The morning after Eid, at midnight I started my own hunger strike as part of the Stand Fast For Justice Campaign, writes Laura Stuart.
Joining the campaign was something that I considered for a while during Ramadan, however, I was advised by many people that such an act is not permissible in Islam, so the most important part for me was to know from a scholar how to do this in a way that is Halal.
So Ramadan flew past and suddenly Eid was on the horizon and it was too late to start because fasting on Eid day as that would definitely be Haram. I celebrated Eid with my step-children, we went to the open air Eid Salah at Fryant Country Park and I had the most perfect day, in good company and enjoying perfect weather Alhamdulilah.
My one wish was to have an ice cream with a chocolate flake in it before embarking on my hunger strike. The decision was made, the format was clarified by helpful staff at CagePrisoners and Eid day came to an end.
Was I sure in my resolve to begin? Did I want to perhaps take a few more days to enjoy the cakes and pastries so abundant in Eid? Not really because I made the intention to do the hunger strike because of the injustices perpetrated on my fellow Muslims both in Guantanamo and in Palestine. Eating and filling your stomach is hard to do when you reflect on how much our brethren are suffering.
I admit that I am a little nervous wondering if my body can take it, despite being accustomed to fasting and having eaten very little during Ramadan because of the very short nights this year, I still have no idea how starving my body might affect me. I know that Islamically we are not allowed to harm our bodies, so of course if I become ill, I will stop the hunger strike.
Why am I doing this? Well, I am British by heritage and grew up believing that we British are beacons of morality and that our western system of justice is the best in the world. I believed that, exactly as many millions of my countrymen do because that is what we are taught at school and that is what we believe when we absorb the western mainstream media.
I had a brief period of enlightenment when I was in my early twenties and living in Austria when I read Nikolai Tolstoy’s book called “The Victims of Yalta”. I had come across this book in a little corner of a bookshop that had a few English books, reading this book shocked me to the core and killed my perception of the British being beacons of justice forever. The story of the victims of Yalta is about prisoners of war who were sent to an almost certain death in their millions due to a an agreement signed by Churchill, who knew their likely fate.
Sadly there was no CagePrisoners or Reprieve working for human rights and justice that could help them. My main awakening to the myth of western justice came from reading alternative media after I reverted to Islam. With the detainees in Guantanamo and in Palestine we are more fortunate than the victims of Yalta were, in so much as we are able to relate faces and names to the victims. These are real people with names, photographs, families and children, we are able to read a little about their lives and circumstances on the websites.
The fact is that the Guantanamo detainees are in the main cleared for release, have not been charged with any crime and despite the fact that they are not nameless statistics and even have lawyers working on their cases, these men have been languishing in prison now for more than 11 years.
What have we done to help?
Now, I want to ask my fellow Muslims, what have we done to help these brothers? In 11 years the most that many of us managed to do is sign a petition online that literally takes a few seconds. No inconvenience and possibly our hearts felt lighter afterwards, happy in the knowledge that we did something good.
I don’t at all want to belittle the act of signing a petition, I only want my brothers and sisters to focus on the reality of how little we have done to help during their incarceration. Have we written to our MPs? Have we been to visit our MPs face to face and ask them “what about this clear injustice?”
No doubt your MP will release some standard formatted letter saying that William Hague is doing his “utmost” to secure release for the last remaining detainee who belongs here in the UK, but still that is not enough. We need to show our government that we are all too aware of the injustices they are involved in. Not just British citizens imprisoned without trial but also their involvement in drone warfare, with the UK now having a drone base on its soil.
Did drone strike victims have justice? Did they have a charge against them? A trial? Not at all and our government is involved in extra-judicial murder and sadly many of those killed are innocent civilians, women and children. Those victims are dehumanised by being presented to us as nameless statistics, mere collateral damage.
I urge you therefore to take action, we Muslims are now in our millions in the UK yet we are politically so weak. We hardly have a voice, we need inspiring leaders to show us what we need to do to get our voices heard, yet such voices are almost totally absent from the mimbars of our masajid.
Please join this campaign if you feel able, make a pledge to go on hunger strike for seven days and if you are unable to do this, at least go on the websites of Reprieve, CagePrisoners and Stand Fast For Justice and see what other action you can take.
To those who say “no politics” in the mosque, I would say how is the suffering of fellow Muslims politics? Do you use the “politics” label to absolve yourself of any responsibility towards our brethren who need us? It is not politics, it’s suffering and injustice, and it is time we woke up and started to be united and strong so that we can become a powerful voice against injustice where ever it takes place.
I will try to do some video blogs about my experiences and thoughts as the days of hunger strike pass by, please watch, read and forward them on to your friends list so that we can raise the awareness of the campaign. Remember how you and I enjoyed our Eid feasts, what we wished and spending happy times with our loved ones, then reflect on how those on hunger strike in Guantanamo and Palestine must be feeling.
Another Eid, another year passed by without seeing and hugging their children and families, another year of facing cell walls, another year of injustice. The least that I feel I can do is let them and their families know that I stand in solidarity with them, they are not forgotten.
This article originally appeared on the CagePrisoners website. Please click on the link below for further information.