Jesus was a Palestinian!

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Christmas will soon be here, and in the spirit of true understanding, and to begin a hopefully fruitful and honest discussion without rancor or religious intolerance, I am reposting the following, with permission:

Jesus was a Palestinian and Why it Matters!

Because of modern alarmist reactions to the word “Palestine,” many non-Arabs and non-Muslims take offense when it is argued that Jesus was a Palestinian (peace be upon him). Jesus’ ethnicity, skin color, and culture often accompanies this conversation, but it is interesting how few people are willing to acknowledge the fact he was non-European. A simple stroll in the Christmas aisle of your local shopping store will show you the dominant representation of Jesus: a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, White man.

Islamophobia and anti-Arab propaganda have conditioned us to view Palestinians as nothing but heartless suicide bombers, terrorists, and enemies of freedom/democracy. Perpetual media vilification and demonization of Palestinians, in contrast to the glorification of Israel, blinds us from seeing issues such as the Palestinian refugee crisis, the victims of Israel’s brutal attack on Gaza last winter, the tens of thousands of homeless Palestinians, and many other issues that are constantly addressed by human rights activists around the world. To speak from the perspective of the Palestinians, especially in casual non-Arab and non-Muslim settings, generates controversy because the minds of many already associate Palestinians with violent stereotypes. So, how could Jesus belong to a group of people that we’re taught to dehumanize?

When I’ve spoken to people about this, I’ve noticed the following responses: “No, Jesus was a Jew,” or “Jesus is not Muslim.” The mistake isn’t a surprise to me, but it certainly reveals how ignorant much of society still is. Being a Palestinian does not mean one is Muslim or vice versa. Prior to the creation of Israel, the word “Palestine” was a geographic term applied to Palestinian Muslims, Palestinian Christians, and Palestinian Jews. Although most Palestinians are Muslim today, there is a significant Palestinian Christian minority who are often overlooked, especially by the mainstream Western media because the agenda is to simplify the conflict as “Muslims versus Jews.” To learn about many Palestinian Christians opposing Israeli military occupation, as well as Jews who oppose to the occupation, is to reveal more sides to an immensely one-sided story. Professor Jack D. Forbes writes about Jesus’ multi-cultural and multi-ethnic environment:

“When the Romans came to dominate the area, they used the name Palestine. Thus, when Yehoshu’a [Jesus] was born, he was born a Palestinian as were all of the inhabitants of the region, Jews and non-Jews. He was also a Nazarene (being born in Nazareth) and a Galilean (born in the region of Galilee)… At the time of Yehoshu’a’s birth, Palestine was inhabited by Jews—descendants of Hebrews, Canaanites, and many other Semitic peoples—and also by Phoenicians, Syrians, Greeks, and even Arabs.”

Despite these facts, there are those who use the color-blind argument: “It does not matter what Jesus’ ethnicity or skin color was. It does not matter what language he spoke. Jesus is for all people, whether you’re Black, White, Brown, Yellow, etc.” While this is a well-intentioned expression of inclusiveness and universalism, it misses the point.

When you see so many depictions of Jesus as a Western White man with Euro-American features, the ethnocentrism and race-bending needs to be called out. No person is superior to another based on skin color, but to ignore the way Jesus’ Whiteness has been used to subjugate and discriminate against racial minorities in the West and many other countries is to overlook another important aspect of Jesus’ teachings: Love thy neighbor as thyself.

Malcolm X wrote about White supremacists and slaveholders using Christianity to justify their “moral” and “racial superiority” over Blacks. In Malcolm’s own words, “The Holy Bible in the White man’s hands and its interpretations of it have been the greatest single ideological weapon for enslaving millions of non-white human beings.” Throughout history, whether it was in Jerusalem, Spain, India, or Africa, so-called White “Christians” cultivated a twisted interpretation of religion that was compatible with their colonialist agenda. And racism was a key component of their atrocities.

