Beranda Opinion English Ambivalence of Muslim Solidarity

Ambivalence of Muslim Solidarity

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Every time the Israeli-Palestinian conflict re-emerges on the stage of global politics, Muslim groups in predominantly Muslim-populated countries like Indonesia, but also in the West, the United States included, organize events — from small gatherings in mosques or Islamic centers to large-scale fundraisers.

Some mobilize the masses to condemn Jews or Israelis (and usually also the Americans, seen as masterminds behind the conflict). Others urge international agencies, including the United Nations, to help resolve the seemingly endless clash between Arabs and Jews.

On many websites, furthermore, Muslims post pictures of Palestinian victims and “Israeli savagery,” neglecting casualties on the part of Israel. Many Muslims, moreover, continue to solely blame Israel for the bloodshed, while ignoring violent acts committed by Hamas.

Such “global Muslim solidarity” also occurred when Rohingya in Myanmar and Moros in Mindanao (Southern Philippines), among others, were marginalized and persecuted by non-Muslim regimes.

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with such solidarity. Each people and religious grouping has the right to select those it wants to assist or endorse.

And urgent appeals are indeed needed to help and support — intellectually, politically and financially — the victims of violence and the oppressed worldwide, including the Palestinians, Moros and Rohingya, who the UN describes as among the most persecuted people in the world, with over 80,000 now without shelter and protection from the recent violence in Myanmar.

Notwithstanding Muslims’ notable assistance benefiting their “imagined” religious brethren, one question remains unanswered: why do they so passionately support the Muslim casualties, and not, for instance, Jewish victims?

Instead of Hamas, why do Muslims solely blame Israelis for the aggression and brutality? Why does such “religious solidarity,” or whatever one calls it, only occur when Muslims have been the object of oppression of non-Muslim groups such as those of Palestine (by Jews), Mindanao (Catholics), Myanmar or Southern Thailand (Buddhists), India (Hindus), and Bosnia (Orthodox Serbs)?

Importantly, why doesn’t such similar Islamic solidarity come into view when Muslim communities have been the targets of persecution and injustice by Muslim regimes? Examples abound, like the case of the Kurds (in Turkey, Iraq, Syria), Darfur (Sudan), Shiites (Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan), Sunnis (Iran), Ahmadis (Pakistan and Indonesia) etcetera.

Despite the fact that Islam and the Koran oblige Muslims to reach out to those in need, regardless of their ethno-religious backgrounds, why do most Muslims choose silence when confronted with Muslim extremists and dictatorial rulers maltreating and discriminating against ethno-religious minorities in, to name just a few examples, Egypt, Bangladesh and Iran?

It is obvious that for some Muslim groups the primary question is not “who are the victims?” but rather “who are the perpetrators?”

It is more about “the oppressors” rather than “the oppressed.”

Romanticizing and using double standards, some call for “global Islamic solidarity” simply because the persecution of Muslims is committed by non-Muslims or actors they mistakenly dub “infidels” ( kuffar ).

Such “exclusivist religious solidarity” misreads the historical dynamics and socio-political backgrounds of inter-group conflicts, overlooks the facts of interreligious coalitions for global peace and reconciliation, misunderstands the diversity of societies, and reveals the opportunism of extremists and conservative Muslim political leaders who draw populist support by blaming non-Muslims.

It is worth noting that, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, Arabs (mostly Muslim) make up some 20.4 percent of its population, and these people mostly identify themselves as Arab by nationality and Israeli by citizenship. It is not surprising then that there are Israeli Arabs (or Arab Israelis) who serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

Moreover, there is also a sizable non-Muslim minority in the Palestinian Territories, including Druze, Samaritan, and Christians from various denominations. In fact, Palestine is the birthplace of Christianity. The conversion process to Islam began in the seventh century when Muslims captured Palestine. Studies also illustrate that a majority of the Palestinian Muslims are offspring of Christians, Jews, and other earlier dwellers of the southern Levant.

But apart from this, there are more facts contributing to the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including Jewish opposition against Israeli authorities. There are many anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian Jews and organizations worldwide, including rabbis, activists, and academics, as discussed in David Landy’s illuminating 2011 book, “Jewish Identity and Palestinian Rights: Diaspora Jewish Opposition to Israel.” An Irish-Jewish academic and former chair of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Landy himself has an activist background.

Moreover, despite the support of some “right-wing” Christians, there are also Christian activists and peacemakers calling for Palestinian liberation and who oppose Israeli policies. These include Palestinian Archbishop Elias Chacour, who has long been working to promote reconciliation and peace between Arabs and Israelis.

Given the historical complexity and dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is quite inaccurate to simply dub it Muslim-Jewish violence. Rather, it is a war between extremist factions in both Palestine and Israel.

The global Muslim solidarity movement, thus, will be more meaningful and successful if it uses “human solidarity” as its basis, instead of a religious-based discourse.

Whoever suffers and is in need of support, deserves to be given a helping hand — whatever their religious affiliation and ethnic background. Isn’t the very fundamental teaching of Islam to be rahmatan lil ‘alamin — a blessing for all humanity? It is the job of Muslim activists to bring this universal message down to earth.

Source: Jakarta Globe