Fall semester of 2000, I was at Wayne State University in Detroit finishing up some pre-pharmacy courses needed to complete my application to their pharmacy program. It was also the time when, in an attempt to appeal to the far-right citizens of Israel, Ariel Sharon gave the proverbial middle finger to the world and to the peace process by marching up Al-Aqsa, the third holiest site for Muslims, surrounded by military and a handful of politicians. The visit was the spark that ignited the second intifada (uprising) of Palestinians. So in an effort to raise awareness about the situation I, and a handful of other Muslim and Arab student activists, worked tirelessly to put together a rally on campus and within a couple of days. A response was needed, and needed immediately, before the blood of the victims could be allowed to cool.
The next steps happened in rapid succession and things fill into place almost effortlessly. speakers from respected local human rights organizations were quick to agree to take part and volunteers enthusiastically worked on placards, posters, and fliers.
The day of the event started in a typical fashion with some who want to show support but are not fully understanding how their way of doing it may cause harm than good. There was Ali who wanted to wave a black flag while having his face covered, Adel whose frustrations with the situation manifested themselves in profanities and Lucas who just wanted a mic to air out his frustrations. Of course there was also Michael who wanted to convince everyone else in attendance that the Palestinians brought this onto themselves. Overall however the event was a success. Many people walked by, many more engaged in conversation and took some brochures that explained the situation. No yelling, no screaming, no damage to property (a none sensical argument the student affairs office tried to make) and certainly no shortage of people who showed up and showed support.
After the event, a student representative from an African American Student Association on campus came up to me and said “I wish we knew about this beforehand, we have hundreds of members who would have been right here beside there brothers”
That perhaps was the most meaningful and most eye opening comment I have ever received. At that point, I had only been living in the US for a few months. Prior to that I had lived in Canada for three years and before that I was born and raised in a Muslim majority, Arab country. My limited exposure to US internal politics and my consumption by my own Palestinian struggle, limited my appreciation for how, in the fight for justice, we are all brothers. Up to that point, I never thought of other than Palestinians or Arabs as brothers in our struggle for peace, for justice, for being seen as full humans
The more I learn about the oppression of African Americans in this country, the more I believe that, to positively impact the situation in Palestine and elsewhere, we must understand the black American experience and we must stand hand in hand to refuse hate, reject color and race based sense of superiority and stop state sponsored discrimination and oppression.
The below is a picture from the latest issue of National Geographic which dedicated most of its content to the Tulsa Race Massacre.
Palestinian, Muslim, American, Husband, Father, Academic, Pharmacist, Coffee Addict, Nutella phene, Pseudo writer, Soccer player, former Canadian, Community servant, Pinch hitter imam, interfaith ninja, Intellectual vigilante, and the undisputed KING of snark