A worldwide event dedicated to the rights and freedom of the Palestinians, Al Quds International Day was founded by late Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 to unify nations, and communities in their innate rejection of tyranny.
Beyond an explicit desire to denounce Israel systematic oppression of a people on the ideological assumption that the land of Palestine was promised to the “chosen people of Israel” – the sons and daughters of Jacob; Al Quds Day offers a platform to those for whom solidarity, justice, and freedom far outweigh whatever differences may divide us.
Held every year on the last day of Ramadan – a month of fasting, and religious reflection for 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, Al Quds Day holds a mirror to Islam’s most sacred principles: Resistance.
If Al-Quds Day has long been labelled under political misapprehensions due to its “Iranian” connection – yes our state officials can be petty, pedantic and let’s just say it, downright self-righteous when their political persuasions feel offended, the event was never meant as a political statement per se … more like an extension of an idea.
Actually no, Al Quds Day is more than just an idea, never mind the extension of one; Al-Quds Day is a statement! A statement against imperialism, and its many expressions: colonialism, unfettered capitalism, ethnocentrism … the list goes on.
And yes I will grant you that many … I will on waste my time, or yours for that matter I naming them, have exploited this one-day event to fan their own warped sense of political correctness – aka covert fascism, calling for vengeful vindication, Al Quds Day sits beyond a misplaced need for vengeance or retribution.
Al Quds Day is not a euphemism for anti-Semitism! It does not advocate for another sectarian cleansing, and it certainly does not profess for bloodletting. In all fairness, those who still entertain such barbaric agendas have completely misread Ayatollah Khomeini’s intent.
And while I cannot claim to have been privy to the late Imam’s thoughts, I can confidently assume that the man who inspired a people to rise against the despotic rule of the Shah, to better reclaim the democracy which was stolen from them would not advocate oppression.
Forget what you have been told about Ayatollah Khomeini for a second. Shelf your disdain, and sneering for half a breath and realise that while you may not agree with Iran’s political setup, it was nevertheless born from popular will. A will which it needs to be said was forged in Resistance … that word again: Resistance.
What a revolutionary concept indeed that to resist. So revolutionary in fact, that the powers that be would very much like you to believe it to be illegal, illegitimate, and altogether socio-politically unpalatable. In our increasingly “globalist” society, dissent has become a liability our governments simply cannot afford.
Because really here, when one speaks Resistance – might it be resistance against a particular social set-up, resistance against absolutism, or even resistance against economic injustices, resistance these days has rhymed with dissent; it has rhymed with opposition, and of course revolution.
THAT our “democratic” government simply cannot have.
Still … for all the media contortionism, for all of the politicians’ efforts to criminalize Al Quds Day for it speaks of a universal desire to speak up against tyranny, millions across the world have year after year committed their time and energy to a cause they know to be just.
Only this June, Matthew Offord, who is a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel, has written to the Metropolitan Police to say that the annual Al-Quds demonstration “causes great distress to many of my constituents and the population as a whole and, in my opinion, is contrary to the Terrorism Act.”
In truth, my objectivity here is more than a little tainted! I will admit that Al Quds Day matters to me a great deal. Why? Because it is the one event of the year which actually promotes unity and solidarity across the board, without pre-requisites or expectations. Whether Jew, Christian, atheist, communist, socialist, liberal, Muslims, black, white, spotty or stripy, Al-Quds Day has fronted a universality which is both refreshing and intellectually appealing.
But enough about what I think …
Allow me to share with you what others make of Al Quds Day:
Rabbi Jacob Weiss from the Neturei Karta told me on July 1st that as a Jew, and religious leader he felt compelled to support the Palestinian cause. “Beyond my stand with the Palestinians against the oppression and injustices they have had to endure over the decades, my duty is to acknowledge and speak against systemic violence. As a whole, Al Quds Day speaks of a need for solidarity against tyranny … how can we not as people support that?”
Ali Mallah, a prominent rights activist based in Canada noted that: “Al-Quds Day is a brilliant example of solidarity in the face of unparalleled oppression. Al Quds Day is a tribute to unity and solidarity. Al Quds Day speaks not only of Palestine but of all injustices.”
But it is Massoud Shadjareh, the Director of the Islamic Human Rights Commission who, for me at least, best defined Al Quds Day.
He said to me: “The Palestinian cause has come to symbolize the very concept of injustice. In a world plagued by violence, xenophobia and hatred, Al Quds Days recognizes the right to resistance. It recognizes and asserts our universal right to stand in opposition of absolutism regardless of its origin. But it is also the only platform which remains truly inclusive – beyond race, creed, or political persuasion.”
As people have marched and will march to mark Al Quds Day see not the condemnation of a faith: Judaism, but a global call for justice for the oppressed – an affirmation that no power should ever be allowed to rationalise hate to better assert its legitimacy.
As Ayatollah Khomeini said himself: “Al-Quds Day is a universal day. It is not an exclusive day for Quds itself. It is a day for the oppressed to rise and stand up against the arrogant.”
For those of you whose political sensibility has been upset by the mention of the Grand Ayatollah’s name, remember that other prominent figures: Nelson Mandela comes to mind, have too, spoken in defense of the Palestinians.
It is not a political statement, or a crime to speak truth … or is it?
Catherine Shakdam is the Associate Director of the Beirut Center for Middle Eastern Studies and a political analyst specializing in radical movements, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.