Port Elizabeth,South Africa…..
Its 8: 00 am on a Sunday morning and I’m surrounded by at least a thousand people , a good majority of them children. All of them eager for the day’s events to begin. You can literally feel the excitement in the air, I glance around and I’m enveloped by a sea of green, black and red. The sight is heartwarming to say the least as we all are gathered here for one reason only, which is to show our support for Palestine. The event was organized by the local Palestine Solidarity Alliance. I can’t mention the PSA without mentioning one of the main driving forces behind it, TASNEEM MART.
Tasneem is one of the founding members of the PSA. A dynamic individual whose passion and dedication for the “ Palestinian cause” has made her somewhat of a heroine amongst the local community. This young educator has taken it upon herself, to not only educate her pupils in her class but also to educate the broader community on the “Palestinian Crisis”. Utilising almost every means possible, from peace walks; movie screenings; flash mobs etc. to get her message across, her name has become synonymous with Palestine in the Nelson Mandela Bay as well as other parts of the country.
Khair recently had the opportunity to interview this dynamic young lady and this is what she had to say:
1. The” Palestinian struggle” is not a recent occurrence but, one that the Palestinians have been fighting for decades.”How and when did you first hear of the plight of the Palestinians?”
Growing up I had a vague idea about the Palestinian crises and like most people I thought that it was merely a fight between Muslims and Jews, but this notion is far from reality. In my matric year I came across the story of Jamal al-Durrah and his son Muhammed. The images of a terrified Muhammed crying, trying to hide behind his father, and Jamal trying to shield his son and calling out to the soldiers to stop firing, still haunts my consciousness and causes tears to well in my eyes till today. It was due to this article that I started to learn more about the Palestinian struggle and became involved in creating awareness about the situation.
2. When did you came to the realisition that you wanted to become an activist, what sparked your passion for this “cause”?
Becoming an activist is not an overnight occurrence, in fact, it is a label that I have only recently been associated with. I started by merely posting about the crises on social network sights like Facebook. After about a year of merely talking about the issue I really wanted TO DO something about it. I met up with like-minded individuals, some I met online others I knew from the community, at a screening of Occupation 101 and thereafter we formed the Palestinian Solidarity Alliance in PE. Once we formed this group the real activism work started, I was no longer remotely trying to create awareness about the issue but directly targeting my local community.
3. Once you’ve set your mind on becoming an activist what was your action plan on raising awareness of the Palestinian plight in the Bay area? How did you go about raising awareness in your city?
When we started the PSA PE we made our goal clear: To raise awareness in the PE-Uitenhage area about the Palestinian struggle. This remains our primary aim but it proved more difficult than we thought. We started out by primarily hosting screenings of documentaries and talks but we have come to realise that these type of events do not attract the crowd needed to be effective. Joining forces with PSA National (based in Johannesburg) for the Walk For Freedom in 2012 was our first major event, about 700-800 people attend. We saw then that if we combine our events with a fun aspect it attracts more people and have since followed this route. This year we had The Amazing Race Event which attracted over a thousand people. It’s a sad fact that organisations that are involved in charitable and community work have to host an event in order to create awareness or to raise funds for a good cause, people want to be entertained and merely watching a documentary or listening to a speaker is unfortunately not entertaining enough. We are hoping to take these events to a larger audience as we want to break the stereotype of this being a Muslim struggle, though Muslims should be leading the cause (in fact any and every cause regarding human rights) we need the support of society as a whole to ensure that Palestinians gain their rights, just as the world supported us South Africans during the dark days of Apartheid. We also copy documentaries and hand these out at events and we find that this seems to be quite effective. Electronically I am admin on 2 Facebook Pages: From PE To Palestine (PSA PE) and South African Friends of Palestine, and also send out regular emails via email@example.com
4. Being an activist for this” cause” especially, I can imagine is not an easy task as most people have an obscured view of what is actually happening in Gaza. Tell me more about the struggles you face and had to overcome over the years?
The most common response is simply no response. Within the Muslim community people have become apathetic towards the situation viewing it with disdain, they can’t understand why we are still talking about it. It has been going on for so long so it will surely continue this way until the Mahdie appears…they seem to forget a few things: Firstly, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves. We thus have to make a concerted effort to rectify ourselves and actively campaign for Palestinian rights if we want to see change, it will not be handed on silver platter. Secondly, the ummah is like one body, if one part is ill the entire body has a fever. We thus have to support our brothers and sisters whether they be in Palestine, Syria, Kashmir, Iraq, Somalia, Mali, etc. I find that once the facts are laid out then people’s perceptions change, but the problem lies in getting them to listen in the first place.
Outside of the Muslim community the response is quite different. It is either complete ignorance or antagonism as many people believe the Israeli version of events. But once again, when the facts are presented people are usually quite shocked and are willing to actively campaign for Palestinian rights. It is only Zionists who are in denial and refuse to recognise the truth and also those that have been conned by the Zionist lies and bribes in the form of job creation and aid, forgetting that once South Africa was also an Apartheid state and also did good deeds to justify its racism and ugliness.
