual obligations: a) towards their own Qawm (country), and b) towards their Ummah (religious companions). As God’s grateful servants, Muslims should strive to give their best to both their Qawm and Ummah with their ability, time and skillset. It is imperative for practising and active Muslims to carry out Islah (improvement of character, etc) of people in their Ummah and be a witness of Islam to non-Muslims in their Qawm and beyond. This in effect is their service to humanity and to please their Creator. With this basic understanding of the concept, every Muslim should prioritise his or her activities and try their utmost to serve human beings with honesty, integrity and competence. Finding excuses or adopting escapism can bring harm in this world and a penalty in the Hereafter.

Like many other parts of the world, Britain is going through a phase lacking in ethical and competent leadership. People are confused, frustrated and worried; some are angry. Nativist (White) nationalism in many western countries, with a dislike or even hatred of minority immigrant people (particularly Muslims and Jews), is on the rise. This is exacerbated through lowering religious literacy, widespread mistrust and an increase in hateful rhetoric being spread on social media. As people’s patience and tolerance levels continue to erode, this can bring unknown adverse consequences.

The positive side is that civil society groups with a sense of justice are still robust in most developed countries. While there seem to be many Muslims who love to remain in the comfort zone of their bubbles, a growing number of Muslims, particularly the youth, are also effectively contributing towards the common good of all.

As social divisions are widening, a battle for common sense and sanity continues. The choice of Muslims (particularly those that are socially active), as to whether they would proactively engage in grass-roots civic works or social justice issues along with others, has never been more acute. Genuine steps should be taken to understand the dynamics of mainstream society and improve their social engagement skills.

From history, we learn that during better times, Muslims proactively endeavoured to be a force for good wherever they went. Their urge for interaction with their neighbours and exemplary personal characters sowed the seeds of bridge building between people of all backgrounds. No material barrier could divert their urge for service to their Qawm and their Ummah. This must be replicated and amplified.

Although Muslims are some way away from these ideals, focusing on two key areas can and should strengthen their activities in the towns and cities they have chosen as their home. This is vital to promote a tolerant society and establish civic roots. Indifference and frustration are not a solution.

Muslim individuals and families

  1. Muslims must develop a reading and thinking habit in order to prioritise their tasks in life, including the focus of their activism. They should, according to their ability and available opportunities, endeavour to contribute to the Qawm and Ummah. This should start in their neighbourhoods and workplaces. There are many sayings of the Prophet Muhammad on one’s obligations to their neighbour; one that stands out – Gabriel kept advising me to be good to my neighbour so much that I thought he would ask that he (neighbour) should inherit me) – Sahih Al-Bukhari.
  2. They must invest in their new generation and build a future leadership based on ethics and professionalism to confidently interact and engage with the mainstream society, whilst holding firm to Islamic roots and core practices.
  3. Their Islah and dawah should be professionalised, effective and amplified; their outreach should be beyond their tribal/ethnic/sectarian boundaries.
  4. They should jettison any doubts, avoid escapism and focus where and how they can contribute. If they think they can best serve the Ummah’s cause abroad, they should do this by all means. But if they focus on contributing to Britain:
    • They must develop their mindset and learn how to work with the mainstream society to normalise the Muslim presence in an often hostile environment.
    • They should work with indigenous/European Muslims or those who have already gained valuable experience here.
    • They should be better equipped with knowledge and skills, especially in political and media literacy, to address the mainstream media where needed.

Muslim bodies and institutions

  • Muslim bodies and institutions such as mosques have unique responsibilities to bring communities together, provide a positive environment for young Muslims to flourish and help the community to link, liaise and interact with the wider society.
  • By trying to replicate the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah, they should try to make mosques real hubs of social and spiritual life and not just beautiful buildings. They should invest more in young people, particularly those with professional backgrounds. They should not forget what happened to many places where the Muslim presence was thought to be deep-rooted such as Spain.
  • It is appreciated that the first generation Muslims had to establish organisations with people of their own ethnic/geographical backgrounds. While there may still be a need for this for some sections of the community, in a post-7/7 Britain Muslim institutions must open up for others qualitatively and their workers should be able to work with all. History tells that living in your own comfort zone will lead to isolation.
  • Muslim bodies, in their current situation, must have a practical 5-10 year plan, This will bring new blood and change organisational dynamics. Younger, talented, dedicated and confident leadership with deep-rooted Islamic ideals is now desperately needed.
  • Muslim bodies must also have a 5-10 year plan to encourage young Muslims within their spheres to choose careers that can take the community to the next level. Our community needs nationally recognised leaders from practising Muslims in areas such as university academia, policy making, politics, print and electronic journalism, etc.

