It was the Month of Ramadan in the UK, all Muslims were engaged in their ritual prayers, and I took the month off from my work. And then the news broke worldwide about Israel’s military assault on and into Gaza against Hamas. On mass, Muslims all around the world were in grief, as they watched the live footage of air strikes in Gaza unfold in the month of Ramadan.
The international media threw all their attention behind this situation and broadcast live coverage from the Gaza boarder with Israel to apprise the world of the ‘assault’ & ‘invasion’. I became very distressed and frustrated because I was not expecting Israel to attack Gaza and not during the Muslim’s Holy Month of Ramadan. I eventually could not hold my emotions and decided to discuss it with Eli who, by coincidence, had just returned from visiting family in Israel.
Eli Bar-On, is an Anglo-Israeli Jewish woman now living in London who has become my best friend. She was my first Jewish friend and my first real life ‘Israeli’.
A very loving, caring and friendly woman with a knowledge Jewish history and experience of the real Israel. Eli was the only person who showed me the positive characteristics of Israel, which totally contradicted and challenged the sketch that the world media draws for its world audience about the State of Israel.
She described the situation very effectively with clear examples and evidence that Israel had not had any intention to launch military strikes against Gaza, or harm Gazan civilians, in the month of Ramadan but, it was Hamas who had left no option for Israel other than to strike back in defence. “We are defending ourselves and our country”, she said. And as a way to back up her statement she requested of me to download an Apple App called “The Red Alert: Israel” and she insisted that I turn and keep it on all through the night to demonstrate how Hamas was, in fact, continually attacking & provoking Israel.
I downloaded the App but ignored to turn it on, I was so furious at Israel who were reportedly obliterating so many lives at every air strike. International media were falling over themselves to capture the proceedings whenever Israel fired on Gaza, but there were very few reports, and those that did were further downplayed, circulating about the hail of rockets fired over by Hamas into Israel or the Israeli named, “Terror Tunnels” dug by Hamas to infiltrate and attack under the border from Gaza into Israel. A continuation of an almost daily bombardment totalling over 11,000 rockets by Hamas, affected 5 million Israeli citizens in their towns and cities in Israel since 2005 when Israel unilaterally withdrew from every square inch of the Gaza Strip.
I was very keen to find out the reality about who actually started this bloody war. I remembered the mobile App Eli had introduced me to and one night I turned it on and went to bed. That night, I could not sleep because every few minutes, whenever Hamas launched a rocket into Israel, the App went off. That night was gloomily depressing for me because it was the first night I deeply felt the pain of the Israeli people. Imagine! I could not sleep the whole night because of a mobile phone App’s warning alarm going off, every time a rocket was fired on Israel from Gaza, every few minutes. Yet this was not reserved for just the night-time but any time of day or night. How could an Israeli families with little children have gone about their daily lives during the day and then gone to their beds at night and manage to sleep through the night? Endless days and nights while being under the constant threat of being hit by rockets fired from Gaza by Hamas!!!!
It is so horrific for me to even remember that one night, but for the Israelis it wasn’t just for that one night in 2014 but almost every day & night for the previous 9 years.
I was in a very confusing situation, it was the first Holy Month of Ramadan and I could not concentrate on my prayers. It was very difficult for me to decide who to support, my own Muslims brethren or those whom I detested most in all my life (The Zionists)! I was constantly praying to Allah to enable me with the strength to support only the truth. I knew my decision could ruin my life in one way or the other. My struggle of preaching about the true teaching of Islam and my dignity within my community. It was as if, I was not only scarifying my life but actually committing a kind of social suicide, which would kick me out of my Muslim community. I had been preaching Islam for years and years within my community in the UK, among my friends, on social media, on online forums and blogs. I had worked hard to earn respect and honour everywhere in the world through my study of Islam and my preaching.
I concluded that, determined to embrace the truth which my religion taught me to do so, I knew what I had to do even though the consequences would not be favourable to me. I decided to risk my life by facing and telling the truth, which many Muslims have less courage to hear, especially about Israel and the Jews! I began to write comments and paragraphs in favour of Operation Protective Edge on social media but I also expressed my great sympathy to the innocent civilian victims of Gaza and prayed for them to keep safe and for those killed that their souls rest in Peace.
