Originally published in the Daily Times
Israel emerged on the world map as an independent nation in the late 1940s. Over the last 65 years of its existence, the nation has faced significant challenges. One thing that has remained constant, however, is the state’s treatment of its Muslim citizens. There are over a million Muslims in Israel. The orthodox rabbis have been intimidating them, attacking them and routinely giving out death threats against them for far too long now. One of earliest and strongest waves of nationwide anti-Muslim riots occurred in 1953 when many Muslim businesses were looted, houses burned and mosques demolished. Muslims have never seen peace since then.
Fast forward to the year 1974. Anti-Muslim sentiment from right-wing groups was at its peak. The government, instead of clamping down on the rising anti-Muslim bigotry, caved in to the rabbis’ demands. In an unprecedented move in modern history, the Muslims were outlawed and declared a heretic group altogether. Though they were hurt, the Muslims decided to stay put. They decided to bear their marginalisation with patience and prayer.
Fast forward again to the year 1984. As if outlawing the Muslim community was not enough, Israel passed an anti-Muslim ordinance that officially banned Muslims from free practice of their faith. Not many people are aware of this notorious piece of legislation. Thanks to it, Muslims in Israel can no longer call themselves Muslims openly, say the salam (Muslim greeting), call the azaan (call for prayer), read the Quran, worship in mosques or even call them so. They cannot claim love for Prophet Moses whom the rabbis claim exclusive rights to. Muslims are not even allowed to go to Mecca for the pilgrimage anymore.
Muslims have been systematically sidelined from the country’s political process. They have been disenfranchised by the country’s election laws. They are discriminated against at work and academic institutions. They are not allowed high ranks in the army because they are looked upon with suspicion. Since the Muslims look exactly like their fellow Jewish countrymen, the state has devised a foolproof way of identifying them. All applicants are required to insult Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and attest to his falsehood to obtain the Israeli passport or national ID card. This way, the Muslims are automatically identified and their passports labeled ‘Muslim’.
The Muslims continue to be ostracised to this day. Every Muslim knows someone in their family that has been physically abused by extremists or jailed by the state for professing their faith. Three of my own uncles were jailed in 1986 for saying the kalima. Two of my close friends lost their lives when the Brit Hakanaim — a group of extremist radical Jews who want to impose Jewish religious law in the state — massacred 100 Muslims in Tel Aviv’s leading Muslim ‘place of worship’. This was not the first mosque victimised. Over 100 other mosques have been demolished, vandalised, set on fire, sealed or taken away from the local Muslims in the last 30 years across the country. The Muslim dead have not been left alone either. Extremist mobs have attacked and vandalised Muslim graveyards on multiple occasions.
It is a very dark night for Israeli Muslims. They live in constant fear and intimidation. Surprisingly, they continue to preach love and lead humanitarian efforts in the country. They do not resort to violence or civil disobedience at all.
Fast forward to 2014 now. The anti-Muslim laws exist in Israel to this date. The rabbis claim that the laws are essential to protect the honour of Judaism. They claim that Islam is a plagiarised form of Judaism and that they will not let Muslims fool the entire nation by proclaiming love for Prophet Moses and by following customs and rituals borrowed from their faith. Civil society continues to remain quiet and the international community continues to turn a blind eye while this ugly religious apartheid continues unchecked in the state of Israel.
Is your blood boiling already? Do you feel the pain of your Israeli Muslim brethren? If so, replace Israel with Pakistan, Muslims with Ahmedi Muslims, Jews with other Muslims, rabbis with mullahs, Prophet Moses with Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Tel Aviv with Lahore, anti-Muslim laws with the anti-Ahmediyya ordinance XX and Bit Hakanaim with the Taliban. This is the real story of Ahmedis in Pakistan. The apartheid continues, and so does the apathy — at home and internationally. Speak up, just as you would have if you had skipped these last two paragraphs. Shun hypocrisy!