Middle EastNews

Opinion: My Critique of Problematic Muslim Responses to the Palestinian Genocide Issue

“If Palestinians have chosen to rise up and reclaim their freedom, it is our duty to support them and refrain from using language that denies them this right, plays into the hands of Western propaganda, and sanitises Israeli war crimes whilst blaming Palestinians for their heroic uprisings.”

“If Palestinians have chosen to rise up and reclaim their freedom, it is our duty to support them and refrain from using language that denies them this right, plays into the hands of Western propaganda, and sanitises Israeli war crimes whilst blaming Palestinians for their heroic uprisings.”

I write this letter to address the recent statements made by some Muslim scholars and politicians regarding Palestine and its occupation.

It is with disappointment that I observe the apologetic language and anti-Palestinian position offered in Khutbahs and press releases, as they have the potential to undermine the Palestinian cause and misguide people from their religious and moral duties. Thus, I humbly offer some constructive criticism. 

Let us take a moment to reflect on history and remember the first Nakba, a tragic chapter where 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes. This ultimately led to the establishment of the illegal apartheid state of Israel. Many Palestinians lost their lives, while others became refugees and remain hither to stateless. Palestinians born since know nothing but life within the world’s most crowded prison, with their basic life resources cut to the bare minimum required for survival.

In the most recent act of ethnic cleansing, the second Nakba, which began on October 7th, we tragically witnessed 3542 Palestinians murdered, more than a thousand of them children; 14,000 injured and 1300 missing under the rubble, including 600 children (toll at the time of writing).

Devastation of this nature requires unambiguous and uncompromising statements to ensure that our words are in no way normalising the existence of the occupation nor condemning the Palestinian people for their heroic uprisings; let alone calling for the recognition of borders forged off the back of genocide.

It is necessary to critically examine the language used by some scholars and leaders, such as Imam Qari Asim, one of the UK’s leading Imams, who demands Muslims must respect “Israel living within its internationally recognised borders” and even calls for “restraint on both sides.” [1]

So after 75 years of ethnic cleansing, the regular usage of chemical weapons on them, starvation, torture in Israeli dungeons and even harvesting organs from their babies, Palestinians who have decided to launch another attempt at freedom should “restrain” themselves and just accept their land as stolen, swindled as “international borders”? This language, at times, appears to negate the Palestinians’ legitimate right, as enshrined in international law, to resist occupation through any means necessary and their right of return.

Elsewhere, the ‘Statement by British Muslim Faith Leaders’ concludes “We affirm the right of communities across the country to show their solidarity and support for both Palestinians and Israelis caught up in this conflict, in line with British laws surrounding freedom of speech and protest.” [2] This is paradoxical given that in Islam and ethics generally, freedom of speech does not extend to supporting genocide. 

What’s more wondrous is that the statement “denounces” Hamas but “urges restraint” from Israel. Further, the statement refers to Israelis as “innocent” but never describes Palestinians in such terms. Muslim leaders have reduced themselves to using tougher language on the oppressed than the oppressor! 

In fact, the whole statement is devoid of any historical context or isolated condemnation of Israel’s mass murder – even though the statement was released after the bombing of the Christian refugee hospital! Do the authors think that only they will read it or do they understand that people with no background knowledge or children seeking to prepare themselves for the inevitable classroom debates will also read it?

Or review Sheikh Riyaz Walji’s perspective that the creation of a European colonial outpost cannot now be undone, quoting an unamed Jewish commenter, he said: “I repeat, the security and safety of Israel is tied to the security and safety of the Palestinians. If the Palestinians are given their rights, if they have security, then it means security and safety for Israel. Because the two people are tied, fate has bound them together.” [3]

The problem with accepting the two-state solution as inevitable is that it then allows the practice of ethnic cleansing to be legitimatised; so long as the oppressor can play the long game it will win. Further, Israel is a particular abomination, in that its creation is one of sowing the seeds of terrorism and dissension in the region.

As Joe Biden infamously said, “Were there no Israel, America would have to invent one.  We’d have to invent one because Ron is right, you protect our interests like we protect yours.” Imagine the destruction Israel would wreak if it were accepted as a norm instead of a pariah state. 

This apologetic and often exasperating language can be found in numerous similar statements [4] – often drafted then watered down either because it is a joint statement between Muslim and Jewish groups, to appease the interfaith-political chattering classes, or out of ignorance. Mostly it occurs out of differences in approach such as the belief that settlements can now never be dismantled or the need for a two-state solution to resolve the occupation. But the Qur’an has never guaranteed the longevity of an oppressive state – quite the opposite, so why should we?

Naturally, all statements must be grounded in the prophetic qualities of the language of humanity, wisdom, growth, and seeking peace, something that the cited scholars and organisations are aiming for – indeed they are at the forefront of incredible, unique, and guiding work, may Allah (swt) reward them greatly for it.

