As the latest Israel-Gaza war rages on, the Muslim community in the Jackson area is mourning and calling for change.
Since the Oct. 7 attack in Israel by Hamas militants that resulted in thousands of deaths, Israel has initiated retaliatory attacks on the Gaza strip, killing thousands of Palestinians in the process.
Emad Al-Turk, co-founder of the International Museum of Muslim Cultures in Jackson, said the local Muslim community is saddened by the events happening in Gaza.
“The situation there is very dire. Many, many, many civilians are getting killed,” Al-Turk said. "The whole infrastructure of Gaza has been destroyed. Over 10,000 buildings have been demolished and bombed. There is complete siege of Gaza. There’s no water, gas, electricity, food."
Currently, Israel has cut off all supplies from coming into Gaza.
Al-Turk said many Muslims in the Jackson community have family members in Gaza, many of which have been injured or killed. The decreasing access to communication compounds the grief.
“It’s actually very difficult to communicate with their families, so we’re just, as a community, we’re mourning all of those debts,” Al-Turk said.
On Monday, protestors in Jackson gathered in front of the International Museum of Muslim Culture. The group carried the message of "equity and justice and protection of civilian populations," Al-Turk said.
More reactions in Jackson:Jackson Beth Israel Congregation prays for peace in Israel. See more here.
Imam Ameen Abdur-Rashied of the Masjid Muhammad mosque in Jackson attended Monday's protest. Abdur-Rashied said many in the Jackson Muslim community have stood with Palestine for a very long time, and it’s not lost on them that this war has a 75-year context behind it.
Abdur-Rashied said it is crucial to understand that most of the people in Gaza are not involved in Hamas. He expressed his grief for innocent people killed on both sides of the conflict and said his heart goes out to “the Jewish people or anyone who may lose their job, who may lose their status, their ranking in life, their social status because they’re standing up to protest on behalf of the Palestinians.”
The Imam quoted Martin Niemöller, a Lutheran pastor in early 1900s Germany, saying, “They came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I am not a socialist. Next, they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I am not a unionist. Next, they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. And then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out.”
Abdur-Rashied said that quote is particularly appropriate for this conflict because he believes people must speak out against injustice.
“It has been said historically, injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. So, it’s important to speak out. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, had a saying. He said, ‘If you see evil, oppose it with your hands. If you are not able to oppose it with your hands, oppose it with your speech. And if you’re not able to oppose it with your speech, oppose it in your heart,'” Abdur-Rashied said.
Abdur-Rashied grew up in West Jackson and joined the Nation of Islam in 1973. In 1975, he along with other members of the Nation of Islam moved toward mainstream Islam under the guidance of Warith Deen Mohammed. In 2011, the people of Masjid Muhammad voted Abdur-Rashied in as Imam. Abdur-Rashied, who is Black, said he has seen injustice firsthand, so he felt compelled to speak out.
“I was born in 1952, so I grew up in a borough and watched society changed only after 50 years or 60 years,” Abdur-Rashied said. “(I) see all of that effort and progress that was made only to have new policies created to undo the progress to give people equality and justice. This is happening globally. It’s happening nationally. It’s happening in the states.”
A central concern of protestors around the globe is that the people of Gaza have no way to easily seek refuge.
“With hospitals being bombed and their homes being destroyed, they have nowhere to go,” Abdur-Rashied said. “And the president of Israel said that they have so many hours to get out. Where are they going to go? And that many people with the roads and the passageways destroyed, how could they possibly go anywhere? So that request or command is not reasonable.”
Late last week, Israel's military told people in Gaza to evacuate to the southern region of the territory. There are more than two million in Gaza.
“Half of them are refugees. They can’t even move. They, before they bomb them, they tell them to move south because ‘We’re going to go into the ground operation. We want you to move south within 24 hours.’ They move south. They bomb them,” Al-Turk said.
Al-Turk emphasized the U.S.’s role in the Israel-Hamas war.
“According to the Geneva Conventions, these are war crimes. And unfortunately the U.S. government is complicit with this because we provide over $3.8 billion of military aid. All of those weapons that Israel is using are American weapons,” Al-Turk said.
Al-Turk is part of a group sending a petition to Congress calling for Mississippi representatives to "call for an immediate ceasefire, pressure Israel to open safe/secure access for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza without delay, and refuse to send any additional weapons or funding to the Israeli Government and military," according to the petition.
“We can’t wash our hands and be silent. We have to stand up. They’re using our taxpayer’s money to kill innocent civilians and destroy all the infrastructure there, and we cannot continue to be silent to this issue,” Al-Turk said.
Al-Turk said the issue should not be divided against religious parties; it does not affect one group alone.
“It’s against Judaism. It’s against Islam. It’s against Christianity. It is against any moral or legal code to continue to bomb civilians, and we are just, the whole world is just standing watching it,” Al-Turk said.
Abdur-Rashied turns to God in times like this when people tend to feel powerless as individuals.
“We in Mississippi collectively are not stronger than the American government or the Israeli government or any government for that matter, but God is. So, I trust for him to help us in this situation, because we stand for everyone’s freedom, justice and equality," he said.
Al-Turk and Abdur-Rashied said they will continue to speak out as the events of the Israel-Hamas war continue to rapidly develop.
“When the time comes then, you know, either you got to speak up or be quiet, and I chose to speak,” Abdur-Rashied said.