My first introduction to Israel was in a grade 6 school atlas from Geography class. My father and I were studying the geographic boundaries of the Middle East when I asked him why one of the countries had their name blotted out in black marker.
“Because the UAE does not recognize them”, he explained, and neither did a lot of other Muslim countries.
What does recognition even mean, were my initial thoughts and question. It was to be my first indoctrination to something political (with the exception of the popular hate-India clause ritual that all Pakistanis inherently grow up with).
But in Dubai, and much of the Arab Muslim world, the regional political ticker is Israel. I remember pronouncing Eiz-ra-eel and learnt there had been a war (which was apparently continuing unabated and without end) and that Arab and almost all Muslim countries around the globe, refused to recognize Israel.
Back then, non-recognition was explained to me as not being allowed to travel to Israel if you belonged to one of the many countries who do not recognise the legality of that state. And from that point on, the only thing I knew about Israel was that it was a Jewish state at war with Palestinian Arabs, muslim Palestinian Arabs.
Like most people my age and those around me, I could not have cared less for the conflict or how it started and where it was headed. I accepted the general interpretation of events around me, that the conflict would be dictated as per divine prophecy. I was more concerned with the Chicago Bulls three-peat final.
Before I launch into my tirade about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I want to express in very clear terms that criticising Israel does not make one anti-semitic, just as much as criticising Palestinians would make one an Islamophobe.
I’ve worked alongside both Jews and Muslims, and though I will always hold my Muslim brethren in higher esteem, my personal experiences with them have not been the most positive. On the other hand, with the Jewish community, I have often been surprised by their higher level of tolerance and professionalism at work. I always get paid on time by Jewish clients and am lucky if I collect ANY money from my Islamic counterparts.
Nowadays, on the corruption and tolerance index, we Muslims do not score very high. A great tragedy that has resulted from this, is the natural tendency by the world to attribute this behaviour onto Islam.
Islam is a great religion but I must admit we haven’t done a very good job of representation; a really great product with a very bad sales team.
Continue to part 2…