Syria- You tell me to care, I remind you…

Who doesn't want freedom?

BE WARNED: This post will inevitably anger people.

Statistically speaking in eleven months the Assad regime has killed 545 Syrians a month (approximately).  The Syrian regime does not discriminate against who it is torturing and murdering.  Well established facts present- even to US viewers, surprisingly- the gruesome brutality of the Assad regime.

Despicable.  Pathetic is the response we see from the US, the UN, and worse of all the Arab League.  In ten months we have sat and watched the synchronized murder of a civilian population and all we have for it is a long list of pronouncements, hollow appeals and meaningless gestures from the powers that be.

Those Syrian Americans and other sympathizers have, in essence, formed the Syrian American Counsel in order to be fully engaged in advocating and repressing Syrian American interests about Syria, here in the US.  (you find that my former boss Hussam Ayloush serves on the board as an acting Chairman, and I have a friend working for them as well.)

The American Muslim community is awash with efforts to promote the right to self determination, freedom and liberty of the Syrian people.  God, if there were a any national group that deserves that opportunity, Syrians would compete with the likes of Burma.  With the Arab Spring, its not a surprise that that message is well received in the American Muslim community- if Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen can cast aside their dictators, why not Syria?  (I purposely left out Bahrain, because who really cares about the Shia’a majority in a Sunni minority ruled country backed by the US governments military interests?)  Good riddance to those foul creatures who destroy hope,strangle their citizens into obscurity and wag their tails like dogs for pity treats from foreign interests.

But am I supposed to feel like Syria is that important when I am told in khutbahs or conversations that the brutality is unimaginable?  That it is horrific and that the dignity of the Ummah is dependent upon my doing more for the Syrian people, borrowing in a way from the Palestinian struggles rhetoric that American Muslims have become all to familiar with.  I have had a hard time reconciling already the idea of why Palestine’s struggle is of such great importance for “Muslims” with my Islamic informed notions of the community being like one body that when the hand hurts so does the rest of the body.

Syria is just a malady that has of recent date made itself acute in comparison to the rest of the diseases ravaging the Muslim communal body.  See, if we were to speak in medical terms about the ailments faced by the Muslim Ummah, the Palestinians would be a recurring debilitating disease that requires constant attention and continued long term care on the communal body’s part.  Syria on the other hand is a pain- an ache of sorts- that recently has been aggravated by something and the pain screeches and roars throughout the nervous system.  Of course it requires our immediate attention, but once you pop in the pain pills its sedated, or speaking by analogy we can get rid of the Assad regime and bring about the Syrian revolution and heal the pain altogether.

To continue on the analogy of medical ailments representing the various afflictions set upon the Muslim Ummah how does Iraq or Afghanistan present itself?  How about the Rohingya’s or Chaam?  And maybe Kashmir?

As an American Muslim whose ancestry is rooted in Pakistan, and by extension India, there is a disturbing thought that pops up in this analogy.  If we were to present Kashmir as a ailment of the Muslim Ummah, it would be like acid reflux.  Something that presents itself as decisively discomforting, at times unbearable but totally ignorable.  I mean who wants to stop eating the achar and the biryani loaded with chatni?

The Faces of Agony

As a pragmatist I can live with the analogy.  I can understand the lack of interest or importance placed on the Kashmir conflict by the world and specifically by the American Muslim collective.  I have come to terms with my internal conflict on the Palestinian rhetoric and prioritization that occurs in the American Muslim community.  Heck, if people who support Kashmir can not form a cohesive voice and institution in the US to represent the interests of the Kashmiri people, its not anyones fault that Kashmir is not an issue.

Learn from the Arminians I say, why would France make it a crime punishable by a hefty fine and prison sentence to deny the Arminian genocide?  France supposedly is a democracy where the right to free speech and religion are enshrined above all else, but it seems its only good on paper.  But the Arminians strum their violin and fund their cause and organize around it in a way that puts it above the interests of all others, so there is a lesson to be learned.

Where my pragmatism simply melts away into disbelief and bordering indignation is the comparison given to the Syrian situation with that of Kashmir, and even the mere lip service of bringing up Kashmir as a afterthought in a khutbah or talk.  REALLY?  You are telling me what the Assad regime is doing is on par with what the Indian military has instituted in Kashmir (or how the Pakistani regime treats Azad Kashmiri’s)?  Or by mentioning the Kashmiri peoples struggle alongside that of the Syrian people you want to motivate a sentiment from me, from other Pakistani’s or Kashmiri’s or Indian Muslims?

Where is the Muslim Ummah?

