Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Great Cry in Egypt-Revisited

The best definition of the word and concept of liberty is the immunity from arbitrary exercise of authority, while that of tyranny is defined as the arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power, a despotic abuse of authority. Liberty and tyranny: these are two conditions by which all governments are to be judged just or unjust, free or oppressive. The recent events in the Arab Republic of Egypt compels all Muslims to decide if they truly love what The One True and Living God Loves, and hate what He(SWT) Hates. On the authority of Abu Dharr al-Ghifari(may Allah be Pleased with him) from the prophet Muhammad(SAAW) who said one of the saying he relates from his Lord(SWT), Who said, “O my servants, I have Forbidden oppression for Myself, and have made it Forbidden amongst you, so do not oppress one another”. If Allah, The One with Complete Dominion of all the Worlds, The All-Compelling, The Expander, and The Humbler Has Forbidden oppression for Himself, then He(SWT) Hates it. Moreover, Allah has Said in His Glorious Qur’an: “And verily, this Ummah of yours is a single Ummah, and I am you Lord and Cherisher: therefore Fear me (and no other)”[1]

On October 30, three students-Ahmed Leila, Salem Muhammad Salem, and Abdul Rahman Fawzy Abdul Hamid-were arrested for the crime of posting banners calling for reform and effective participation in Egypt’s upcoming 2010 Parliamentary elections in the Derb Balah district of Sharqeya. It is due to the audaciousness of this event that warrants its repetion: students, two of whom are still in high school, were deemed criminals and arrested by their own Government for the act of calling their elders to vote for reform in the upcoming elections. On October 28, university guards at Assuit University in Upper Egypt, abducted two activists from the National Association for Change while they were hanging banners calling for the Government to enact the Seven Demands agreed upon by all the various political oppostion parties in the nation. Ahmed Gamal and Muhammad Hamdy were subjected to what would be deemed police brutality and unlawful detainment here in the United States. Yet, in spite of the immediate, very personal danger, these brothers had the courage to defy tyranny and engage in the GLOBAL JIHAD OF IDEAS in attempt to alleviate and remove the oppression they, their predecssors, and future generation have and will suffer without sound political action. These brothers are men of true courage, UNAFRAID TO BLEED, and ask yourself: did you know their names before reading this essay? Are you even paying attention to their plight? Do you care? The messenger of Allah(SAAW) said: “the believers, in their love, mutual kindness, and close ties, are like one body; when any part complains, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever”. As Allah as your Witness, Who Sees in the dark corners of your heart, soul, and mind: are you awake, suffering a spiritual malaise as to the oppression, your brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews are suffering in Egypt and at the hands of fellow Muslims?

Perhaps you are asking the typical, and in this case, intelligent question: what can I do? Our retort is to draw your attention to the October 29 edition of the Washington Post, and the editorial entitled Obama’s Task on Egyptian Democracy. It reads:

When he met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in September, President Obama brought up the need for a ‘vibrant civil society, open political competition, and credible and transparent elections in Egypt’…since then Mr. Mubarak has done exactly the opposite of what the President has asked. Not only has his government rejected monitoring of the elections, but it has launched a crackdown against opposition movements and media. More than 260 activists of the Muslim Brotherhood, which won 20 percent of the seats in the last parliamentary elections, have been arrested…Seventeen private television channels have been shut down, and the permits of companies that have enabled live broadcasts of street protests were revoked. The government also imposed new restrictions on text messaging, which has been used by opposition media and organizers…If Mr. Obama is serious about what he said to Mr. Mubarak-and he should be-he will have to give it the same priority and personal attention that he gives to Israel’s transgressions.

Who better than the Muslims in the West can remind and/or coax President Obama of his commitment to non-violent, political reform and revolutionary change in Egypt and the Middle East in general? Who better than us? Israel oppresses tortures, injures, and kills innocent people on a daily basis. There is a constant public relations campaign throughout the West to remind the international community of this human rights crisis, and Alhamdulillah. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been protested by millions of people, both Muslim and non-Muslim, throughout the world. A Danish newspaper depicts cartoons of the prophet Muhammad (SAAW) and there are riots in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and many Muslim nations decide to embargo trade with Denmark, denying themselves a great percentage of the dairy products they consume. A Christian pastor basking in the light of the media’s camera-light announces he intends to burn The Holy Qur’an on the anniversary of September 11, and throughout the world Muslims stand, take notice, and offer a resounding repudiation. Yet, when it comes to Muslims violating the Rights Endowed and Derived by The Lord of all the Worlds-the rights of other Muslims, in a historically Muslim homeland-the Ummah falls silent, whether it be in Egypt, Syria, or Saudi Arabia. If we are not serious about Social Justice for all people, but in particular, ourselves then how can we expect the Obama or any administration to support our claims and protests for our God-Given political and human rights.