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#Current Affairs

#UnitedForOmar – Imam Omar Suleiman Smeared by Right-Wing News After Opening Prayer at US House of Representatives

Zeba Khan

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Sh. Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives yesterday, May, 9th, 2019  at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas.

Immediately since, right wing media platforms have begun spreading negative coverage of the Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists as well as criticism of Israel policies.

News outlets citing the criticism have pointed to a post from The Investigative Project on Terrorism or ITP, as the source. The  ITP was founded by and directed by noted Islamophobe Steven Emerson. Emerson’s history of hate speech has been documented for over two decades.

Since then, the story has been carried forward by multiple press outlets.

The immediate consequence of this has been the direction of online hate towards what has been Imam Omar Suleiman’s long history of preaching unity in the US socio-political sphere.

“Since my invocation I’ve been inundated with hate articles, threats, and other tactics of intimidation to silence me over a prayer for unity,” Imam Omar Suleiman says. “These attacks are in bad faith and meant to again send a message to the Muslim community that we are not welcome to assert ourselves in any meaningful space or way.”

MuslimMatters is proud to stand by Imam Omar Suleiman, and we invite our readers to share the evidence that counters the accusations against him of anti-semitism, bigotry, and hate. We would also encourage you to reach out, support, and amplify voices of support like Representative E.B.Johnson, and Representative Colin Allred.

You can help counter the false narrative, simply by sharing evidence of Imam Omar Suleiman’s work. It speaks for itself, and you can share it at the hashtag #UnitedForOmar

JazakAllahuKheiran


A Priest, a Rabbi, and an Imam Walk Into a Church in Dallas

At an interfaith panel discussion, three North Texas religious leaders promoted understanding and dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Amid a vexed political and social climate, three religious leaders in North Texas—a priest, an imam, and a rabbi—proved it’s possible to come together in times of division. Source: DMagazine.com


Muslim congregation writes letters of support to Dallas Jewish Community

The congregation, led by Imam Omar Suleiman, penned more than 150 cards and letters. source: WFAA News


Historic action: Muslims and Jews for Dreamers

“We must recognize that the white supremacy that threatens the black and Latino communities, is the same white supremacy that spurs Islamophobia and antisemitism,” -Imam Omar Suleiman

Source: Bend The Arc


Through Dialogue, Interfaith Leaders Hope North Texans Will Better Understand Each Other

“When any community is targeted, they need to see a united faith voice — that all communities come together and express complete rejection of anything that would pit our society against one another more than it already is.” -Imam Omar Suleiman

Source: Kera News

 


Conversations at The Carter Center: Harmonizing Religion and Human Rights 

Source: The Carter Center


Imam: After devastating New Zealand attack, we will not be deterred

My wife and I decided to take our kids to a synagogue in Dallas the night after the massacre at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh to grieve and show solidarity with the Jewish community. My 5-year-old played with kids his age while we mourned inside, resisting hate even unknowingly with his innocence…” Source: CNN

 

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#Current Affairs

From Sri Lanka – The Niqab Ban and The Politics of Distraction

Shaahima Fahim

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This article was originally published on Groundviews

 

As of last Monday, Sri Lanka is taking a seat at the table next to a list of 13 other countries from across the world who have passed legislation banning the niqab or face veil.

Amidst incensed murmurs from certain parliamentarians, and following a discussion with the country’s main Islamic theological body, the All Ceylon Jammiatul Ulema (ACJU), the President’s office has announced that ‘any garment or item which obstructs the identification of a person’s face would be barred.’ Sri Lanka has been under emergency regulations following the Easter Sunday attacks which killed over 250 people. The ban will hold until emergency regulations are lifted.

Ever since the identification of the all-male terrorists behind the massacre as members of militant group ISIS, Muslim women -for some inexplicable reason- were to bear the hardest brunt. Instances of headscarved Muslim women being refused entry at various supermarkets and prominent establishments, was followed by the usual scaremongering via alarmist infographics doing the rounds yet again ‘educating’ the public of the differences between the burqa, hijab, and chador.

A victory indeed for both anti-Muslim voices, as well as to many within the Muslim community seeking to audibly amputate themselves from a supposedly dated form of Islam – one that they claim has no bearing to inherent Sri Lankan Muslim identity.  A view that discards the notion that any religious or ethnic identity is fluid, in flux, and subject to constant evolution.