And here we are in the 21st century where Islamophobia (also stemming from racism because Islam gets racialized) is on the rise; where people calling themselves “Christian” fear to have a Black president; where members of the KKK and anti-immigration movements behave as if Jesus was an intolerant White American racist who only spoke English despite being born in the Middle-East! It is astonishing how so-called “Christians” like Ann Coulter call Muslims “rag-heads” when in actuality, Jesus himself would fit the profile of a “rag-head,” too. As would Moses, Joseph, Abraham, and the rest of the Prophets (peace be upon them all). As William Rivers Pitt writes:

“The ugly truth which never even occurs to most Americans is that Jesus looked a lot more like an Iraqi, like an Afghani, like a Palestinian, like an Arab, than any of the paintings which grace the walls of American churches from sea to shining sea. This was an uncomfortable fact before September 11. After the attack, it became almost a moral imperative to put as much distance between Americans and people from the Middle East as possible. Now, to suggest that Jesus shared a genealogical heritage and physical similarity to the people sitting in dog cages down in Guantanamo is to dance along the edge of treason.”

Without acknowledging Jesus as a dark-skinned Middle-Eastern man — a Palestinian — who spoke Aramaic — a Semitic language that is ancestral to Arabic and Hebrew — the West will continue to view Islam as a “foreign religion.” Hate crimes and discriminatory acts against Muslims, Arabs, and others who are perceived to be Muslim will persist and they will still be treated as “cultural outsiders.” But what about Christianity and Judaism in America? Aren’t these religions “cultural outsiders” according to the racist logic of xenophobes and Islamophobes?

Jesus would not prefer one race or group of people over another, and I believe he would not encourage today’s demonization and dehumanization of the Palestinian people or the misrepresentations of him that only fuel ignorance and ethnocentrism. As a Muslim, I believe Jesus was a Prophet of God, and if I were to have any say about the Christmas spirit, it would be based on Jesus’ character: humility, compassion, and Love. A Love in which all people, regardless of ethnicity, race, culture, religion, gender, and sexual orientation are respected and appreciated.

And in that spirit, I wish you all a merry Christmas. Alaha Natarak (Aramaic for:  God be with you).

- From Jehanzeb’s most excellent Muslim Reverie blog.

Ya Haqq!


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8 Responses to Jesus was a Palestinian!

  1. theist says:

    Jesus may indeed be Palestinian. He was many things. But above all the stories told about him, he was a man who wished for peace. Salam to all my Muslim brothers, peace to all my brothers.

  2. Jasim Abduz-Zahair says:

    Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullah thank you for this it helps me to better explain the real meaning for this holiday to my non-muslim friends and family! Jesus was a man of good and peace! Wa Salams
    Bit Tawfeeq

  3. Bengt Erik Stendlert says:

    Thank you for sharing some valuable insights! May God help and guide all of us to be able to look at each other with love always and all ways.

  4. Lat says:

    Very good article! Thanks for sharing your views on Jesus! A timely post indeed!

  5. Irving says:

    Thank you all for the kind comments :) Though Jesus may be many things to many people, his message, that of loving one another, is timeless, and the heart of every spiritual path.

    Ya Haqq!

  6. Peter Edwards says:

    A moving relevant and inspirational post. I intend sharing this with all my students (I teach Law and Politics) and my colleagues (who I fear will not agree! :) )

    Peace to all who read this and those who don’t!

  7. Naushad Somji says:

    Bismillahir Rahmannir Raheem ~ In the Name of Allah Almighty, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.

    Assalamu’alaikum, Shalom and Greetings.

    I am a single Syed Muslim male 43 from Pune, India. Over the years Allah the Most High has made me to have major experiences which are directly connected connected to the Second Coming of Hadrat Isa (as) or Jesus Christ and the emergence of the awaited Imam Mahdi (as) as the world saviors. Based on my personal understanding of the esoteric meanings of these experiences, I am pasting below an article along with copy of the email I received in response to these experiences.

    With love and blessings,

    Brother Naushad Somji.
    ——————————————————

    (email feedback in response to these Devine experiences):

    Dear Brother Naushad Somji,

    Thanks for your kind mail. Certainly you are a blessed soul. I am very happy to read about the experiences you have undergone. Strange are the ways of the Almighty and He alone knows about His scheme of things. Nothing is impossible for Him to do. Yes He can make a person a Messiah in one night as He did with the Prophet. My personal opinion is that one should leave oneself in His hands and pray Him for His grace. He alone knows what He wants to do.