I did not, however, expect the extent of reaction in reprisals against me from every niche of the cosmos: from my religious Muslim fellows; my friends; my followers; my social media friends; and, even from my own blood relations. Those same people who always valued and honoured me and called me their Muslim brother (Akhi), turned into vessels of hate and called me, the (then) most hated of hated: A “ZIONIST”.
They sent me Quranic verses in proof and justification of hatred of Jews and the need to support Hamas’ resistance. I rejected their so called interpretation of the Quranic verses because I read the Quran, I know the Quran and I have experience of these people’s tactics. How they manipulate these verses to achieve their objectives of hate.
My entire pursuit and reputation of preaching Islam was completely damaged by supporting Operation Protective Edge. I lost my relatives, blood relations, my friends to whom I preached Islam for years on forums and blogs. I also enraged my beloved cousin who was my benefactor in my struggle of religious learning, whom I always considered as my elder brother (Lalabha). They all issued a verbal fatwa (Verdict) against me.
But in the dark times there was just one individual who lit up the gloom, who stood firm beside me and with me, who vehemently supported me when I was abandoned and became alone. Who always encouraged me that I was right and that Allah was with me because I supported all innocent people and stood against all oppressors.
That was my beloved wife Farah Qureshi.
She understood the whole situation. I described it to her and she boosted me up to take a step forward with my Jewish brothers and sisters who have suffered for thousands of years. They really needed our support, they needed someone who would speak out about them and someone who feels their pain.
My Muslim brothers and sisters who were constantly in touch with me in regard to asking queries about Islam now call me names. “Israeli agent”, an “Infidel”, a “Zionist”. It was not comfortable for me to absorb all this hate directed at me but I remained patient and asked Allah for help.
I continue concentrating on Israel and Palestinian’s history. To learn the culture and politics of Israel and the Jewish people, how they think and feel about non-Jews generally and Muslims particularly. All aspects of the way of life of the Israeli people.
The most basic of what I have ascertained, which has altered my life, is that they were never taught to hate non-Jews or kill those who are not of their faith. All they want is to live in peace and harmony which is their basic right granted by the Almighty. In the nearly two years since Operation Protective Edge started and my Muslim community disowned me, I have learned enough to understand about what Israelis are, what they think, how they react, what are their religious beliefs and their geographical history and, of course, their love for the land given by HaShem/Allah.
It was Hamas, who chose the Muslim’s Holy Month of Ramadan to increase strikes against Israel to provoke a reaction and it was already pre planned. It was Ismael Haniyeh and Khaled Mashal who dragged their people into the fire. They are the real agitators and implementers of apartheid. They knew Israel will retaliate with the full force of her power that would result in the damage of the whole of Gaza’s economic and physical infrastructure that Hamas have neglected since taking power.
Hamas are responsible for the killing of Palestinian innocent people, not Israel. I still feel the pain of those who were killed in Gaza, who were commanded and enforced by Hamas to be human shields during Israeli airstrikes. They were the innocent who were required to sacrifice their lives for their guilty leaders so that the guilty could achieve their political goals on the world stage at their expense of the innocent. Hamas traded in the images of the dead bodies of their people to tug at the heartstrings and generate the protests from the world’s gullible. And in doing so enabled the guilty to line their pockets and increased their own personal bank accounts with billions of dollars of relief donations.
The state of Israel has never initiated war against Gaza, the disputed territories or Arab countries but has always acted to defend and protect the only Jewish state in the world and its multi-religious civilian population. Israel has every right to defend itself to provide safety and protection to the nation of Israel.
The year of 2014 was not only the year of loss and grief in my life, and a disaster that changed my Islamic social life, but was the year my eyes and heart were opened and I am very happy that at least, I have found out the reality. Had it not been for the events in 2014, I could have lived all my life in hatred towards Israel, Israelis and Zionists but I am now free of hatred. I have decided to now pursue educating my Muslim Pakistani community and aim to continue working among them for the peace and coexistence between both nations which is the precise message of Islam. Insha’Allah / B’ezrat HaShem