Violence on the Eve of Ramadan

Tomorrow will likely be the first day of Ramadan, in celebration of the month in which the Prophet Mohammad began receiving the revelations that became the Quran. Mohammad was a man of fairly humble origins, illiterate, but with a talent for compromise, for peacemaking. The people of Mecca called him —– and called on him to solve disputes. It’s likely this unusual clear-headed calm was due in part to an emerging philosophical community in Mecca of men who went regularly into the desert to fast and meditate on a radical new idea in the multicultural trading hub of Mecca: monotheism.

To honor both the revelation and the God who brought it, billions of Muslims around the world will wake before dawn to fuel themselves with food and water, and then will abstain from such so long as the sun is in the sky, every day for 28 days. In addition, they are called upon to abstain from all hurtful words and deeds, and to contemplate the words of revelation. In particular, they are encouraged to consider Islam’s plea and promise to uplift the downtrodden – the poor, the hungry, the orphan, the widow, the child – and fight for justice, equity, compassion and dignity.’s annual Ramadan campaign is raising zakat (charity) again for the global Muslim community, the ummah. Mosques around the country are continuing or intensifying their commitments to feed the hungry, provide free health and dental care, support refugees and immigrants, and run for government in record numbers — not to “impose sharia law” as some would have us believe (and whatever that’s supposed to mean), but by building multi-faith, multicultural, progressive coalitions to make America care again about the wellbeing and dignity of our neighbors.

Ramadan is a time for family, love, contemplation, gratitude, generosity, peace, hope and change for a more equitable world.

Instead, we have this, as detailed in The Guardian:

Palestinians run for cover from teargas during clashes with Israeli security forces. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

At least fifty, if not over 100 killed and literally thousands wounded.


For eight of the last ten years, on the eve of Islam’s most hopeful, loving, charitable month, Pres. Obama issued lovely, nuanced statements in support of this beautiful time. (I know, he was far from perfect. And I know someone on his communications team wrote those missives. But as early as the days of his first campaign, Obama had a special sensitivity to the ways we treat and mistreat Muslims and Arabs and other brown and black people.)

Even Pres. George W Bush did better, continuing the tradition, started by Hillary Clinton but hearkening back to the days of Jefferson, of holding a White House iftar–a fast-breaking feast at sundown.

Instead we have now a vicious buffoon whose opening campaign gambit was blatant Islamophobia, claiming to want peace in the Middle East but forging ahead with a campaign promise every candidate has made but no American President has ever been reckless enough to follow through on: moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

It’s a foolhardy move. At the very least, it puts American lives at risk, in Jerusalem and across the world. It scuttles most hopes of peace in our lifetimes, and shatters whatever reputation as humanitarians we might have had left in the region. It makes a travesty of our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, our entire founding mythology.


How many times have I heard disingenuous ideologues ask, “Why don’t Palestinians choose nonviolent protest?” It’s disingenuous because it’s based on a false premise. Palestinians do choose nonviolent protest. Almost every day for seventy bloody years!

Don’t take my word for it. This from VICE:

Over the past seven weeks, the people of Gaza have mobilised in their tens of thousands to protest the fate to which humanity has, knowingly and in full view, consigned them. As the UN assessments make clear, Palestinians in Gaza are struggling not just for their rights, but to pre-empt their collective expiration. The Great Return March, as it is known, has been overwhelmingly nonviolent, comprising peaceful marches, gatherings and sit-ins. In the face of extreme provocations from Israel, not one rocket has been fired into Israel by Hamas or other Palestinian factions; indeed, notwithstanding increasingly desperate attempts by the Israeli government and its propagandists to depict the protests as a military threat, Israel has suffered not a single casualty.

It cannot be said that Israel has responded in kind. In the course of what Amnesty International describes as a “murderous assault” against “demonstrators who pose no imminent threat”, Israeli forces had, as of the 10th of May, killed 40 Palestinians, including five children, and injured 6,800, including some 2,000 from live ammunition. In most of the fatality cases examined by Amnesty, victims had been shot in the upper body, including the head and chest, while some had been targeted from behind. On Monday, at the time of writing, a further 38 (and rising) Palestinians have been killed and 900 injured – 450 of them by live bullets – while protesting the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem. The demonstrators’ continued commitment to nonviolence in the midst of this onslaught represents a truly humbling display of courage and collective resolve.

But we only hear about Palestinian resistance when Israeli forces provoke or instigate an attack.

Because every gathering of this many people of color, whatever their demands, even if decades of international law is on their side, are inherently a threat to the white world order.

To acknowledge six decades of Palestinian diplomacy, concessions and nonviolent protest would be to acknowledge their human rights, and that would turn the world order on its head.

So, Ramadan kareem, my friends. Ramadan be noble and generous, for surely America will not.

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