Through the Looking Glass: Searching for Justice

Volume 5 – Issue 4 – November 2023 / Rabi Al Thani 1445


As we witness the latest round of Israeli war crimes unfolding before our eyes on live streams and TV we could be excused for feeling a demoralising sense of detached helplessness from the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Palestine. The horrific scenes of civilians being targeted as they sleep in their homes or seek shelter in the open air evoke many emotions in us ranging from sadness to anger to disbelief. As the survivors scrabble through the rubble of their pulverised residences we scrabble through the maelstrom of these emotions searching for an adequate response. Our difficulty is compounded by the constant bombardment of propaganda from pro-Israel media outlets.

The media coverage is straight out of George Orwell’s 1984 in which the omnipotent Party has total control over the levers of information production and uses them to write and rewrite history. “The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth…And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became the truth”, wrote Orwell. This imaginary dystopian future is our present. To scare us into accepting mistruths, most mainstream media has sought to vilify the Palestinians and delegitimise their resistance. Whether it’s by propagating unsubstantiated (and now widely discredited) claims, the aim is to sanitise the Israeli carpet bombing of one of the most densely populated areas of the world with absolutely no regard for civilian life.

Gaza has become a human slaughterhouse and yet the justifications of wanton violence continue to bellow out from the so-called civilised world. It is in this perverse media reaction that the writer of our headline piece, Sahib Mustaqim Bleher, locates the response required from Muslims. He lauds social media for providing an essential counterweight to the MSM narrative. Drawing on the seerah of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) he underlines the importance of the spoken and written word in demolishing lies and appealing to audiences – the Prophet famously employed the poet Hasan ibn Thabit to this end. According to Bleher our role as people in the West and as Muslims is to challenge the government controlled dominant discourse replete as it is with loaded terms and slogans, all designed to prevent people from taking control over their own destiny.

He writes: “Upon listening to orators from Najd, the Prophet Muhammad, peace be with him, said “Some expressions have magic in them”. He was talking about the eloquence of words which can carry their audience. As Muslims, we need to free ourselves from the magicians’ tricks (media deception) of the Pharaoh system, demolish them, like Moses did, by making them vanish in front of the eyes of the beholders..,”

Our second contribution by Imam Muhammad al-Asi continues with the theme of learning from our history to understand that the liberation of the Holy Land, and by extension the freedom of the Palestinians, will not be achieved without first defeating the enemy within. By this he means the Arab regimes who are allied whether formally or informally with the state of Israel and its western overlords. It is not just the Holy Land that is colonised. Makkah and Medina are also colonised. Imam Asi says that before the Prophet (pbuh) even dealt with the duplicitous Banu Israel he had to deal with the hypocrites in the ranks of the Muslim community. The abandonment of the Palestinians and al-Quds by the Arab regimes speaks to the truth of the continuation of this historic treachery which has never totally disappeared from the Arabs.

We must reorient our struggle on the concept of justice. “If we cannot re-centre our colonised mindsets on the issue of justice, there will be no liberation neither of Holy Land South or North”, writes Imam Asi. This is the Prophetic method,” he writes.

Wars against Muslims are not limited to the physical realm. Increasingly they have become the target of culture wars by which they are otherised in order to shape public opinion to accept differential treatment and violence against them, according to the third piece in this issue by Saeed Khan. “The culture wars that affect so many countries may best be understood and approached as manifestations of perpetual war, the need to scapegoat, demonize and marginalize social issues that are then associated, almost exclusively, with a particular, suspect group,” he writes.

The piece sets out the stall for this year’s Islamophobia conference organised by IHRC and SACC.  The issue of immigration, highlights the modus operandi of the culture war protagonists. Muslims are blamed for importing values that are antagonistic to those of the ‘native’ inhabitants and dilutive of their way of life. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the treatment of Ukrainian refugees by European governments at the same time that many have acquiesced and even participated in the drowning of refugees from Africa and Asia in the Mediterranean.

As these debates play out it is impossible for Muslims not to engage but that is not without its own pitfalls. Khan grapples with the question of where Muslims should position themselves when their values don’t neatly slot into any left or right wing paradigms.

Our final article in this issue is a real life manifestation of the horrific future that lies at the end of dehumanisation. As the Israeli hasbara, aided and abetted by its warmongering western media allies, whitewashes war crimes, Bosnia stands as a living example of a country still haunted by the memories of genocide where denial of history poisons politics and keeps its residents just a trigger pull away from a new genocide. Demir Mahmutćehajić, a refugee from the war, recounts how there were ten genocides before the war of 1992 – 95 that were not recorded. This was the background to the eleventh genocide that started in 1992 and ended in 1995. In the first few months of war, from April to June/July 1992, Serb forces set up concentration camps, torture chambers and rape houses. Over 60,000 women were raped. It was systematic and organised. Hundreds of thousands of people were placed in concentration camps, waiting for their turn to be killed. The reason why many survived is because the camps were discovered by activists and journalists.

And yet the International War Crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia tried individuals for war crimes against the precedent set at Nuremberg. This failure to indict governments and institutions, he claims, has allowed the Serbian autorities to perpetuate the same irredentist and dehumanising narratives that led to the 1992-95 genocide.

Seeing the issues of injustice we face through a different lens is not only desirable, but essential if we are to find any way to resolve the manifold problems, violence and oppression that we face daily.  This does not require the seer to be Muslim, but simply requires one to see afresh and anew.  We hope this issue assists.