MuslimARC Statement on Muslim Leadership Initiative (MLI)

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 “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another…” [49:13]

Muslims are of every ethnicity, race, and color. We speak different languages and bear different nationalities. As Allah SWT tells us in 49:13, this is intentional and Divinely ordained.

We are thus also instructed to celebrate this diversity by embracing our differences and learning from one another.

At MuslimARC, we are committed to fostering and promoting genuine solidarity and alliance between Muslims of diverse backgrounds. Central to this commitment is the amplification of marginalized voices. To “be in solidarity” means more than a few words or a hashtag. It means hearing those who are oppressed and centering their voices. It means respecting their requests. It means prioritizing the voices of those who are affected most.

The Muslim Leadership Initiative is in its second cohort this year. Funded by the Shalom Hartman Institute, MLI is made possible in part due to the financial backing of Islamophobic groups in the United States. [1] In addition, the Institute is a major contractor for the Israeli military and works closely with the Israeli government’s efforts to combat the Palestine solidarity movement. [2]

Since April 2004, PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, has called upon intellectuals and academics worldwide to “comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid.” [3]

The second cohort of MLI is currently visiting Jerusalem. These delegations have so far included only one Palestinian American Muslim.* In contrast, many Palestinians – whether living in Palestine or abroad – are denied access to Jerusalem and other cities in Israel-Palestine due to the Occupation.**

In the last weeks, we have witnessed the dismissal of prominent Palestinian-American voices, like those of Linda Sarsour, Dr. Hatem Bazian, Shaykh Omar Suleiman and others. We have witnessed a lack of concern for their perspectives, viewpoints, and asks. [4][5] Today, a video was released of a Palestinian in Jerusalem being treated with hostility and even a physical assault when he sought to question the participants. [6]

Disrespectful acts should not be justified by an excuse of having had good intentions. Being “Muslim too” should not erase or dismiss people’s differences. Thus, we must teach our communities that once you have stepped on someone’s toe, you have a responsibility for acknowledging the act and apologizing for the pain. You should not seek to tell the other how much pain s/he has felt, that the stepping did not occur, that the stepping was done with the person’s best interest in mind, or that you have no responsibility for the person’s pain.

We call on all Muslims to respect each other’s differences. We call on Muslims to fight ego, to look inward, and seek to understand one’s own privilege relative to Muslims of other backgrounds. We call on Muslims to center voices of Muslims from other ethnic groups, to prioritize their feelings for issues that most directly affect them, and to hear them when they speak of how others can stand with them.

We call on all non-Palestinian American Muslims to center Palestinian voices, and to study, learn, and consult with Palestinian Americans on issues surrounding the occupation of Palestine.

The call for boycott, sanctions, and divestment is clear.

Palestinians have requested our support in this manner.

Respect the picket line.

For those MLI participants who have already gone or returned from Palestine: we call on you to engage with Palestinian Muslims in a respectful, genuine, and gracious manner, with awareness that you are in a position of privilege having gone to another’s occupied homeland using money that sustains that occupation. We call on you to acknowledge and apologize for the pain and hurt you have caused with your actions, whether these actions were taken with full knowledge, and irrespective of your ‘good intentions.’ A broken toe is a broken toe, and there is no question of it being your shoe.

We call on all American Muslims to engage in any discourse surrounding privilege and racially/ethnically discriminatory acts with humility and respect.

We leave you with the example of moral courage. [7]

Al-Hurr bin Yazid (RA) was a commander in the army of Umar bin Sa’ad’s while they lay a siege against Al-Husayn bin Ali (RA). While on the battlefield, Hurr realized his error in fighting against the Prophet’s ﷺ grandson and family.

He left bin Sa’ad’s army, and joined Al-Husayn (RA).

He said, “I am Al-Hurr bin Yazid.” Al-Husayn told him “You are Al-Hurr [meaning the free] just as your mother named you. And you will be free insha’Allah in this world and in the hereafter.” 

Let us be generous in our compassion, accepting of critique, and humble and decisive in seeking to right what has been wronged.

 


Updates:

* 1-21-15 After our statement was released, the one Palestinian participant currently on the trip posted a status on Facebook briefly noting why he decided to join this year’s cohort. We have amended our statement to reflect his participation.

** 1-21-15 This sentence has been edited for clarity. It previously said, “Moreover, many Palestinians today are not so much as allowed to enter Jerusalem.”


Footnotes:

[1] [2] http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/islamophobia-bankroller-behind-organizer-israel-junket-us-muslim-leaders

[3] http://www.bdsmovement.net/activecamps/cultural-boycott#sthash.IGGnGjB3.dpuf

[4] Imam Khalid Latif alludes to the dismissals of criticism in his post on the subject: https://www.facebook.com/khalid.latif/posts/790938181000526?fref=nf&pnref=story.

[5] Dismissal of Linda Sarsour by the 1st cohort’s participants on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lsarsour/status/5519260018913116160176

[6] http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/video-jerusalem-resident-assaulted-israeli-backed-us-muslim-leaders

[7] Narrated in the History of Damascus by ibn ‘Asakir.

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