By Tammy Obeidallah
As of this writing, the Islamic holy month of Ramadan is coming to a close. The past month has been a time of unprecedented turbulence for Muslims around the world. While both natural and man-made disasters plague our brothers and sisters overseas, media-fed controversy strains Muslim/non-Muslim relations here in the United States.
The unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe in the aftermath of the flooding in Pakistan has been compounded by evidence revealing India’s role in opening major dams along shared rivers. Such tactics are reminiscent of Israel’s opening of the al-Wadi dam which flooded parts of Gaza earlier this year; however due to the size and volume of the rivers, the suffering in Pakistan is much more widespread.
After rainfall subsided on July 29, the Baghliar Dam located in Indian-occupied Kashmir and the Sarobi Dam near Kabul and maintained by India, were opened, causing the rivers to overflow. To make matters worse, vitriolic comments began appearing on Western news websites covering the disaster. One example, forwarded to me by a colleague in Lahore:
“Lets hope more rains and floods kill more pakis soon!! pray to god for this that he brings more rain to kill more pakis!! lets hope the rain washed these samosa smelling bastards before they are sent to hells gates! a good paki is a dead paki!!”
Kashmir, long a prisoner of the Indian army, has been under curfew for a good portion of the month; praying at mosque has been a sporadic privilege for most Kashmiris. Funerals on the other hand, have been quite commonplace as youths protesting the injustices are gunned down. Images from Indian-occupied Kashmir mirror those of Israeli-occupied Palestine, where, despite the latest round of direct “peace talks,” it is business as usual.
While Abbas and Netanyahu posed for their American-orchestrated photo op, two Israeli soldiers who committed separate atrocities walked free: one who emptied his magazine into a Palestinian schoolgirl was acquitted and peace activist Tom Hurndall’s murderer was released from prison. The monotony of the siege on Gaza is broken only by periodic missile attacks from the Israeli Air Force as tunnels—Gaza’s precarious lifelines to the outside world—are destroyed. Yet the American news media has pursued only two stories for the sole purpose of stoking controversy and pitting non-Muslim against Muslim.
The “Ground Zero Mosque” as it has been inappropriately dubbed in the press, actually sits two blocks away and cannot be seen from the former site of the World Trade Center. What should have been an issue of a man’s right to do what he likes with his private property (within zoning constraints) has transformed into a clash of civilizations-style debate on religious freedom—or lack thereof—in the United States. In all fairness, since September 11, 2001 was the manufactured catalyst for the deaths, injuries, displacement and detainment of untold millions of Muslims worldwide, the “Ground Zero Mosque,” moreover, Ground Zero itself, should become home to a Muslim Holocaust Museum.
Due to Eid al-Fitr coinciding with the ninth anniversary of 9/11, many Muslim organizations are choosing to “tone down” or cancel their Eid celebrations altogether. I daresay this falls into one of two categories: fear of retaliation from those who listened to talk radio fascists circulating the myth that Muslims are celebrating 9/11 this year, or a sheepish appeal to the American population at large that says “we respect your sensitivities, please like us.”
Either way, I want to ask those organizations if Eid festivities were ever toned down to honor the Palestinian victims of the Black September massacres in 1970. Or to honor the one million Iraqis killed during and after the U.S. invasion? Were Eid festivities ever canceled when the holiday coincided with any one of the numerous massacres in Palestine? I would point out to them that Americans aren’t canceling any celebrations for 9/11. Here in Dayton, the Hispanic Heritage Festival will pause for a “September 11 Commemoration,” but the salsa music is set to resume shortly afterwards.
This is all well and good, as commemorating the anniversary of 9/11 should not be tied ceremonies at the pieces of ground in Lower Manhattan, Washington, D.C. or a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It should not be about playing Taps or waving flags; citizens would do the greatest honor to the victims by pursuing the truth as to what really happened that day, demanding answers to the discrepancies, omissions and falsehoods put forth by the 9/11 Commission. Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel held a press conference regarding evidence of explosive material in Buildings 1, 2 and 7 of the WTC, although mainstream media was massed in Gainesville, Florida and missed it.
Although I hate to contribute to a publicity-hungry pastor’s fifteen minutes of fame, the irony of General Petraeus’ condemnation of “International Burn the Qur’an Day” merits a mention. This is the same guy who orders drone attacks destroying mosques, schools and homes in which Muslim men, women and children are incinerated, let alone copies of the Qur’an which they undoubtedly kept.
In the midst of anger and frustration at the ignorance festering within my own country, fasting throughout the month of Ramadan has increased my patience, self-discipline and inner peace. Friends and family wondered why a Christian would elect to partake in such a difficult fast, one that is not mandated by our religion. Some thought I had converted.
My reasons for fasting are simple: Jesus fasted; he also advised that some forms of healing only come with prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29). I also wanted to be in solidarity with those facing hard times in Gaza, Pakistan and so many other places who may not get to break their fasts at sunset. I fasted to support my Muslim brothers and sisters here at home in a sometimes hostile society rife with hatred and misunderstanding. It is my sincere desire to reflect this newfound patience and peace to my community and to the rest of the world.
(c) 2010 Tammy Obeidallah