Abdul Malik al-Sayed, the Iraqi born political scientist, who taught at the King Abdul Aziz University, wrote in 1982, before the troubles of the Muslims truly began on a worldwide scale, of Abu Yusuf, Imam Abu Hanifa’s most famous student. Prior to quoting Madoodi, al-Sayed writes:

Abu Yusuf conceived the sovereign to be answerable not only to his God but to his subjects. He quoted to the caliph several sayings of [the prophet] Muhammad [SAAW] and his pious caliphs in order to prove to him that the Muslim communities had not only unrestricted right to criticize their caliph, but that such procedures contributed a legitimate and needed corrective aimed at improving the welfare of the community. ‘Enjoying the right and forbidding the wrong is an unalienable right for every citizen and it is a duty on the community to do so and its negligence in a community is equivalent to inviting the Wrath of God upon its head. The duties of the Caliph include taking care, preserving, and pursuing the religious orders. He{the Caliph} is entrusted to determine justly the rights of other right holders and ensure their enjoyment of these rights to avoid injustice and redress grievances of people after proper scrutiny and to apply law on himself as on any other subject of his state and to make only lawful taxations from people and expand them in lawful ways.[2]

It is worthy of repetition that Ahmed Leila, Ahmed Gamal, Muhammad Hamdy, Salem Muhammad Salem, Abdul Rahman Fawzy Abdul Hamid, countless others; all have been deemed criminals for exercising their Rights- Rights Guaranteed by The Lord of the Worlds-in a historically Muslim homeland and the Ummah remains SILENT. We submit that the events in Egypt are far more important than anything that has happened in relation to Muslims or Islam in the West since September 11, 2001. More important than the Iraq War, more important than combat in Afghanistan, more important than the Qur’an-burning or Park 51 controversies, are the events in all of Egypt on this day, at this time, and the Ummah must awake from its slumber and aid and assist our brothers and sisters obtain their political freedom. In short, where are the protests? Where are the media bulletins? Where are the public relations forces from the American and British Muslim communities that are highlighting what is happening in Egypt at the hands of a Government staffed by fellow Muslims? Where is the moral consistency of the Muslim community? For this is tyranny and oppression just as heinous as that which took place under Sadaam Hussein, or al-Assad, or the current petro-monarch Abdullah ibn Abdul Aziz on the Saudi throne; and we remain silent to each political reality though Allah Has Forbidden oppression for Himself(SWT). How can justify this lack of political action? Do we wish to tell the world that oppression at the hands of non-Muslims is unacceptable, but at the hands of fellow Muslims tolerable? When will we accept that this is the time when silence is betrayal to all we claim to cherish, worship, and govern our lives? The cries in Egypt cannot fall on deaf ears, or ears that otherwise ignore the call for radical, systemic change. For it is that cry that we will find something our generation has never had-a nation of our own. The Muslim Brotherhood is the overwhelming favorite and preferred choice of the great majority of the Egyptian people. An Egypt that is a viable, democratic, and open society, even for its sizable Coptic population, can be the catalyst and model for other historically Muslim nations to follow. In order for this to become a new political reality-one that using Islamic solutions based on Social Justice to deal with the myriad of problems, unforeseen accidents, and contingencies that will surely arise-we all must in a sense, do the necessary ‘lifting’ and take part in building this foundation, Inshallah. We must utilize our voices in the corridors of power in Washington and London.

There is no reason that tomorrow we cannot expect the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim American Society, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Islamic Society of North America, and all the other organizations in the West to announce their wish for the United States Government to suspend the annual, $2.5 billion dollar aid package we have sent to Egypt since Sadat’s signing of the peace agreement with Israel, until the Mr. Mubarak and the National Democratic Party cease in the politically-motivated reprisals against reform, and facilitate free, UN-monitored elections. There is no reason why we could not begin a petition that the 8-13 million American Muslims can sign and deliver to President Obama requesting Mr. Mubarak’s government enact the Seven Demands. There is no reason why every khatib, in every masjid, in the nation cannot preach about what is happening in Egypt on a single Friday, if asked by all American and British Muslim organizations. There is no reason why we cannot utilize the same channels used during the Qur’an burning and Park 51 controversies to defend the Rights of our brothers and sisters in Egypt.

Now the question is simple: what are we waiting for?

Isma’il ibn Bilal

[1] The Holy Qur’an 23:53
[2] Social Ethics of Islam: Classical Islamic-Arabic Political Theory and Practice p.57

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