Should children have the right to stand up for Palestinians at school?
An audio recording emerged recently of a teacher shouting at a pupil who was standing up for the Palestinians, and at one point, the boy was ‘accused of racism’.
In this article, we will explore the consequences of silencing children from standing up, speaking out, and protesting against oppression, especially regarding our Palestinian brothers and sisters.
Abū Hurairah narrated:
The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “No child is born except on al-fitra (Islam), then his parents make him Jewish, Christian, or Magian, as an animal produces a perfect young animal; do you see any part of its body amputated?” Then he recited from the āyah:
فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا ۚ فِطْرَتَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا ۚ لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
“Direct your face toward the religion, inclining to truth. [Adhere to] the fitrah of Allāh upon which He has created [all] people. No change should there be in the creation of Allāh. That is the correct and upright religion, but most of the people do not know.”
This ḥadīth teaches us that children can be influenced easily. In other words, children are highly influenced by their environment. Since they spend a lot of time with their parents during their early years, they tend to adopt their parents’ morals, beliefs, and principles. Later on, after they mature, the individuals they spend the most time with have the most impact over their beliefs. In line with this comes Jim Rohn’s statement: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Children go to school every day and spend much of the day there. Therefore, the way in which individuals in their schools behave shapes their beliefs and values tremendously. We have a responsibility to ensure they develop as people of integrity. Teaching them to stay silent when extreme oppression is taking place will lead to cultivation of children who are morally weak, self-centred, in turn developing a dangerous culture that damages and destroys the fitrah (natural disposition) of humanity. This will lead to catastrophic consequences in the long term, including all manner of mental health problems and even suicidal tendencies.
If children’s environments pressurise them to not speak up against oppression, then we are heading for our own destruction.
Staying silent in the face of clear injustice allows oppression to continue upon the land. Eventually, this will harm the rest of us, since immoral and oppressive individuals will end up practicing their oppression on the people who hold moral values. Therefore, it is a duty to stop this silencing of oppression to the best of our abilities, otherwise we, along with our children and families, will end up tasting the oppression. When the oppressors finish oppressing one people, that is not the end. They will continue to oppress others, because oppression has become part of their value system. They justify oppression for themselves, and so after they have succeeded in oppressing one party, they will move onto their next victim. When a bully is not stood up against, he will continue to bully others.
We have seen this recently with regards to the Black Lives Matter movement after the killing of George Floyd last year. The injustices that Black people faced were allowed to continue for years. As one of the protestors against the killing of George Floyd said:
“We continue to have this psychosis in society that splits us. There is racism and no justice which goes on for years and years before something is done. We want justice now, we want it now, we deserve it now, this country needs to wake up and correct the wrongs it’s done throughout history.”
Like many others, this protestor has realised the need through his rationale (which is linked to his fitrah) that the country—meaning the people—need to wake up and correct the wrongdoings of grave oppression. This correction must be advocated to children by allowing them to stand up against blatant aggression of the apartheid Zionist Israelis against the Palestinians.
If people justify their oppression thinking that it is correct—such as the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians, women, and children—then humanity is in danger, especially if other human beings accept their justification. This is the work of Iblīs (leader of the shayātīn) and his army. How Merciful is our Lord that He has warned us of the plot of Iblīs, when he revealed to his Messenger Muhammad (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) over 1400 years ago, saying:
وَعَادًا وَثَمُودَ وَقَد تَّبَيَّنَ لَكُم مِّن مَّسَاكِنِهِمْ ۖ وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَعْمَالَهُمْ فَصَدَّهُمْ عَنِ السَّبِيلِ وَكَانُوا مُسْتَبْصِرِينَ
‘(The people of) ‘Ād and Thamūd! Indeed (their destruction) is clearly apparent to you from their (ruined) dwellings. Satan made their deeds fair-seeming to them, and turned them away from the (Right) Path, though they were intelligent.’
Shaytān makes people justify oppression. He has indeed justified for the Zionists to bomb innocent women and children, and he has justified apathy and “neutrality” in many spectators to their suffering.
What are the greater consequences of preventing children at school or people in general from standing up, speaking up, and protesting for the rights of the Palestinians? Allāh says:
وَاتَّقُوا فِتْنَةً لَّا تُصِيبَنَّ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنكُمْ خَاصَّةً ۖ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ
‘Fear the Fitnah (affliction and trial, etc.) which affects not in particular (only) those of you who do wrong (but it may afflict all the good and the bad people), and know that Allāh is Severe in punishment.’
This affliction or punishment touches not only the evil people, but also the good. The question is, why would good people also be afflicted? The answer to this question and explanation of the verse is found in a narration recorded by Imam Aḥmad that Abū al-Riqād said, “I heard Hudhayfah saying:
‘Surely, you will enjoin good, forbid evil, and encourage each other to do good, or Allāh will surround you all with torment, or make the wicked among you become your leaders.’
Here we can realise that from the ways of forbidding evil is to stand up against oppression, and not only allow children to do so in schools, but nurture them to do so. If we do not do this, we can end up being surrounded by torment and have wicked individuals become our leaders, as the narration states.
We are already experiencing the drastic effects of leaders being wicked. Look at the example of China’s Xi Jinping, who is committing genocide against the Uyghurs. Look at India’s Narendra Modi, who has occupied Kashmir and has followed the Israeli Zionists’ methodology to ‘criminalise Kashmiri resistance and normalise their oppression.’ We can see how tremendous levels of oppression are spreading around the world due to good people not standing up. We must collectively stand up firm against this and allow children in schools to also do so before more genocides, ethnic cleansing, and even holocausts take place. It is not a coincidence that the atomisation of human societies and civilisations into “individuals” coincided with the bloodiest centuries in human history.
