I am neither Israeli nor Palestinian, yet the conflict there matters dearly to me. As a human being, of course, I cannot but be pained by the oppression and murder of innocents. As an American, I am outraged that my taxes fund the dispossession and occupation of a people. As a person of recent Pakistani ancestry, the fact that (settler) colonialism continues today is deeply distressing.
But Palestine, and especially, Jerusalem, matter to me for still another reason. I am Muslim. And like all Muslims, I have religious obligations to the land – and its inhabitants.
While media coverage of the recent escalation in the conflict has markedly improved, not only because of social media but also because of the (long overdue) inclusion of minority voices into our mainstream conversation, still something is missing. There is precious little consideration for why so many Muslims are so invested in Jerusalem and its environs. https://1c37660632489a73670e102a5e3211cd.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Indeed, it might not be too much to argue that hundreds of innocent lives could have been saved had we been aware of the force of these religious convictions, shared by nearly one-quarter of humanity, and how they intersect with and are amplified by 70-some years of ethnic cleansing, systemic discrimination and even apartheid.
While it is popularly, if only vaguely, understood that Jerusalem is sacred to Islam, the third holiest city in the world’s second-largest, and arguably fastest-growing, faith community, the fact is that the entire region is blessed. The Prophet Muhammad himself counseled his followers – my co-religionists and I – to visit the Aqsa Mosque and, if we could not, to gift oil to light its lanterns, an imperative I have always interpreted to mean that the upkeep and safety of the mosque and its worshippers are a religious commandment.