Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan for the fourth year in a row, featured daily on HuffPost Religion. For a complete record of his previous posts, visit his author page, and to follow along with the rest of his reflections, sign up for an author email alert above, visit his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.
Yesterday morning, a young Palestinian boy named Muhammed Abu Khdeir was kidnapped, stabbed, and burned to death. e had left his home early in the morning to have a meal with his friends before dawn struck and the time for fasting would begin. For a few brief moments, he was left alone and at that time was grabbed and forced into a car against his will, driven then to his eventual demise. I shudder as I think of what happened next and tremble at the image my mind concocts what must have been done to this poor boy that caused his remains to be the charred body found a short while later in the depths of the Jerusalem Forest. He was only 15 years old. May God grant him peace and bring ease to the hearts of his family and loved ones. Ameen.
I am not sure why, but all I wanted to see was this young man's face. I wanted to see his eyes and the ambition and aspiration that existed within them. I wanted to see his smile and the fact that he had family and friends that he celebrated with. I wanted to see his youthfulness and bear witness that he had an entire life ahead of him to live. I wanted to tie a person to the prayers that I was making for with my community as we broke our fast with tears falling from our eyes and our hands raised to the skies in supplication to The Most Merciful of those who show mercy. But no images were to be found in any article or story that covered his murder, not of him or his family members or anyone stricken by grief over his death. Every and any outlet that in the days prior had showed us, the entire world, the turmoil and anguish that was felt at the loss of Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel, three other young men who were killed senselessly in the same land, failed to show us anything similar when it came to Muhammed Abu Khdeir. What is the difference between them?
Why am I not seeing the face of an anguished Palestinian mother who has to bear the burden of burying her 15-year old son? A mother who has to come to terms with the fact that she will never feel his warm embrace again, will never get to feed him by her own gentle hand again, will not get to give up sleep to prepare an iftar meal for him to break his fast, or watch him grow into the man she knew he would always be? Why do I not even know her name?
Why am I not seeing the grief-stricken face of a father who has to deal with the reality of outliving his son? A father who will never get to see his son graduate from school, will never get to stand in prayer with him again in one of the holiest cities in the world, who will not be able to wake him because there are only minutes left to eat something before sunrise, or see him become a father of his own children? And how come we don't know his name either?
Why is that in every piece written from the NY Times to CNN on Muhammed Abu Khdeir, all that is shown are images of soldiers fighting civilians? No tears, no sorrow, no grief to empathize with. Just images that add to the overt otherizing of a people that feel pain just like any other people would. Images that justify our own passivity to a real conflict that is taking place that all of our hearts should feel torn apart by. Images that make us numb to the reality that there are actual lives tied to the thousands of casualties of this conflict. Each one has a name and a narrative, including young Muhammed Abu Khdeir. He lived in the same land as Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel, was the same age as them, and lost his life senselessly just as they did. Why do we not get to see him? Some articles are not even mentioning his name. They are just referring to him as "a young, Palestinian teen." His life, his Palestinian life, and the lives of countless others whose stories we will never hear, are just as important and we have a duty to sanctify each one.
For those whose insides ache as mine do, below is an image of young Muhammed. Take a look at it and let it be imprinted on your soul.
Keep Muhammed Abu Khdeir, his loved ones, and the people of Palestine in your prayers. For those who are observing the month of Ramadan, remember all of them as you break your fast and stand in qiyaam during these blessed nights.