With the approach of Ramadan, Muslims around the world are expected to be engaged in heightened consciousness to inculcate values of justice, empathy for masses of downtrodden and to embody Islam’s principles of solidarity with marginalized people. As the annual journey of fasting from dawn to dusk is intended to instil a high degree of compassion and commitment to eradicate injustice as one of the root causes for poverty, inequality and oppression, many will question whether Muslims who possess the means to do so will rise to the occasion.
After all, Ramadan provides an opportunity to introspect in order to overcome spiritual poverty and to devote resources to improve lives. A jihad indeed! Yet the levels of repression experienced by humanity in many parts of the world have tragically worsened year on year. Casualties caused by Syria’s bloody civil war; unending drone attacks in Afghanistan; refugees fleeing ghoulish nightmares; death and destruction in Yemen, Kashmir, Somalia, Libya, Myanmar…all point to an unending list of horrors recurring, Ramadan after Ramadan.
A case in point most Muslims are familiar with is Palestine. A century of massacres and dispossession and daily atrocities seem not to have woken the Muslim soul. Yet successive Ramadans have witnessed some of the worst brutalities visited upon Palestinians. Strange indeed that in spite of longer hours of intense worship during Ramadan, souls seem to be insulated. And tragically, immunised from shocking reports of “normalization” with Israel by the “custodian of Mecca and Medina”.
The re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu to lead the world’s most notorious colonial settler regime Israel, has finally confirmed his status as an extremist white supremacist state openly applying racist apartheid policies. Netanyahu’s victory in a hotly contested election which has correctly been dubbed as “rightwing vs rightwing”, is yet again perched at the helm of racist bigots who like him have thrived in ascending fascist political power.
Whether its Brazil or parts of Europe including the United States, white supremacism is on the rise and their guru is Netanyahu. Some may disagree with this claim by insisting that the chief of rightwing politics is US president Donald Trump. However the reality is that while Trump may be holding what many understand to be the single most powerful position in the world, he is putty in the hands of Netanyahu. That he is being manipulated to adopt policies that are not in America’s interests, is an indication of the power he has to yield to.
Though this debate about who in fact is the puppet master may drag on, an additional factor to consider about Netanyahu’s ability to act with impunity, is the enabling environment which allows him to play roughshod with the lives of millions of Palestinians. Just as he has bagged Trump, Netanyahu has connived with unelected Arab despots via various secret deals to capture their fiefdoms. In turn we see how these oligarchs, from Saudi Arabia’s Mohamed bin Salman to the UAE’s Mohamed bin Zayed, have shamelessly adopted a pro-Israeli stance. That they do so publicly and in league with the dictators of Oman, Bahrain and Egypt, gives a clue of the enabling environment I’ve referred to.
Notwithstanding the enormity of pain and suffering endured by Palestinians at the receiving end of Israel’s violent military occupation and unrelenting siege, Arab regimes have turned a blind eye, thus enabling Netanyahu to kill and massacre at will. Their message to the Palestinians is “we don’t care about your plight because our thrones matter more”.
This is what it boils down to: golden thrones and diamond studded crowns. In other words, having experienced the ignominy of Israeli intervention which forestalled the Arab Spring from running its course, its payback time. Arab dictators are indebted to Israel and in return have to prostrate to Netanyahu. Whether this Ramadan will truly awaken Muslim consciousness and inspire them to not only intensify their efforts in service of humanity but also to fearlessly oppose the “enablers of oppression”, is left to be seen.
Iqbal Jassat is an Executive Member of the Media Review Network based in Johannesburg, South Africa.