RNA – In an exclusive interview with Rasa News Agency, Shaykh Shafiq Hudda, the spiritual director of the Islamic Humanitarian Service in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, explained his views regarding the upcoming International al-Quds Day demonstrations which will be held on May 22 this year.
International al-Quds Day is aimed at highlighting the Palestinian cause and drawing attention to the Israeli occupation. It is an annual event held on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadhan that was initiated by the late founder of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeyni, in 1979 to express support for the Palestinians and oppose Zionism and Israel.
The Friday prayer leader of Kitchener explained, “In my humble opinion, al-Quds Day is a very important day that we take to remember the Palestinian people and one of the reasons why I believe it is a very important day is because when we have busy schedules throughout the year we tend to be engaged in our own activities and work and we often forget those who are less fortunate and those who are in different parts of the world and who may be suffering throughout the year while we are still busy in our day to day lives. al-Quds Day reminds us and causes us to reflect upon those whose homes are being destroyed on an ongoing regular basis whose territories are being occupied regularly and whose villages are being uprooted and demolished.”
He added, “al-Quds Day is a time for us to reflect upon these issues and the Palestinian people, while the day is called al-Quds Day, it also allows us to remember those in other places who are also suffering oppression. For example, the people of Kashmir or the Rohingya in Myanmar. We should also remember those who are being oppressed in non-Muslim countries, such as Cuba and Venezuela, who are suffering from imperialism, intimidation and domination of the superpowers. It is a time for us to remember all of the oppressed.”
Shaykh Hudda emphasized that when we take time out of our busy schedules to demonstrate on al-Quds Day, it shows that we have we feel the pain of the Palestinian people and added, “I encourage people to bring their families and even their children to the demonstrations. It shows that our children are trained to relate to the children of Palestine, our ladies relate to the ladies of Palestine and our elders, who always show up, also related to the elderly of Palestine.
The Uganda-born clergyman added, “Every year here in Canada, we have people come to the al-Quds Day demonstrations in wheelchairs. We have people who are disabled, they may have crutches, and they come in and walk with us and stand up in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Therefore, it reminds the people that there is a great deal of oppression taking place in so many parts of the world and one of those leading parts of the world where oppression is taking place is in occupied Palestine.”
Speaking on the need to oppose Israel, he said, “I very emphatically clearly state that I have very dear friends who are of the Jewish faith tradition and we must differentiate between the Jewish faith community with whom we have close ties – we have very similar dietary issues, morality is maintained and upheld, we respect the previous prophets that they also respect. However, when it comes to the state of Israel, we must remember that this is a political state. This is a Zionist state. This is a state that has been oppressing and expanding. It has established its boundaries. It is as a country that has been occupying its neighbours’ territories since its inception – it took the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, it has taken parts of the Jordanian territories. It has been constantly expanding and creating an annex and creating settlements, occupying land that doesn’t even belong to them. Right from the beginning, we saw them taking over large swaths of land and then building walls that go deep into Palestinian territory. Israel is a state that has been expanding very clearly, has had an expansionistic policy and has created an apartheid state. It has enacted discriminatory laws against its citizens and has created a class system. As we can see, Israel is a very tyrannical and oppressive regime. These are some of the reasons why we oppose Israel and we need to oppose it. We hope that this opposition will result in pressure being applied to the state of Israel to change its course and ways.”
Shaykh Hudda said that people in Canada have demonstrated their support for Palestine and the Palestinian cause in many ways, adding, “One is, of course, participating in rallies. The biggest one is usually in Toronto but there are also rallies in Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver that create awareness of the plight of the Palestinians. When people show up and people attend these rallies, those who are driving or passing by and who read about it in the news become more aware of the plight of the Palestinians. This is one thing that Canadians have been doing very carefully, clearly and with a strong voice. The rallies are always very peaceful from the side of the brothers and sisters who attend in support of al-Quds. People from many different ethnic backgrounds, including [anti-Zionist] Jews, Christians and Muslims. Therefore, al-Quds Day rallies are not limited to a particular ethnic, faith or religious group; No, we see people from all diverse backgrounds because they know that this is a humanitarian cause.”
