[Comments are welcome at our Dialogue Corner]
A few words to my Palestinian friends on the Holy Month of Ramadan.
Palestinians are a minority that is described in ways that can hide who they really are. They have been described as victims of colonialism, as survivors of an orchestrated genocide and as suffering apartheid. Reducing them to victims of European / American colonialism, imperialism and Nazism is deceptive and deprives them of their real identity. Let us look at the Holy Month of Ramadan.
Historically, Ramadan signals a month of peace. From ancient times, prior to the rise of Islam, the Kaaba in Mecca was the gathering place for people who came to trade and worship their many gods. It was a time of peace, when every sword was in its sheath. The Prophet Mohammed, after years of exile, came back on a truce accorded by the Pagans of Mecca. He and his followers were allowed to come and worship in peace in Mecca. The next year they returned triumphant and in peace and chanted "Allahu Akhbar" as all false pagan gods were destroyed. The Kaaba became the house of Allah and only Muslims could circumvent the Kaaba.
Sadly, the idea of peace, unity and harmony was replaced by power struggles after the Prophet Mohammed died. In the Shiite tradition, Muslims remember the wisdom of Zaynab. They re-enact the massacre of Karballah where Hussein and Hassan, the two grandchildren of the Prophet, were murdered. His granddaughter Zaynab spoke harshly of those Muslims who had violated the memory and the peace of their prophet, her grandfather. Shame on you for murdering his grandsons!
Ramadan in Montreal has become of month of "activism". Muslims and their left-wing supporters expose the victims of injustice. True, an injustice was done to the Palestinians and Muslims, who are often misrepresented. However, the culprit is not "the West" but imported Leftist ideologies. The real causes are bad leadership, both secular and religious, and bad advice from the Left that describes Arabs and Palestinians as victims, stripped of all dignity. On many university campuses you will see demonstrations in support of Palestinians, money will be collected for the poor victims, Imams and left-wing activists will lead men and women chanting "Allahu Akhbar!" and "Down with Zionism! Down with Israel!"
Allahu Akhbar! God is Great! "Annihilate Israel!" is the message. These gatherings are fueled by deceptive "Leftist" propaganda. They reinforce both Western prejudiced perception of the Arabs and enhance anti-Semitism. The Western left-wing ideology looks for a victim that is put down and demeaned. Yet, Arabs and Muslims are feared at this time, because of terrorism done by a radical minority. The West is currently haunted by a double paranoia: Do not trust Arabs and Muslims, and do not trust the Jews, because they are all murderers who threaten the peace.
Westerners are willing to believe that Jews are killers. After all, Jews killed Jesus! In the Middle East, Jews tried to kill the Prophet in Khaybar! This is an unholy alliance between Christians and Muslims, based on a religiously fed European anti-Semitism. An urban legend.
European anti-Semitism led to the Holocaust and the murder of 6 million Jews. At the same time, however, the lives of many Jews were saved in Egypt, thanks to the ingenuity and warmth of Muslims. The story of Thea Wolf and the Jewish hospital in Alexandria, published by Prof. Ada Aharoni, is a testimony to the life saving contribution and alliance between Muslims and Jews. It is backed by stories of the Prophet who teaches to be kind even in the face of adversity. There is a story about a man who left his garbage on his doorstep, but the Prophet never got angry. One day, there was no garbage and the Prophet went to see if the man was ill. The man was so impressed that he became a friend.
He did not ask: Are you Muslim? Are you Jewish or Christian? The holy month of Ramadan invites seekers of peace to unite and celebrate in harmony. During the Ramadan, it used to be quite different from today's reality. At friends' house, as the sun was setting, the dishes were clattering; the women were bringing from the kitchen all these delicacies.
In those days, they were asked in true Arabic hospitality: Please, have more dates! Did you know the Prophet broke his fast with dates, such as these? Here, have some soup, served with a warm smile. Do you want lemon with your lentil soup? This is how we eat it, to break our fast. Drink! Eat! Have some sweets! Do you remember how your father and my father use to work side by side? Remember when your father came and lit the Shabbat candles at my house in Egypt? Oh! Do you remember the Christmas lights in Cairo? Yes, my grandmother told me how we lived in peace. We had no problems! We loved our neighbors and we knew prosperity.
This is the message of Ramadan: remembering old friends, sharing a meal and not politicizing our lives. For once upon a time there was peace in the Middle East.
Celine Leduc, 28/October/2004