The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in South Africa is currently engaged in a very energetic boycott campaign against Woolworths. I am not a supporter of the economic boycott, and harbour reservations about it. Nevertheless I have not bought a single item from Woolworths since the call was made. In particular I am suffering withdrawal symptoms from no longer drinking Woolworths milk… So do I have double standards or am I confused? I do not think either applies here. Acting contrary to one’s opinion is not the same as abandoning a principle. I shall seek to explain some of my reservations, but why I nevertheless heed the call.
The Racism of Palestinian Activism
To deny the importance of Palestine is to deny the Qurān and Ḥadīth. There are no two ways about it. Yet I am terribly disturbed how the blood of some Muslims is in effect regarded as less sacred than that of others. While Ghazzah was attacked during the Ramaḍān of 1435, Muslims were slaughtered in Central African Republic in far greater numbers. There were no calls for boycotts and no marches on embassies. The brutal fact is that Africa does not have the glamour of Palestine and still too many Muslims have less value for those of black skin. The very least one can expect from Muslim activists is a declaration that Palestine is being focussed on for strategic reasons, but our hearts are also with the other oppressed Muslims. Yet it seems that Africans, Kashmiris, Burmese, Uighurs and so many others do not deserve even such a modicum of respect.
Transforming Palestine into a secular idol
I accept that this heading is provocative and requires thorough explanation. If Allāh wills, I shall write separately on this and explain myself. For now, any act devoid of Allāh is not Islām. There are those who tout the economic benefits of Zakāh; the political dividend of Ḥajj, etc. without a mention of Allāh. Whatever secondary benefits may exist in a deed, the primary focus is the command of Allāh and drawing closer to Him. Removing Allāh from the equation secularises an outwardly Islāmic act, and so does Palestine become an idol to many.
Allāh’s Messenger cancelled sanctions
I find it incredibly dishonest of some who use the example of Thumāmah bin Uthāl رضي الله عنه as religious proof for a boycott, when the reverse should be true. Thumāmah رضي الله عنه was an ardent enemy of Islām and the chief of Banū Ḥanīfah, the main suppliers of wheat to Makkah. Upon his acceptance of Islām he banned exports to Makkah which was already suffering from a famine. The idolaters begged for mercy. They could have been starved into submission, but Allāh’s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم . ordered Thumāmah رضي الله عنه to cease sanctions against Makkah. So how do people clutch at straws and derive legal justification from a cancelled act?
Allāh’s Messenger’s politics and economics were proactive not reactive
When he entered al-Madīnah, the local Arabs were farmers and the Jews were traders. He established a new business district for the Muslims and instructed ‘Abduraḥmān bin Awf رضي الله عنه to teach the Arabs how to trade. In other words, Allāh’s Messneger صلى الله عليه وسلم taught the Muslims to be constructive, economically empowered and self-sufficient. Muslims today grab the other end of the stick. Jews control almost every aspect of economic activity in the world. Is there any processed food or manufactured item which can be guaranteed to be free of Jewish influence in terms of the ingredients and raw materials? (Most are not even aware that a flavouring can contain hundreds of ingredients in itself, let alone the other ingredients which can compose a food item.) The question is moot, for the Sunnah was not to boycott them but to establish the economy of the Muslims. There certainly are Muslim businessmen who empower the Ummah, but too often those with capital seek the quickest and easiest buck, or are princes who burn the Ummah’s wealth in the casinos and brothels of the west.
Liberation will only be with the sword
Palestine will only be liberated through war. That is clear from the Ḥadīth. Interim measures should remain in that context if we believe in the Ḥadīth. It seems to me that a focus on other methods distract from preparation for the real battle, however far off it may be. The two need not be contradictory, but interim measures should not become permanent, nor should sight on the ultimate goal be lost.
I not comfortable with the position that atrocities, confiscations or other wrong doing is somehow worse if perpetrated in the West Bank as opposed to the land regarded as the “legitimate” Zionist state. Companies operating in the West Bank are somehow treated as if they are more evil than those assisting the Zionist terrorism elsewhere. To me this presents a problem in the long term, because if we agree with such a position, it tacitly confirms us as recognising the 1948 Usurpation and limiting our “disagreement” to only the rest of Palestine. All of Palestine has been usurped, and all must be liberated, whether the 1948 lands or the 1967 lands.
Targeting a fashionable and glamorous enemy
It is fashionable and glamorous to attack the Zionist entity. Whoever does so, is lauded as a good and heroic Muslim/ Socialist/ humanitarian etc, depending on who the audience is. Yet almost every Muslim organisation, government, leader and scholar remains unconscionably silent on the Saudi-Sisi axis laying siege to Ghazzah to the South. Whoever criticizes this axis is not lauded as a hero. Such a person is an unhinged radical who is in fact a traitor to the glorious Palestinian cause. Never mind that Ghazzah can have access to the world if a supposedly Muslim country no longer assists the Zionists in their siege. Never mind the billions the CIA lackeys of the House of Saud spend to prop up Pharaoh Sisi. For too long have the Muslims been complicit in allowing a Dajjāl-like regime to rule Makkah. However important Palestine or other issues might be, it makes no sense to at all to target our focus on the bleeding limbs of Islām, when the head of Islām is ruled by such a satanic regime.
So why have I heeded the boycott call?
The above arguments are my interpretation. Too many today act as if their personal interpretation is divine revelation and tolerate no dissent. Two years ago I was sorely disappointed when a scholar of oceans of knowledge, whose drop I cannot equal, mentioned during a presentation on differences of opinion, that scholars who differed with him on a particular issue will end up on the garbage dump of history… “…where they belong”! Let me point out again, that his topic was “Differences of opinion”.
I pray that I never attain such levels of arrogance and dogmatism. In this issue of boycott, a body of Muslims have made a decision on a certain tactic and method of engaging the enemy. I disagree. Yet I shall put all my arguments aside for the sake of a united front, concerted action and joining those who at least are doing something. Most importantly, this is an opportunity to save my soul from joining those who equate their personal views to the decree of Allāh.