I recently gave a Friday/Jum’aa sermon/Khutba at one of the Southern California mosques focusing on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. I spoke about the stronger role American Muslims and others need to play to inform the public about the sufferings of all Gazans. I criticized the Israeli government for its policies of strangulating the people of Gaza by imposing a total siege. I also criticized the Egyptian government for its role in the siege. After all, Israel does not control Gaza’s southern border with Egypt; Egypt does.
After the sermon, a young man approached me and asked: “Why did you negatively mention Egypt in your Khutba?”
I asked him if there was anything inaccurate in what I said. He said: “No, it is accurate. However, why single out Egypt when other Arab countries and leaders have continuously betrayed the Palestinians too?”
I explained that I never hesitated and would never hesitate criticizing any government, including my own, when it commits injustice. However, the topic of this Khutba was specific and addressed the current siege on Gaza. To reassure him, I reminded him that, in my Khutba, I genuinely praised the heroic and generous Egyptian people for the way they welcomed their suffering Palestinian brothers and sisters who forced their way across the border to get food and medicine.
In an attempt to keep him happy, I asked my new friend: “what would you have said if you were giving the Khutba?”
With a smile on his face, he replied: “I would have just focused on Israel and left other Muslim countries alone.”
At that moment, I realized that I am facing a more serious issue than just a person feeling nationalistic hearing his country of origin criticized.
I spent the next few minutes reminding him that our Islamic teachings require that we always stand out for justice, especially when injustice is being committed by “our own”. I stressed how hypocritical it is for us to be willing to criticize Israel’s apartheid policies against Palestinians, but then choose to be deliberately silent when wrongs are perpetrated by a so-called Muslim government.
In conclusion, I reminded him that Almighty Allah says in the Qur'an:
O you who believe, stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well acquainted with all that you do (An-Nisaa' 4:135).
Finally, I believe that he agreed with me that it is really not necessarily about Israel, Egypt, or even Palestine, it is about standing out for justice.
- Hussam Ayloush
- Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html