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We the people find ourselves today in a bind. On the one hand the media delivers to the doorstep of our conscience, images and news, all highly disturbing, heart wrenching and begging for us to do something, anything to make a difference. On the other hand the ordinary person is the last link in the chain of power and influence – powerless and uninfluential. So while we all want to do something to change the status quo – the question is, ‘What can we do that is legal and possible (in our control)?’
At the risk of being simplistic in my attempt to simplify, let me state that the rules of engagement which define ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in the language of empire have always been the same. Be it from perhaps the earliest recorded history – the Greeks (Alexander being the most famous), to the Romans (whose ideology of empire is alive and well), to the present day. And all those who came in between, be they the kingdoms of Europe before there was Europe or the Muslim empires of the Banu Umaiyya, Banu Abbas and Ottomans. Be it Genghis and his Mongols who carved out the largest empire ever to exist. Or the British, Russians and Americans who inherited the mantle of empire. Even in Southern Africa, the land of Shaka, the Zulu king and his Impis of assegai wielding soldiers, completely obedient to every whim of one man, the rules remained the same.
Right is what I do. Wrong is the one who stands up against me.
Names are very important and language rules the world. Even more so today in the age of the electronic and print media and internet. The one who owns the language, owns the debate. So names were invented to describe those to whom liberty and honor were dearer than life and property and so they refused to kowtow to the invaders. They were called ‘insurgent’, ‘rebel’, ‘terrorist’ – and their fight was declared illegal. No holds were barred to putting them down – the more draconian the better, because the purpose was not only to defeat them but to perish the thought of any further rebellion in the hearts of aspirants. Every means is used to push forward this message – we are right, they are wrong – and those who accept it are rewarded with fame and titles. What the oppressors did was hidden but whatever the ‘rebels, insurgents, terrorists’ did was shown as ‘barbaric’ and ‘horrific.’ The media supports the narrative of the oppressor because that is the hand which feeds it. I recall the African proverb, ‘As long as lions have historians, the hunt will always be glorified.’
As proof, I ask you to question the ghosts of the Native Americans, the Incas and Aztecs, the Aborigines in Australia and New Zealand, William Wallace (Brave Heart) in Scotland, Tipu Sultan, Syed Ahmad Shaheed, Syed Humayun Shaheed, Guru Teg Bahadur and Bhagat Singh in India, the Afghans in every age, the Jewish Resistance in the Warsaw ghetto and the French Resistance, Shaikh Ahmed Yasin and countless Palestinian children dying annually in Gaza and the Occupied Territories, to name only a few as examples. Ask their ghosts what wrong they did for which they were maligned and slaughtered by their oppressors; invaders of their land, despoilers of their property and families and assassins of their honor. Ask them what wrong they did apart from refusing to accept occupation and oppression. Ask them also if they regret what they did.
Ask them. I won’t answer for them – but I know what every single one of them will say, “If I had to live a hundred lives and if every one of them ended dying fighting for freedom, I would pray for a hundred more. For they can cut off my head but they can’t make it bow before them.” It is not important whether you live or die. What is important is which side you fought for. The winner is not the one who remains standing. But the one who stood for the right things.
The basis of the classical empires was revenue from taxation of newly conquered lands. Generally speaking from the Greeks all through to the British who were the last of the great empires – it was taxation which was the key prize that empire building yielded. The more land you had under your yoke (literally and figuratively) the more it produced and the more taxes it would yield. That is why two things happened; wars were more ‘humane’ and tax evasion was the worst possible crime. People were not generally slaughtered nor land laid waste to maximize tax collection. You can’t collect tax from dead people or ravaged land. And so tax evasion was the worst possible crime.
People were important as farmers and tillers of land, as conscripts into the army of the invaders, as conscripted sailors in the navy based empires and so on. Key point to note however is that these people were not in any position to influence the rulers. They were ‘things to be used’, much like cattle and like cattle, they could simply be made to disappear if they rebelled.
However a seminal change happened, thanks to the Industrial Revolution, which changed the economic order of the world and so the basis of empire. And that was the birth of what came to be called the Free Market Economy (FME). In this new system the common man and woman suddenly became important – not for any human or humane reasons but because he/she could make and buy the products and services which the new empire builders sold, enabling business owners to live in the style to which they had grown accustomed. Taxation on land was no longer the main source of income. Major income now came from people buying things and so the whole focus on manufacturing and selling. This was the basis of the British Empire as it sat on the cusp between the classical empires and the present economic order; the East India Company was a sales organization which acted like a sovereign state. Robert Clive was Country Manager for the British East India Company but commanded troops, annexed territory and deposed legitimate monarchs. After the 1857 War of Independence of India was lost and the legitimate British Monarchy became the illegitimate owners of India, the commercial focus continued in an official capacity. The FME gave rise to our materialistic, advert driven world where the unsuspecting are convinced to buy products they don’t need to impress people they don’t like and pay for them by enslaving themselves to a life they find detestable. They live this contradiction and survive the stress and depression on Prozac – all good for the producers of both stress and Prozac.
In all this gloom the true ray of hope is economic boycott. Let me explain how – though I am sure it must be clear.
For the first time in the history of mankind, the ordinary person can actually call the shots. Not through meaningless elections which are open to endless manipulation but through legitimately exercising his right to buy or not buy things and to choose who to buy them from. This directly hits the pocket of the power brokers and since it is legal and nonviolent they can’t do anything about it. This is a major breakthrough and the only visible benefit of the otherwise puerile materialistic society that we live in. For the first time the ordinary person can make a visible difference and do it without facing any personal danger or inconvenience.
Let me share with you the results of the BDS Campaign specifically directed at Israeli occupation and apartheid.
Here are some provided by the BDS Website:
· SodaStream’s stock is now 70% off its all-time high set in July 2011
So why wouldn’t you do it if you felt any compassion for the helpless and innocent?
Some people with the best of intentions sometimes get confused that the focus on boycott may take one away from seeking spiritual solutions. I frankly don’t see what this fear is all about.
Firstly AllahY told us:
وَأَن لَّيْسَ لِلْإِنسَانِ إِلَّا مَا سَعَى
Najm 53: 39. And that man can have nothing but what he does (good or bad)
It is our duty to make whatever effort we can. Boycott is the easiest and perhaps the best of them that is available to every one of us. So let us do it.
Nobody said, ‘Only boycott and do nothing else.’ We need to use every means at our disposal to defeat the oppressors and free the enslaved. Boycott is one way and a very good one at that. Rasoolullahr also used every material means at his disposal while remaining connected to AllahY and asking for His help. He didn’t shun material means and advocate only prayer and dua. His actions are the manifestation in action of the meaning of the Ayah above.
Secondly, boycotting these products drives home the extent of the resistance which sends out very clear messages to the political bosses who are sensitive to this data as their life depends on it. People boycotting are also called voters and in another time and place they will boycott those who support oppression. So boycott has a direct and an indirect effect – both very important.
Thirdly, boycott creates solidarity with all those who share the pain and the desire to alleviate it in every way they can. Boycott of Israeli companies as well as companies which support Israel is speaking the language of the heart which transcends all boundaries of race, nationality and gender. People across the world are coming together and like they joined hands to free South Africans from apartheid, they are joining hands to free Palestine from occupation and apartheid.
Don’t get involved in pointless arguments about all the products which we can’t boycott because they are essential medicines or whatever. Do what you can. Don’t try to prevent others from doing what they can. Don’t waste your time in pointless talk. Take action. Stop drinking Pepsi, Coke and Starbucks to start with. And pray very hard for success. For in the end, success is in the hands of the Creator and He gives it to the one who works for it. Not to the one who talks about it.