Last year, photos of the 2012 Istanbul Eurasia Marathon were shared all over the the internet amidst claims that they represented mass anti-government protests.
These claims were easily debunked, but others based on traffic accidents and earlier incidents were more difficult to verify and separate from genuine news.
In every conflict there is truth, truth mixed with falsehood, and straight falsehood.
In 2012, early in the Syria conflict, the BBC used a 2003 photo from Iraq to illustrate the Houla massacre. If their photo researchers can get it so wrong, what about us?
Please think twice about sharing photos of conflict if you have no idea where they come from.
The victims of the bombardment of Gaza will not be helped by the distribution of photos from 2009 and 2012, and from Syria, Iraq and other conflicts.
The victims of horrific violence need justice and aid, not advocacy based on partial misinformation. Be witnesses to truth.
Proof that the pen is mightier than the sword: Government immediately utterly condemns an MP’s tweet, but refuses to condemn shelling of hospitals and hundreds of missile strikes on family homes.
No nation would accept missiles raining down on them, they say (drone strikes on Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia don’t count).
So we refuse to condemn the slaughter of innocents. But it’s okay: pens are mightier than the most powerful armies on earth, and we will condemn anyone wielding a pen immediately and without reserve.
Last week, while our eyes were turned away, 700 people were killed in Syria over a 48 hour period. But amidst 160,000 dead, such horrific figures no longer mean anything. We have lost our humanity.
The world is too emotionally terrifying today, too draining and too frightening. Politicians, militants and social commentators alike want to divide us into groups, into us and them, to turn us on each other, to score points, to take sides, to have compassion for some and hatred for others.
Today the news is of the demise of Christianity in Iraq, as if the heritage and lives of Muslims wiped out at the same time and by the same aggressors do not count. To the author, it is us and them. While in Gaza, as vast weaponries rain down on civilians, the same commentators speak of Muslim populations, apparently set on the destruction of Israel. Never are the Christians of Gaza mentioned. Never, when Hanan Ashrawi so eloquently speaks for the suffering of her people, are we reminded of her faith.
For on the ground it is not us and them, but everyone all in it together. The powerful and well-armed clash, and all around ordinary people who have always lived side by side, scatter and scarper in an unholy terror. When will this madness end? Only when those of us, different though our faith may be, rally to each other’s aid and stand out for truth and justice, whether for friend or foe.
As the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “On the Day of Judgment I will be the advocate for the Jew or Christian whose right was violated.” As the Proverb goes: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.”
Every time there is an enquiry into how abusers were able to get away with their abuse for so long and why those who were abused were ignored, the state proudly proclaims: “Never again will we blame the victims for the crimes perpetuated against them.”
And yet here we are, witnessing the lives of innocents being torn apart, and once more our politicians are blaming the victims for the actions of their attackers, justifying the inexcusable without the faintest shred of compassion.
It is amazing to see that the powerful have no hearts.
‘Israel has no civilians,’ says a friend: ‘all Israelis are soldiers, waiting to be called up.’
What, not even a 10 year old girl on her way to school or an old man in a care home?
To me, this sounds more like the sunnah of the Irgun gang than the noble deen I follow, which emphasises the impermissiblity of attacking women and children not engaged in direct combat (even if soldiers), where off-duty soldiers are treated as civilians and where collateral damage is considered unlawful (to my knowledge, only the Shafi’i school allows for the possibility of collateral damage, though even then only under specific conditions). Life is sacred.
The notion that all residents are legitimate targets may be the principle the Israeli government and their allies are following in deliberately targeting homes and hospitals, which are clearly non-military targets. But that is not our way.
‘You will surely follow the path trodden by those before you,’ said our blessed Prophet, peace be upon him, ‘step-by-step and inch-by-inch, so much so that if they went down into a lizard hole, you would follow them.’
Our turning away from the rules of war defined by Sacred Law is most certainly a catastrophic lizard hole to charge down, that will only result in more innocents suffering, everywhere.
Where are the wise ones who can advise us, in light of the strict codes of warfare and rules of engagement defined by Sacred Law, how the transgressed should fight back against tyrannical occupiers backed by the richest nations, who use the most sophisticated weapons on earth to destroy homes, kill and maim, and seize yet more land?
Our Sacred Law says be just, even with the enemy. Where are the wise ones who can tell us what this means, and who can set us back on track?
“Serve God and associate nothing with Him; and do good: to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbours who are near, neighbours who are strangers, the companion by your side, the traveler, and what your right hands possess: For God does not love not the arrogant, the boastful.” — Qur’an 4:36
“Those who are merciful will be shown mercy by the Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth and the One above the heavens will have mercy upon you. The womb is derived from the Merciful, so whoever keeps relations with his family then God will keep relations with him, and whoever abandons his family then God will abandon him.”
— Tradition of the Prophet, peace be upon him.
The past few weeks have revealed the astounding wisdom of the traditional teachings of faith — that salutary advice found in pearls like the Letter of James of the Christian corpus and in the traditions of the Prophet of Islam alike.
Advice like ‘do not act on your anger’: that the strong man is not the one who fights hard, but he who restrains himself in anger. Advice like ‘control your tongue’: consider what a vast amount of timber can be set alight by the tiniest spark.
Alas, politicians are heedless of the timeless wisdom of sages down the ages, and so the world burns. Here is an instructive insight into what happens when rhetoric and rage take hold of a nation:
J J Goldberg: How politics and lies triggered an unintended war
The Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount were not esoteric counsel, but a practical prescription for the ailments of life in the world. Likewise, the teachings of our Prophet, peace be upon him, were not idealistic notions divorced from reality. We were not taught to purify our hearts only for times of peace and plenty, but for all times. Yes, in times of war, a soldier must be brave, fearless and strong, but he must also be just, merciful and true.
May God give us the wisdom to restrain ourselves in anger, to humbly serve the poor and oppressed, to do what is just, to speak the truth, be compassionate and to live a life that enables us to draw closer to Him.