The grand slam however is primarily for the current political establishment, members of whom are probably high-fiving each other as a result of this kneejerk symbol-politics manoeuvre on having supposedly successfully placated the public of their fears of homegrown terrorism. A move that bleeds hypocrisy for it comes at the cost of subliminally ‘othering’ an already marginalized segment of a minority community, while at the same time PSA’ing for peace and coexistence in this time of crisis.

What is most insulting to the intelligence of our society however, is that amidst all this brouhaha, only few have questioned the actual relevance of this new ban to the current state of our security affairs.

No eye witness report nor CCTV footage showed that any of the suicide bombers from any of the coordinated attacks across the country were on that day wearing the niqab/burqa/chador at the time of inflicting their terror. The men were in fact dressed in men’s attire, with faces completely exposed. It might serve to add here also that they weren’t dressed in traditional Muslim man garb either.

How then did the face veiling Muslim woman get pushed under the bus as the most identifiable sign of radicalism?

It is obvious that the government was cornered into passing this legislation, as was the ACJU too in having to support this move. While all communities have only their praises to sing for the exceptional work of the security forces in tracking down the attackers within only just hours, the country’s elected leadership was in dire need of respite following what many experts claim was a massive intelligence failure, a blunder involving the wrongful identification of a terror suspect, and incompetence in the handling of events overall. A distraction was desperately required. Something needed to give, and it just so happened that the niqab-donning Muslim woman was the easiest scapegoat.

To an outsider unfamiliar with Muslim religious symbolism, the face-veil can come across as alien, even unnerving. And while our first instinct is to otherize in an attempt to help deal with the discomfort of dealing with any unknown, a woman out in the street in a niqab is -for as long as anyone can remember- most certainly not an oddity that has compelled anyone to stop and recite their final rites.

The misguided belief that the face veil is a marker of extremism isn’t and hasn’t ever been based on any empirical research. If studies were to be carried out, results would show that Muslim women in general -let alone those with a face cover- have a little role to play, if any, for acts of terror committed in all the countries that have banned them.

Contrarily, there is a clear proven relationship between terrorist attacks and increases in recorded Islamophobic incidents against Muslims, with women being disproportionately targeted. One can then dare infer that being visibly Muslim carries a greater risk to oneself, than to the people around them.

The niqab ban has been put in place as a security measure they say – a flexing of muscles towards any semblance of radicalization that will deter any future acts of terror in the country. Naturally, the perpetuating of this ideological hegemony is doing Muslim women no favors. If anything, the ban is a wholly counterproductive one, in that it ostracizes an already marginalized segment of a minority community – a sliver of a percentage out of the 10% that is the country’s Muslim population.

If -as commonly believed- veiled Muslim women are being hopelessly persecuted, the ban will serve only to increasingly confine these women to their homes, under the control of the men accused of governing their lives, and further disconnected from being able to assimilate with society. Even more dangerous, there are studies which prove that having to live in an environment that is aggressively policed on the basis of belief is more likely to harbour radicalization.

Absurdity of the non-connection of the attacks with the niqab ban aside, this in itself should be a war cry for secular feminists advocating for everyone’s basic right to the civil freedoms of a liberal society. Where now are the proponents and ambassadors so wholly soaked in the ‘Muslim woman saviour complex?’ A segment of Muslim women has been forbidden from wearing what they feel best represents their Sri Lankan Muslim identity. They were not consulted before this legislation was passed, nor were they given the chance to show their willingness to cooperate on instances where identification was required.

Ludicrously, discourses surrounding veiled Muslim women are paradoxically lobbed back and forth according to the convenience of the times. In times of world peace, they are oppressed and subservient to patriarchal whims and fancies, while in the immediate aftermath of a terror attack there are hostile and threatening, capable of devising all kinds of evil. They are either victims of violence or the perpetrators of it.

This age-old preoccupation with Muslim women’s attire is in actuality a gross conflation of conservatism with extremism. In claiming that a strip of cloth holds the answer to combatting a severe global threat is trivialising the greater issues at hand. If there was a direct correlation between the attacks and veiled individuals, legislation forbidding the covering of the face in public would be wholly justified. But there is none.

Muslim women shouldn’t be faulted for the cracks in the state’s china. In not being able to answer the hard questions of accountability, lapses in acting on available intelligence, and general good governance, those at the top should leave well alone and consider hiding their faces instead.

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