He emphasized that al-Quds Day is not a cause for Muslims or Palestinians alone and explained, “al-Quds Day is something that affects everybody because we feel the pain of the oppressed. This is something that I have noticed Canadians have tried to do to the best of their ability. They’ve supported by attending the rallies and they have contributed to organizations like the Canadian Red Cross that have been doing work in Palestine and to other organizations, such as the International Development and Relief Foundation (IDRF). There are many organizations that one can easily look up and see what they’ve been doing in the Palestinian areas. You have to keep in mind the Zionist state has put a blockade on the Gaza Strip, for example, and therefore, basic medicines, basic supplies, construction material to rebuild houses are extremely difficult to send, especially basic medicines that we as Canadians might be just throwing away, such as Tylenol [acetaminophen], antibiotics and basic back pain medicine and anti-inflammatories.”
He added, “These medicines are very difficult to access in places like Palestine and so Canadians have been donating and contributing. There are organizations and agencies and relief work, including the United Nations, that have been trying their best to reach out and help the Palestinians get their get these much-needed medications and supplies to the people. There is also a very big problem with clean drinking water and this has been another policy that Israel has been undertaking deliberately to make sure that much of the foodstuffs that the Palestinians are consuming are contaminated in some way or another. They also lack proper hospital facilities and this creates burden after burden and difficulty after difficulty for the Palestinian people.”
Shaykh Hudda stated that people around the world can understand action to help the Palestinian cause and oppose Israel and said, “I previously mentioned that we want to help all the oppressed people as much as possible, whether it in Kashmir, Cuba, Venezuela or the Rohingya in Myanmar, but specifically for the Palestinian cause, we have seen that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has been extremely effective. They have brought a lot of awareness and have caused a significant economic challenge to the Israelis. If you recall the time of the situation of apartheid in South Africa, it was due to boycotts and sanctions on South Africa that caused them to be pressured and eventually relinquish their oppressive, tyrannical ideologies, their extremism and try and create a more just fair and equitable society in South Africa where blacks were not oppressed, tortured and discriminated against.”
He added, “This same pressure is applied by the citizens of the world, nations of the world and communities, because even here in Canada, many churches, many organizations, businesses, unions, trade unions have subscribed to the BDS movement. Many artists and artist organizations have also subscribed to the BDS movement to put pressure on Israel to change its ways and do to become fairer and more inclusive for its own citizens. People in the world can put pressure on countries and we have seen this working in other areas and in other nations and I specifically remind everybody of South Africa. When economic pressure is put on nations, sometimes they are forced to change their ways and to become more inclusive and listen to the cries of the oppressed. I hope more pressure will be applied by the nations and citizens of the world because citizens of the world can put more pressure on their respective nations than their nations can put pressure on Israel. We see even that awareness is growing in Europe and there is a lot of anger over the annexations of settlements and they are becoming more and more vocal.”
In conclusion, Shaykh Hudda said, “I want to thank Rasa News Agency for taking the time to hear my views, to hear my thoughts from a Canadian perspective and God-willing, this will create awareness to the plight of the Palestinians and the oppressed. Imam Khomeyni was very, very emphatic that we need to stand up for the oppressed and the voices of the oppressed need to be heard. Our Islamic etiquette reminds us that the oppressed cannot be neglected because the du’a, the supplication, the heartfelt cry of the oppressed will be heard by the Almighty Creator and will even shake the throne. We hope and pray that the Lord gives us the ability to listen to the oppressed, to help the oppressed in whatever way we can. And we ask God to send Imam al-Hujjah al-Mahdi to help in the creation of justice, equality and truth throughout the world and for the end of the oppressors and the tyrannical regimes wherever and whenever they may be.”
Rasa News Agency