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Palestine and Kashmir Echo the Interconnected Call for Global Freedom

by in Palestine on 29th April, 2024

As the resounding calls for the liberation of Palestine echo across the globe with unprecedented emotion in recent months, they have profoundly altered our lives and perspectives. Muslims have collectively embraced the hope and struggle for a more liberated world. Israel’s persistent encroachments into occupied Palestine have consistently ignited protests in various countries and institutions all across the globe.

A few thousand miles away, in the alleyways and fenced enclosures of Kashmir, nestled between the peaks of the Himalayas and the plains of the Indian subcontinent, are a people enduring a military occupation of comparable duration to that of Palestinians. Initiated within the same year, the cry for Palestine’s freedom serves as a powerful source of inspiration, reinforcing the belief in the potential for liberation for all oppressed peoples. 

In Kashmir, one may encounter graffiti bearing the rallying cry “Free Gaza” or spy a Palestinian flag fluttering from a window. This distant solidarity finds its roots in the shared struggles against oppression. Similar to Gaza, where the Mediterranean Sea meets the arid land, Palestinians endure life within what is often described as an open-air prison, hemmed in by walls and checkpoints, their movement restricted and their lives controlled by external forces. 

In light of these shared circumstances, it is crucial to understand the essence of the term “Free Palestine.” As we deepen our understanding, it becomes imperative to acknowledge the interconnectedness of global liberation. As advocates for justice, we must emphasize the collective aspiration for freedom that transcends geographical boundaries. When we voice the call for a “Free Palestine,” we advocate for a more equitable world, challenging entrenched systems of oppression spanning militarism, racism, gender inequality, and beyond. As activists, Muslims, and champions of justice, it’s incumbent upon us to grasp the comprehensive significance inherent in this rallying cry.

In the cool valleys of Kashmir as well as beneath the sun-drenched skies of Palestine, a shared resistance against military occupation and colonialism prevails. Both regions bear the scars of imperial Britain’s callous colonial policy and creation of man-made borders. Indian author and activist Arundhati Roy poignantly remarks, “How carelessly imperial power vivisected ancient civilizations. Palestine and Kashmir are imperial Britain’s festering, blood-drenched gifts to the modern world.”

Shared Methods of Control: Militarization, Mobilization, & Media

“Palestine and Kashmir are simply case studies on the deterrence of self-determination throughout the world.” Shajei Haider, a Kashmiri-American activist and lawyer, aptly notes. Shajei practices law in hopes of alleviating the situation for many Kashmiri activists back home.   

In Kashmir and Palestine, occupying forces employ similar methods of control, resulting in restricted mobility, pervasive surveillance, and rights curtailment. Despite geographical differences, Israel and India exhibit striking parallels in their approaches, reflecting a concerning trend of apartheid and authoritarianism. Israel and India certainly don’t operate in isolation within the realm of military infrastructure and international relations. They are embedded within broader networks of alliances, arms trade, and geopolitical dynamics. Understanding their actions requires considering the complex interplay of various actors and factors on the global stage.

“You can clearly see the military crackdown in Palestine,” Haider asserts. “There’s heavy militarization and checkpoints you have to go through, which is an obvious sign of apartheid. Simply put, it’s demoralizing, demeaning, and a violation of rights.” Similarly, in Kashmir, he notes, “it is the most militarized place in the world. The military actively invades and violates individual rights, including the right to travel as well as the right to move. Both people are controlled in the same way.”

Moreover, Haider emphasizes how this perpetuates a vicious cycle, limiting opportunities for the youth and fostering frustration that often manifests in resistance. This resistance, however, is unjustly labeled as “terrorism” by Western media outlets, further perpetuating the cycle of oppression. The distortion of public perception through anti-Islamic rhetoric exacerbates the plight of occupied civilians, perpetuating a skewed narrative that obscures the broader context of occupation. 

A significant challenge facing both liberation movements is the manipulation of media narratives. The tragic death of Shireen Abu Akleh on September 5, 2022, was dismissively portrayed by Israeli forces as a mere ‘probability’ and ‘accident,’ undermining accountability in media coverage. Shireen is just one among many journalists lost amidst the struggle for Palestinian visibility, as evidenced by recent events in Gaza. Between October and November 2023, Human Rights Watch reported over 1,050 instances of Instagram and Facebook content takedowns and suppression targeting Palestinians and their supporters. These actions severely limit Palestinians’ ability to share information about their situation and human rights abuses with a global audience, underscoring the challenges they face in accessing platforms for advocacy and awareness.