In fact, the Qur’an regularly criticises the companions of the Prophet (s), particularly before, during, and after war and so there is no unqualified support for the Palestinian resistance or prohibition of critique if they fail to uphold religious duty. 

But the Qur’an also highlights moments when oppression has broken all boundaries and a declaration of freedom from the status quo is made, such as Chapter 9, Surah at-Tawbah. Such moments in the present context must be understood and the principles of liberation from annihilation be respected.

Thus, to the drafters of such statements, I humbly ask, since when did restraint on behalf of the oppressed ever win them their freedom? Will Israel suddenly give back the land and lives it’s stolen because Palestinians show restraint or will Israeli “security” simply mean further ethnic cleansing and land grabs? For how long would you like them to show this restraint, another 75 years? And with respect, who are you to suggest the Palestinians should be restrained when they have decided now is the time to rise and gain their freedom?

We know very well why the international community upholds the right of nations like Ukraine to defend themselves against invasion and occupation, while questioning the same right for Palestinians. But we never expected it from Muslim Imams and politicians! 

Our cues must be taken from the Palestinian leadership and their Resistance allies; those on the ground with full purview of the battlefields and who have successfully defended Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, and Yemen from annihilation until now.

If Palestinians have chosen to rise up and reclaim their freedom, it is our duty to support them and refrain from using language that denies them this right, plays into the hands of Western propaganda, and sanitises Israeli war crimes whilst blaming Palestinians for their heroic uprisings.

Dear Imams and friends, if we cannot encourage their struggle, let us, at the very least, remain silent while they resist ethnic cleansing in the way they deem fit lest we do more harm to their cause than good. 

Especially after Israel’s bombing of a Christian refugee hospital massacring 500 people, the public tide of opinion and understanding is shifting. Advocating for a One-State Palestinian Solution should not be seen as controversial. History has shown us that no state possesses a divine right to exist, particularly when it is founded on colonialism, sustained by apartheid, and in violation of international laws.

Muslim leaders who write joint statements or hold grotesque photo-op events for appeasement politics, normalising the very thing created to divide and destroy Muslims is not only an absurd act, it openly contradicts the command of God:

“You who believe, do not take My enemies and yours as your allies, showing them any friendship when they have rejected the truth you have received, and have driven you and the Messenger out simply because you believe in God, your Lord.” [60:1]


“And do not incline [one iota] towards, nor rely upon, those who are bent on oppression lest the fire [of the hereafter] touch you” [11:113].

Today, even the Spanish Minister for Social Rights calls for the International Criminal Court to open a war crimes investigation of the Israeli Prime Minister. Josh Paul, Director of the US Statement department, quit his role citing “occupation”, “collective punishment”, “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid”. [5] Even Jews like Brotsky and Koren can publish mainstream articles entitled ‘We see genocide unfolding in Gaza’. [6] So why is it so tough for Muslim leaders to do the same? 

With this in mind we ask, what should a statement in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle include?

  • A rejection of the existence State of Israel and a dismantling of all settlements since 1948
  • Reparations for the families of those displaced, murdered and occupied 
  • The support for Palestinian resistance groups and their legitimate activities towards dismantling the occupation and a sovereign Palestinian state
  • The prosecution of the leaders of the occupation, their war crimes and all those who supported them 

If you cannot write this as a dual statement, publish it on your own. If you are worried about your position or income, know that both are in the hands of God. As the Qur’an states, “Work righteously: Allah shall observe your work, and His Messenger, and the Believers” (9:105).

Palestinian solidarity does not stem from European ivory towers or the fear of Cancel Culture. It is firmly rooted in the absolute Right of Return for every expelled Palestinian, a right without a Statute of Limitations or care for Zionist complaints. 

History has taught us that appeasing colonisers often leads to further injustice, and as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) wisely said, “A believer is not stung twice from the same hole.” [7]

It is only uncompromising support for Palestinian freedom that will dismantle the apartheid European colony state. As the Qur’an states, “People ask you ˹O Prophet˺ about the Hour. Say, “That knowledge is only with Allah. You never know, perhaps the Hour is near” [33:63].

As leaders of the global Muslim community, your public statements should reflect this.

Was Salaamun Alaykum

[1,2] https://muslimnews.co.uk/news/palestine/british-muslim-faith-leaders-appeal-for-diplomatic-political-avenues-to-peace-on-gaza-crisis/ 

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkK2jgCMZtk 

[4] https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/648225 

[5] https://www.linkedin.com/posts/josh-paul-655a25263_explaining-my-resignation-activity-7120512510645952512-APhR

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/oct/18/israel-gaza-hamas-palestinians?utm_term=Autofeed&CMP=twt_gu&utm_medium&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1697670812

‎[7] لاَ يُلْدَغُ الْمُؤْمِنُ مِنْ جُحْرٍ وَاحِدٍ مَرَّتَيْ Al Bukhari, Book 78, H 160

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