'Somewhere Between the Dehumanization and the Glorification, We Lost Their Humanity'
Current Events
Dec 21, 2023
From L to R: Journalists and content creators Bisan Owda, Motaz Azaiza and Plestia Alaqad in happier times.
This feels all too familiar, but yet it is so very different. When my grandparents and mother-in-law passed away, I felt the same feeling as I do now. A feeling that weighs heavy on the heart and has the ability to disable you from finding peace and purpose, at least for some time. This is how the past two months have been as a Palestinian grappling with the ongoing genocide in Gaza.
With the natural passing of loved ones, we learn to accept, find our new normal, and are reminded that this is the way of life. “To Allah we belong and to Him we shall return” [2:156] But this is different. This hits different. To witness the mass murder, genocide, and ethnic cleansing of my people, this is a grief that penetrates deeper.
It is one thing to lose loved ones to the natural causes of life, sickness, accidents and so on. But losing entire family lineages because of an intentional, targeted genocide is beyond human comprehension. I think I can speak for the vast majority of Palestinians, we never thought we would live to see the remaking of another Nakba.
How does one live? How does one function halfway around the world?
This is the type of grief that will forever weigh heavy and never be mended or healed. It will never make sense. But still we know, and we are certain, and we believe, “To Allah we belong and to Him we shall return.'' This dunya, life, is a test and with it come trials and tribulations that will surely rock us to our core. But still we remind ourselves that “We will certainly test you with a touch of fear and famine and loss of property, life and crops. But give glad tidings to those who are patient and steadfast.” [2:155]
A protest for Gaza and Palestine in Charlotte, N.C.; photo credit: Deda Photography
The initial weeks of this war felt like an everlasting funeral at home. I found it hard to carry on with my day-to-day tasks. My two young children’s needs were the only thing pulling me to go through the motions of our daily routine. My mind, heart and soul were in a different space than my body. I couldn’t comprehend or understand what was happening, what is still happening, so I held on to the only thing I knew to be true.
One thing that I know will never fail me. Only one thing mattered to me in that phase of processing my grief, and that was to turn to the promise and reassurance of the only one who has full control over all affairs, Allah (S). In my despair, confusion and heartache, the words of Allah (S), dhikr and salah are my only source of comfort.
“Verily in the remembrance of Allah (S) do hearts find rest.” [13:28]
“Sufficient for us is Allah, and [He is] the best Disposer of affairs.” [3:173]
I have to make an intentional effort to remind myself that some things in this life, we were never meant to understand. Allah’s hikmah, His wisdom, is there in all that He facilitates. But sometimes we were just not meant to understand it, not yet. Not now. Maybe not here, in this life. But also - we are human, and Allah (S) created us with feelings and curiosity, and it is our right to feel the way we feel.
My feelings are valid, your feelings are valid. Allow yourself to go through the emotions, because what we are witnessing is not normal. Let’s not normalize it and become numb to the images, the videos and the noise.
Superheroes And Legends Are Humans Too
Voices of Gaza
During these times of confusion and rocking of faith, many of us turn to circles of knowledge, our favorite religious speakers, or own teachers for guidance and words of reassurance and calm. With that being said, something I have found interesting and a constant trend, especially during this specific war on Gaza, is that the views of those in religious circles and scholars of faith are often seen through rose-colored glasses.
And that can be problematic.
The things we are witnessing were never meant to be broadcasted to the world. The fact that you are seeing such suffering circulating is humiliating. The fact that this is what they have to resort to in order to show the world the atrocities being committed against them is desensitizing. Do not put a melody over it and romanticize it. We Palestinians take pride in ourselves, the way we present ourselves, the way we dress, the food we eat, the culture we work so hard to preserve as to not be erased and ethnically cleansed!
Danah Shuli
As a global community, we are looking at the images and videos, the strengths, weaknesses, suffering and calamity in Gaza while on a spiritual high, approaching the suffering as a way to reassure ourselves that Allah (S) will take care of it. And while Allah (S) will take care of it, we tend to romanticize their pain and idolize the Gazans who have stepped up to be heroes in their own right, but against their own will.
Instead, our approach should always first and foremost be in the words of the journalist, Plestia Alaqad, “I want the world to see us as humans.”
The press, civilians, journalists, photographers - they did not ask to be heroes. They did not ask to be looked up to in the way we are doing.