That to me is the epitome of whats wrong with us as Muslims.  People do not comprehend the gravity of ridiculousness a comparison like that presents.  To even say that the Kashmiri’s are on the same level as Palestinians is something I would not feel comfortable with if we were to sit down and start comparing misery and suffering of peoples.  A modern analogy of what the Kashmiri’s experience under brutal occupation is more apt when you consider Bosnia- the systematic rape, murdering, and destruction of Bosnian Muslims by Christian Serbs under the banner of nationalism- the modern day genocide that no one in Europe wishes to acknowledge; unlike the Bosnian war of the mid-1990′s, Kashmir has been happening since 1947.

If you want to talk about statistics- just looking at the last 10 years of conflict in Kashmir and Palestine, for every Palestinian killed by “the conflict” there are five Kashmiri’s that have been killed.  the Kashmiri Media Service reports that since 1989 struggle began 93,716 Kashmiri’s have lost their lives, an average of 245 deaths a month.  I guess that number is half that of the Assad regimes record, but imagine if Assad is around for 32 years.

Another disgusting practice by the Assad regime, but in line with all conflicts across the globe, is the use of rape as an instrument of subjugating the revolution, and specifically targeting women.  So far there are an estimated 400 documented cases of rape of women by Assad’s soldiers.  In Kashmir, since 1989 there have been 10,021 gang rapes, including the raping of an 85-year old women by a gang of Indian soldiers.

For the past 10 years- well before the Arab Spring- there has been a “Summer of Rage” initiated by Kashmiri youths and old women, soaking the fertile valleys of Kashmir with the blood, children born in a never ending occupation and systematic destruction of their dignity, culture and future.  Kashmiri women run in the streets throwing rocks at soldiers, in violation of the never ending curfew that has been placed on their daily lives since 1989 just so they can get food and visit the sick.  Widows protest day in day out holding the pictures of their loved ones who have vanished from the streets to never be seen again, in defiance of Indian military rule and government that says that they shouldn’t ask questions.  The struggle for Azaadi has come at a hefty price given that the rest of the world doesn’t even know that Kashmir desires it.  But its real.

Kashmiri people use their mobile phones to take pictures during the funeral of Feroz Ahmad Malik in Palhalan, north of Srinagar September 6, 2010"- but few care to witness

32 years of chasing freedoms elusive sweetness- the sign reads "In the midst of oppression and tyranny, Jihad is our call"

384 months bearing the dream of azaadi

11,680 days of grinding conflict...

280,320 hours of silent suffering- the funeral of Feroz

if kashmir is the heavenly valley on earth, then i don't want to see hell on earth

17 million minutes of breathless hope...

an infinitesimal amount of seconds born by pure faith.

Bringing up Kashmir as a side note or comparison in order to advance the Syrian cause, highlight the suffering or for whatever purpose is disresptecful, demeaning and distasteful.  I am disappointed that our Khateebs and community leaders don’t understand this point.  It needs to stop.  If you really care about the plight of the people of Kashmir then do more then lip service to them, but please, stop using their struggle as a means of advancing the Syrian struggle.  I am sure if you talk to Kashmiri’s they support and honor the sacrifices of the Syrian people.  But their respect and admiration is in conjunction with their own experiences with brutality and sacrifice.  But that does not give license to treat them like a passing thought, to be mentioned as if the litany is a ritual one must observe.

I don’t need you to pitch the Syrian peoples suffering to me, as a Muslim my heart is already with them.  What I would like for you to do in your Khutbahs and lectures, is stop marketing the Syrian cause by bringing up Kashmir, or any other struggle for that matter.  If you truly care about the Kashmiri people then devote as much time to their struggle in your Khtubah/lecture/conversations.  Just stop doing what you are doing because it alienates me, makes me feel like your a sleazy marketer, disrespects my intelligence, but worse of all shows the transparency of your concern regarding the Kashmiri people.  Tell me to about Syria like that, and I will remind you about Kashmir- its people are waiting for you to actually start caring.  To help you remember, here are some visuals.

Are these the countless disappeared who you speak about?

Or this women who was informed that her loved one's body could have possibly been found in an unmarked grave of 2,000 bodies

Or these kids whose loved one is amongst the recently "disappeared"

Possibly about this woman...

...or her?

or maybe we are still searching for someone you were talking about, like this mother?

some 10,000 Kashmiri's are "missing" I guess we have a lot of work to do to find them?

...or else one day we might have to look for this Kasmiri boy as well.