The biggest struggles we face is gaining a platform for people to listen. Zionists do tend to have the upperhand when it comes to money and connections and this enables them to spread their untruths with ease, whereas we have to struggle & be pesistant and raise funds for the little bit of publicity we get. If we can get the Palestinian story across to society, so that the facts about the struggle becomes common knowledge, then we can get people to support campaigns such as BDS, which will lead to real change, not just a change in perceptions.
5. Do you feel your hard work is paying off? Are people more aware of the plight of our muslim brethren in Palestine and willing to make a conscious effort in aiding them or do you feel your plead and those of the Palestinian people are falling on deaf ears?
Alhamdulillah, I think we are creating awareness about the cause. People are more aware about the situation but of course, lots more need to done. The only deaf ears are the Zionist ears, everyone else is willing to listen but like I mentioned before we often lack a platform to have our voices heard.
6. You recently participated in the Games to Gaza which is held annually I believe in Gaza. Can you tell our readers a little bit about your experience in Palestine?
SubhaanAllah! G2G, where to start. It was an absolute amazing experience. I don’t think I can adequately describe it in a short paragraph. I’ll relate the biggest lesson I learnt whilst in Gaza: We visited the home of the late and respected Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (may Allah gra
nt him Jannatul Firdous, Aameen). The Sheikh was born in the West Bank but was part of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians that were expelled and became refugees in their own country, being forced to move to Gaza. He was also a paraplegic due to a sport’s accident. Despite these obstacles he gained an education, married, had children and founded the organisation of Hamas. He was arrested several times by Israel and was beaten so badly that he became blind in one eye. In his old age, as he was living his last days (doctors had said that he would die soon and discharged him from hospital to spend his remaining days with family) Israel decided to assassinate him. This fact had always saddened me…why kill an old man who was close to death anyway? But when I heard the Palestinian version my perception flipped a full 180 degrees. Because the Sheikh had lived a life dedicated to Allah and his
Muslim brothers and sisters, Allah saw it fit to grant him the death of a martyr…so when Sheikh Yassin’s work was done and his energy spent Allah granted him martyrdom, SubhaanAllah. This story made me realise why Palestinians are so resilient, so steadfast, it is because of their strong and unwavering faith in Allah SWT. It is their faith that gives them strength during hardships, that makes them smile through their tears and that gives them hope that they will overcome the oppressors.
I made a dear friend in Gaza, Sister Widyan and her words echo through my mind constantly “We are safe, dead or a
live”. Meaning that whether they live or die Allah will take care of them.
G2G 2012 was organised by a group young Muslims from the UK and I was fortunate to be able to join them with 2 other South Africans, because the 2012 event was such a success it has become an annual event. G2G aims to bring genuine smiles to the children of Gaza and for them to know that their older brothers and sisters in the UK & SA
truly do care for them. It was an amazing experience to meet and spend real quality time with the people I had admired for so long. I have never met a people more gracious and resilient as the Palestinians. I went to Gaza thinking that I would be helping Palestinians but I have gained so much more in return.
7. For those of us, who are still unsure on how to support this cause. Can you elaborate on ways on how to give our support?
The most effective tool in my opinion is BDS: Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions. This is not merely a moral boycott of Israeli products or companies that support Israel but a worldwide campaign to isolate the Apartheid regime of Israel just as the world had done with South Africa in the 1980s. Firstly, we need to all make an effort to raise awareness about the Palestinian cause. You can do this simply by posting about the crises on social networks, make copies of DVDs and hand out at local shopping centre, invite neighbours and colleagues to watch documentaries at your home, make posters and put up n your community, etc. You do not have to aim at creating awareness in your entire city, start with just your family, just your class; just your workplace and it will grow from there, In Shaa Allah.
Secondly, you want to launch active campaigns, e.g. there are many stores that stock Israeli goods not realising that they are supporting an Apartheid state by doing so. Approach the store manager with information on why Israel is an Apartheid state and clearly no-one would want to support such a regime (just like the world did with South Africa), ask them to remove Israeli products. If they do not pay you heed write to your local papers, call into local radios, and try to place pressure in this way for the store to comply. If each community targets its local businesses to boycott Israeli products it will have a noticeable effect.
GO TO PALESTINE! Palestinians do not necessarily want our aid but they want our support. This is often harder as it takes of our time and effort. When performing Hadj or Umrah go to Masjid Al-Aqsa as well, spend time with the local Palestinians, your presence in Palestine makes it harder for Israel to implement their plans for Judaising the entire area.
For more information or ideas or help in organising awareness campaigns contact the PSA PE via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The BDS Movement website is also very helpful: www.bdssouthafrica.com
And most importantly DUA IS THE WEAPON OF THE BELIEVER. Make sincere dua for Palestinians and all oppressed throughout the world, not just a mere utterance of words but heartfelt sincere dua to our creator pleading for truth, justice and peace, In Shaa Allah.
By Fadia Patel