Similarly, Kashmir confronts a barrage of black propaganda, with Indian media actively suppressing Kashmiri voices while attributing any unrest in the occupied territory to Pakistani agencies and forces. Statements and press releases are rife with half-truths and outright falsehoods. Kashmir not only contends with a heavily militarized curfew but also endures a stringent e-curfew.

It was reported in 2022 that residents of Indian-administered Kashmir faced a higher frequency of internet shutdowns and restrictions compared to any other region, surpassing Iran and Russia. Kashmir accounted for over a fifth of all web blackouts, according to findings from Surfshark, a virtual private network company based in Lithuania. The imposition of an internet blockade, particularly in the digital age, exacerbates the already dire situation, severely hindering the flow of information and transparency on what is truly happening within occupied territories. Kashmiri journalists have vehemently opposed this injustice, citing challenges in reporting live incidents and condemning the chaos stemming from information gaps and inaccuracies. 

The pervasive digital censorship in both Palestine and Kashmir contributes to a lack of awareness of day-to-day developments. In such circumstances, it falls upon individuals worldwide to utilize their platforms and share information when mainstream channels fail to do so. These factors – militarization, control, and media censorship – are integral to perpetuating the enduring occupation of people who are systematically deprived of means to resist.

Moreover, the export of Israeli surveillance technology to India serves as another shared tool of oppression. These exports bolster the capabilities and tactics of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), subsequently finding their way into the arsenals of various police departments, including the NYPD in America. The tactics and technologies honed on Palestinian civilians are then replicated in the treatment of Black men by American law enforcement, illustrating how the disregard for one form of oppression fosters the proliferation of another. The dissemination of Israeli surveillance technologies globally perpetuates cycles of repression, highlighting the interconnectedness of systems of violence and the imperative need to address them comprehensively.

To delve into Kashmiri narratives, heritage, and activism, consider following accounts like @standwithkashmir and @kashiirkoor. They offer authentic insights into the region’s realities and the ongoing struggles faced by Kashmiris.

Why does this matter, and why should we speak out?

Despite physical distance to both of these apartheid states, our actions as consumers and Muslims wield significant influence over the systemic structures of violence in regions like Kashmir and Palestine. These systems and tactics of oppression are also replicated and emulated elsewhere affecting Muslim communities globally, in places like Sudan and Myanmar. From the representatives we support to the dollars we spend and the messages we amplify on social media, each choice shapes whether these issues are brought to light and addressed.

Every decision we make as consumers, activists, and Muslims residing in the West sends ripples far beyond our immediate surroundings, shaping societies well beyond the borders of Kashmir and Palestine. Consider the impact of rampant consumerism, which not only sustains Israel’s economy but also mirrors the underlying cycles of oppression evident in regions such as the Congo and among Uyghur Muslims in China. The fast fashion industry, the voracious consumption of tech products, and sourcing from unethical suppliers not only affect Palestinians but also our brethren in the Congo and China. This is why many activists and Palestinians advocate for selective boycotts of brands and products, echoing Islamic principles that discourage overconsumption, particularly within the capitalist framework we inhabit.

The solidarity between Kashmiris and Palestinians illustrates the interconnectedness of their struggles, rooted in the legacy of British imperialism. This underscores the urgent need for collective action against colonialism. Education leads to action, and action leads to impact; therefore, as Muslims, understanding the intersectional systems of oppression affecting these marginalized communities empowers us to make collective changes for a greater impact. By engaging with and advocating for all liberation movements, we can strive for universal freedom, recognizing that true liberation for any oppressed group necessitates the liberation of all.

Rida Ali

Rida Ali

Rida Ali is a passionate master's student at SOAS, delving into the intersections of media, Muslim identity, and South Asia in her academic pursuits. Having previously resided in New York, she earned her undergraduate degree from NYU, where she studied Global studies and Media. As a Pakistani Shia Muslim, Rida is interested in the rights of minorities in Pakistan and how media impacts social change. You can find her on social media @freespiritrida, where she creates content based around the topics of heritage, culture, identity, and history. Beyond her academic and advocacy work, Rida finds joy in exploring new cultures through travel, film photography, trying new food, and rejoicing in community. Rida seeks to contribute to meaningful conversations and bridge understanding through her diverse interests and experiences