So maybe Kashmir is indigestion of the Muslim Ummah, but that doesn’t make it less painful, easily forgotten or a window dressing for a pitch to call attention on the atrocity’s of some Arab dictator somewhere.  Respect the struggle.

(Because between the lines of what I write you will find my righteous anger at your double standards and hypocrisy.)

6 thoughts on “Syria- You tell me to care, I remind you…

    • Ameen! There is a lot of struggling and suffering that is a direct outcome of oppression and injustice. I think the immediate response we can do while in the comfort of our lives here is to be informed of the facts on the ground, to share and most importantly to seek out Allah. I am reminded of the youth that came around Prophet Musa yelling the supplication for Allah to not make them a test for those who oppressed them (10:84-85). They sought from Allah the Grace that would protect them from their shortcomings and weaknesses, so as to enable them to be successful in their struggle against Pharaoh, further making their very existence into a blessing for their community rather than a means, in the hands of Pharaoh, to inflict harm on the very people they wished to stand up for.

  1. Jamal al-Din AL-AFGHANI was one of the thinkers that brought about the reality of the “Arab Spring” and he wasn’t even Arab. I think the current “arab” issues (apart from Palestine) dominate the community simply because of the unexpected and flourishing (somewhat) Arab Spring. Syria is on everyone’s minds because its going through unimaginable injustices while the world stays silent. No doubt the world stays silent on many issues (think Rwanda) because we live in a crazy world where only political interests matter. They don’t matter in Kashmir, or in many African countries, or in Syria…and we as Muslim communities can have different interests and still be saddened by what goes on EVERYWHERE.

  2. Brother, Affad,

    First of all, thank you for reminding us of our shortcomings towards our brothers and sisters in Kashmir. I am a Muslim, American Syrian, and a frequent khateeb (do it when needed). I agree with you that we Muslims are not very good at presenting (marketing our cause). There is no one person on this earth that can truly describe the pains and sufferings of every troubled area in the Muslim world. For example, your stats about Syria are very conservative and the actual numbers are 10 times the numbers your reported. Also, you did not mention the fact that Syrians have been under this brutal regime for over 48 years and what you currently see has happened more than once in the past, except we now have YouTube and Facebook. I can truly use your analogy of Kashmir and say that Syria has been the “forgotten tragedy.” What I would like to convey that when I attended Khutbahs that reminded me of Khashmir (for example), I never looked at it as “what about Syria?” I knew that each Muslim country had its own issue and it meant a lot to me when someone mentioned my country even with two words.

    What I want to assure you, as a Muslim first, that Khasmir is in our hearts and we do need to be educated and told about the reality on the ground and not from propaganda outlets. And we need more than just words. However, every little ever helps. I absolutely love the prophetic analogy of the body and I can never get tired of it because it always connects my souls and my heart with those Muslims that I never met but I care about.

    May Allah guides us to the best!

  3. jazaks Br. Abu Masood for reading and commenting. I am not pointing fingers and I hope thats not how it comes off. One of the problems with comparing suffering is that we have to begin to quantify things like brutality, oppression, pain, suffering. I don’t like going down that road. I don’t feel that we have any right to do that, especially me given that I sit here in America and I was raised here, so there is no way for me to fully comprehend those things.

    What I would say is that I would point out to you the work that the UN, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and many other NGO’s have done in Kashmir since 1947 and what you will find is a sad reality that we aren’t all aware about. Part of it is that Kashmir is tied up to the concept of Nuclear weapons, free trade, Bollywood and arms. Kashmiri’s aren’t ever spoken of in terms of what the people of Kashmir want, but rather what Pakistan or India wants. Sadly, Pakistan, as a Muslim government/occupier are just as responsible for the suffering Kashmiri’s experience. Syria has experienced a lot, Hama is a prime example. But, again there is a certain degree of “peace”- relatively speaking- since the 1970′s- Kashmir has not experienced that since prior to 1970.

    Again, I don’t like this direction at all. The purpose of my post really was to point out an ongoing struggle that has not gotten he same attention- the same tactics as the Arab Dignity revolution: videos, non-violence, demands for democracy, protection of homes, lives, accountability; all of which has been happening for the past seven years. I am not a “Kashmir Activist” but i realize there really aren’t people who advocate within the American Muslim community on the issue, so maybe its my fault for being so wrapped in the Palestinian cause? I don’t know, if anything this is just an open reflection and introspection.

    Here is another post I did that discussed Malcolm X’s speech “The Ballot and the Bullet” and the last portion is focused on Syria: http://affadshaikh.com/2012/02/09/the-arab-spring-between-a-ballot-and-the-bullet/

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