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Innocence Lost
By Jamshed Bokhari

As I gaze at my daughter sleeping fitfully, my mind drifts to thoughts of children, all children, enjoying the last bastion of pure innocence left on this planet, childhood; where your parents are your world, where a blade of early-morning dew-dipped grass glistening in the sunlight captures your attention for what seems like an eternity, where you call every flying insect a "bee", because you know no better.

And as I look at her I remember my childhood, a joyful one filled with magic and mystery, and I want the same for her.

Now that I have my own child I understand what I had mocked before. Those who were parents before myself told me that unless I had a child I could not fully understand certain things. Back then, my arrogance laughed at them, and my pride defended me by saying they were a bunch of old fogeys, and that I knew just as much, if not more, than they did. But, I am still young (comparatively), and I have a child, and now I am the one telling others about their lack of understanding because they, as yet, do not have children.

One result of this "parent-ness" is that you not only love, cherish and protect your own child, but when you see other children, not yours, you feel for them as well. They don't have to be Christian, Muslim or Jewish; all they have to be is a child, a human being so dependent on the rightfully expected goodwill and care of adults.

And when any child suffers because of want, abuse or violence, it makes you hurt. That child could have been yours; that child should have just as much as yours; that child is yours.

And here it comes, why this article is here: Mohammed al-Durra, Baby Iman Hijo, and countless other Palestinian children, joined by their compatriots in Chechnya, Iraq, Mindanao and Yugoslavia, whose names we do not know, will never experience the pure innocence and joy of childhood. They will never play tag with each other, never play hooky from school, never daydream, and never cuddle up to mom and dad on nights when the weather turns foul or the boogey-man is on the prowl. For they are dead.

I purposefully point to them, these Muslim children, for they, for no other reason than by political geographical happenstance, have been born into a cherished faith unjustly targeted for annihilation. These are strong words, yes they are. But, can anyone explain to me any other reason as to why they are dead? Why they must endure violence because they want what every other faith on this planet has a right to, a place to live where they can govern their own lives in which they don't have to see their parents humiliated at checkpoints begging guards to let them go to jobs where they build homes for people who will eventually kill them?

In an opinion piece in the Washington Post on June 30th, West Bank Checkpoint, Wendy Pearlman, a doctoral candidate in government at Harvard University living in Bir Ziet in the Occupied Territories, writes that at checkpoints and blockades set up by the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces), guards freely admit that the checkpoints serve no military purpose, but are rather a political tool designed to demoralize Palestinians. The Israeli mindset thinks that if you demoralize the Palestinians enough, they will give up the current Intifada or levy their frustrations on Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority (PA).

Pearlman rightly points out that this reasoning is woefully off target. In no way would Palestinian resentment turn into acquiescence or against the PA (yet), rather the nonmilitary use of checkpoints and blockades will only turn Palestinian frustration back against the Israelis, the immediate threat, causing further violence.

But will this advice be heeded? Especially since it (God forbid) shows the Palestinians, most of whom are Muslims, as victims?

No other modern-day faith has been denied what is deemed a right for others than Muslims, and this is neither exaggeration nor xenophobia. Look at the facts. The East Timorese, mostly Christians, only raised a serious fuss for one year after their land was taken only twenty-five years ago, and world aid (military) was rushed to them without question (against a Muslim country I might add), while Palestinians have been waging 50-plus year campaigns for their rights.

What makes a Muslim child's life less valuable than others? The faith itself? The melanin in the skin of most of its followers? Lobbies in Washington? Hitler's Holocaust? You tell me.

Mohammed al-Durra and Baby Iman are dead, but for those who live through what no child should ever experience - violence, death, being orphaned - death may have been a more peaceful end than life. To live through childhood without experiencing it as it should be, filled with that innocent joy of discovery, into adulthood, what sort of person do you think this produces? What sort of feelings, if any, would this person have? How much hate is inside? Look at the Occupied Territories, and the violence, and the hate, and you have your answer.

These children who live through this sort of madness will never pick up a rock to add to their collection of rare stones, rather they will throw it, only to be answered back with a bullet for their trouble, praying that they are only "injured". They will never see other human beings through eyes of compassion, rather others will become for them what they were for others: targets.

And yes, the same goes for the children of Israelis. If they love their children as much as any parent loves their child, they should not turn their sons and daughters into murderers, send them to kill other children, or place them in harm's way.

All this hate, all this death, all this hypocrisy, boil down to one thing, that people do not have a land to call home: a right, mind you, and not a luxury…a right that the Jews of Europe once cried for. It took Hitler to make Israel a reality, and now that Ariel Sharon is Israel's prime minister, maybe its time that Palestinians were afforded that right.

Arguments can be made that the greatest crime anyone can commit is the stealing of innocence. Murder, rape, and theft all follow after innocence is lost. This continued theft will produce only one thing: another generation of children growing up to become frustrated adults willing to die because there is nothing left to live for. When you take away everything, there is nothing left to save, nothing left to protect, nothing left to prevent one from becoming what the thief has made them: desperate, frustrated, without care or compassion.

Children should not have to suffer because of the jaded acts of their parents. They should not have to die because of conflicts not of their making; they should not have to die because they, and their parents, do not control their own lives. All this needs to stop.

For all the petty talk and squabbles over peace talks and ceasefires, when they begin, when they end; no matter what my faith, Muslim, Christian, or Jew, all I know is this: I know what I would do if my child was killed. And don't look at me like that, because you would do the same.
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