“We are a people of dignity, not accustomed to this disgrace.” - A Gazan woman
Somewhere between the dehumanization and the glorification, we are losing their humanity. And that, that is an injustice to the people of Gaza. To the people of Palestine. “We are not superheroes like the media makes us to be. Our children are hungry, our men are lost. We have nothing in our power to do but move from place to place to seek shelter. We are not able to do anything for ourselves, this is our situation.” says Baraa Elghalayini.
(While this list is limited, it highlights some of the Voices of Gaza who are working selflessly and courageously every day to show us what is unfolding. Follow them, amplify their voices, and share their content.)
The things we are witnessing were never meant to be broadcasted to the world. The fact that you are seeing such suffering circulating is humiliating. The fact that this is what they have to resort to in order to show the world the atrocities being committed against them is desensitizing. Do not put a melody over it and romanticize it. We Palestinians take pride in ourselves, the way we present ourselves, the way we dress, the food we eat, the culture we work so hard to preserve as to not be erased and ethnically cleansed!
Nothing epitomizes this agony of having to display one's suffering when dignity needs to be protected then this video I watched, where a Gazan woman declared, "The entire world is looking at us, we are not an exhibit or show on display. We are the most dignified people on Earth! We don’t want anyone to record us, we have Allah (S) with us! We don’t want anyone to sympathize with us. We have Allah (S)!“
Don’t Forget The Reality Behind The Lens
Allah (S) chose the people of Palestine to serve their purpose, and that is to defend the Holy Land and fight to their death. Allah (S) has planted in them a seed of faith that is unwavering and will withstand the test of time until the promised day of victory, Insha’Allah.We see it in the videos and in their words and actions. The words “I am still alive.” introducing every daily update video from Bisan will forever ring in our ears as a reminder for an unanswered cry for help.
We will never un-see the photos taken by Motaz Azaiza, “I never thought I’d be documenting my people’s genocide, ceasefire now.” But do not for a second forget that despite their strength and heroism, they are still human and are breaking. Do not for a second forget that before and after every video of strength you see from them, there is a disastrous reality that extends beyond the artistic doodles and characters made in their honor.
Do not forget that there are those who are not on display, because they are truly suffering and lost. They don’t have an inspirational video or moment of strength to display for you; they are lost being human in this inhumane reality.
We Teach Life, Sir (A poem by Rafeef Ziadah)
Ornaments with Palestinian tatreez embroidery created by Danah and her daughter to give to friends. Image source: Danah Shuli
I take a moment to pause and reflect and I see that still, amidst the disparity, tragedy and suffering, I find myself inspired by my people’s strength and resilience in their most vulnerable state. Videos of children comforting each other and sharing the little food they have. Seamstresses inventing makeshift sewing machines out of bike wheels and gear to cover and dress those who have been exposed. Women refusing to leave orphaned babies and taking them in as their own.
Men who have lost their entire families, lending their hands out to other survivors. Communities sharing meals they managed to cook with scarce ingredients and out of the mud made ovens they built. Youth singing songs of faith, hope and victory to muddle the noise of bombs falling from the sky.
It is hard to fathom we are surpassing over 70 days of war. Recently, I found myself entering a new stage in processing what is happening. I am able to think more clearly about how I can channel all my grief and anger into positive action. After my interview with Jumana from Pious Projects of America I was inspired to take on small projects to raise money for donation. I took advantage of my latest baking hobby and made a small “Cake Jar for Gaza” campaign where we raised a thousand dollars, Alhamdulliah!
This week I am partnering with my sister-in-law to teach a Tatreez, Palestinian cross - stitch, class for charity to our local community. My daughter and I have been busy making Tatreez Christmas ornaments that we gifted her teachers, our neighbors and loved ones for the holidays. This was especially new to me as I usually only gift during Muslim holidays. But this year, gifting during Christmas time was necessary. Actually, it was a duty.
Cake jars that Danah created and sold as a fundraiser for Pious Projects in Gaza.
Jesus was Palestinian. Bethlehem is in Palestine. We work hard to preserve our culture, our traditions, our existence. Through our actions, the world will learn to see the truth.
The world is listening, the tide is shifting. Palestine is not a foreign word anymore. We did this. Not the war, not the politicians, not the leaders, but US. The people. Palestinians who have been fighting for their voice, freedom, and right to exist for over 75 years.
Keep doing, keep talking. Free Palestine.

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