To understand the implication of the verse above in an analogical way, let us look at the following ḥadīth:
Al-Nu‘mān b. Bashīr narrated:
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “The example of the person abiding by Allāh’s orders and limits in comparison to the one who does wrong and violates Allāh’s limits and orders is like the example of people drawing lots for seats in a boat. Some of them gained seats in the upper part (of the boat), while the others in the lower part. Those in the lower part have to pass by those in the upper one to get water, and this troubled the latter. One of them (i.e. the people in the lower part) took an axe and started making a hole in the bottom of the boat. The people of the upper part came and asked him, ‘What is wrong with you?’ He replied, ‘You have been troubled much by my (coming up to you), and I have to get water.’ Now, if they prevent him from doing that, they will save him and themselves, but if they leave him (to do what he wants), they will destroy him and themselves.”
We learn from this ḥadīth that if the people in the boat did not prevent the individual from making a hole in the boat (i.e. did not stop him from committing injustice), all of the people in the boat could end up drowning and losing their life. The people drowning represents us—we can end up losing our life through a genocide, ethnic cleansing, or other forms of oppression. This can take place if we do not stop the one who has an axe and wants to make a hole in the boat. The axe-wielder represents the Israeli Zionists who want to allow the usurping of houses in Sheikh Jarrah by Israeli settlers, and the bombing of innocent women and children, using their own loathsome justification. We have to stop them, otherwise we will all ‘drown’.
So, if we all right now are at risk of ‘drowning’, then the question we must ask is: do we want ourselves and our children to end up being engulfed by the punishment of Allāh? Do we want ourselves and them to be the next in line for suffering extreme aggression?
If we pressurise our children in conforming to oppression rather than standing up against it, there is the danger of a holocaust lurking. According to the philosopher Hannah Arendt, the Holocaust could occur because the average individual was being put under extreme pressure to conform and not stand up against the oppression. This resulted in the ‘the systematic state-sponsored killing of six million Jewish men, women, and children and millions of others by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II.’
Despite this danger, we are confident that good will prevail ultimately. How can we be so sure? Allāh tells us:
فَهَزَمُوهُم بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ وَقَتَلَ دَاوُودُ جَالُوتَ وَآتَاهُ اللَّهُ الْمُلْكَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَعَلَّمَهُ مِمَّا يَشَاءُ ۗ وَلَوْلَا دَفْعُ اللَّهِ النَّاسَ بَعْضَهُم بِبَعْضٍ لَّفَسَدَتِ الْأَرْضُ وَلَٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ ذُو فَضْلٍ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ
‘If Allāh did not check one set of people by means of another, the Earth would indeed be full of mischief. But Allāh is full of Bounty to the Worlds.’
This verse implies that Allāh takes to account the evil people by the good, otherwise people would perish.
The bottom line is this: we must nurture our children on the moral and right way by allowing them to stand up for the oppressed Palestinians—to stand up against innocent women and children being bombed and killed. If we do not allow them this, then the consequences are enormous. It can eventually lead to the rest of humanity being subjected to grave oppression, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and even a holocaust.
Practical steps for your school, by Fahad Ansari
Here’s what you can do…
- If your school is teaching pro-Israel propaganda, write an open letter to your headteacher condemning Israel’s actions and get as many pupils as you can to sign it.
- Ask to give a presentation to pupils on the truth about Palestine.
- Make posters in support of the Palestinian struggle.
- If your school is suppressing your speech, organise a peaceful protest about it.
- Spread awareness among your friends. Counteract the biased messaging from the mainstream media.
To resist suppression
- International human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Israeli human rights groups B’tselem have both concluded that Israel is an apartheid state engaged in ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Just like there can not be “both sides” arguments when it comes to apartheid in South Africa, there can be no “both siding” this apartheid.
- Those who resisted apartheid in South Africa like Mandela were called terrorists at the time and schools may well have suppressed their students from campaigning against the apartheid regime. We don’t want our school falling on the wrong side of history.
- It is not anti-Semitic to say Free Palestine or wear Palestinian memorabilia. To say so suggests that British Jews are associated with the actions of the apartheid regime. We distinguish between our Jewish communities and the Israeli government and colonial settlers.
- Calling for a free Palestinian state is in line with international law and the official position of the UK government.
If your school has attempted to restrict pupils’ rights to speak out, you can contact these organisations for assistance and free advice:
CAGE is offering FREE advice and support to any parent who is concerned that their child may be referred to PREVENT for speaking up for Palestine in their school. Call the CAGE helpline on 0300 030 2243
 Saḥīḥ Bukhāri, 4775
 Al-Qur’ān 30:30
 Al-Qur’ān 29:38
 Al-Qur’ān 8:25
 Ibn Kathīr, 8:25
 Ibn Kathīr, 8:25
 Al-Qur’ān, 2:251
 Ibn Kathīr, 2:251
Mohammed Burhan is a Hāfidh of the Qur’ān, who studied at Dar Al-Arqam institute, where he now delivers courses. A regular Khatīb, he has a Bachelors of Science in Economics with Banking, and is the author of ‘Gratitude to Greatness: Proven Practices Producing Profound Success’. He is passionate about Islamic sciences, particularly Tafsīr and contextualising the Qur’ān and Sunnah in the modern context.