    I have read your book completely. It appears that the God Almighty has chosen you for some special work. The mystery would unfold in due course. I pray that you prove His worthy instrument. It also appears to me that you should pray “Thy Will Be Done”. I am sure He would reveal His Will and lead you to the work for which He has so kindly chosen you. My prayers for you. May the Great Masters help you in your mission?

    With Kind Regards,

    Sufi Brother
    ——————————————————

    Second Coming of Hadrat Isa (as) or Jesus Christ and the emergence of the awaited Imam Mahdi (as) as the world saviors :

    The scriptures of many religions speak of a coming leader who will consummate the fulfillment of the divine will on earth. He will manifest in his person the righteousness and compassion of God, and he will bring about the final defeat of evil, and establish the
    Kingdom of Heaven on earth. This person who will be specially chosen by God for this mission and empowered to accomplish it. Prophecies that a leader will come and accomplish such a mission are nearly universal.

    Religions call him by various names: Jews long for the promised Messiah; for Christians the Messiah is Jesus of Nazareth, who has already come and ascended to heaven but will reappear (perhaps in a new guise) at his Second Coming. Muslims also expect the second advent of Jesus, who will come as a Muslim Imam, and among Shiite Muslims there are various expectations of a future Imam Mahdi. Buddhist sutras prophesy the coming of the Maitreya Buddha; Vaishnavite Hindu scriptures prophesy the future descent of an avatar named Kalki; Zoroastrian scriptures prophesy the coming of the Saoshyant; and some Confucian texts speak of a future True Man who will finally bring peace to the world by perfectly instituting the Way of Confucius.

    In 1997 when I was 30, Hadrat Imam Ali (as) appeared to me in resurrected form at the Holy Shrine of Hazrat Khwaja Muinuddin Chisty (ra) at Ajmershareef. He looked into my eyes, smiled and went away. This opened my heart and my spiritual journey began. I started to isolate myself from people and my personality changed completely. Thereafter I experienced the divine knowledge of Allah gradually entering my heart and soul and I became very religious.

    Since then I have been meeting many dead Islamic Saints or Auliyas who have also appeared to me in their resurrected forms. A few years after my experience at Ajmeershareef, Hadrat Syed Badr-u-din Shah Hussani (rh) appeared to me also in resurrected form. He prayed over a glass of water and made me drink it, thus making me his mureed or disciple. He came to India from yemen @ 1000 years ago and was martyred. His head is buried at the Holy Shrine in the jungle near the town of Pen, in the state of Maharashtra. He nevertheless continued his fight for the cause of Allah the Most High despite the head being severed from his body. His body is buried in the town of Parandha in Maharashtra, an eight hour drive from Pen.

    Two months later, Hazrat Syed Khwaja Muinuddin Chisty (ra) appeared to me in resurrected form. He gave me a fruit to eat and said that he was giving me the Khilafaat, the position as leader and spiritual master. I was told by him that I have a pure soul and that I will over the years work as a guru for people of all religions and they will call me a Messiah then.

    Of all my meetings with the Holy men of Islam, the most remarkable was with Prophet Mohammad (saw) who appeared to me along with Hadrat Imam Ali (as) and three more men whom I did not recognize. Prophet Mohammad (saw) led us all in afternoon prayers, and then we had lunch, all eating from the same big plate. After the lunch as the Prophet (saw) was leaving he shook hands with me with a big smile and I kissed his hands respectfully.

    This could be connected to the awaited Mahdi.

    “The promised Mahdi will be among my family. God will make the provisions for his emergence within a single night “…… (Islam. Ibn Majah, Sahih, Vol. 2, P. 519)

    Later on I got baptized by a Christian Priest and during this the Priest saw a bright light descending on my person and then entering my soul as a small flame of light. Even I felt something powerful entering my heart that time. Thereafter major spiritual changes began to change place with me. There are at times I could do the kind of healing that Jesus Christ did during his time. Also, I have got the power to forgive sins and whenever I visit graveyards thousands of souls would approach me for prayers to have their sins forgiven. They would not leave me unless I prayed for them. When Pope John Paul 2 died, his soul came to me in the astral body and asked me to pray for him. He said master master please help me. Few days later on when President Yasser Arafat died, his soul also approached me and he said that he did not want anything for himself but rather he asked me to help his fellow humans in Palestine who are in great trouble.

    This could be connected the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

    “What would be your situation if the Son of Mary (Jesus) descends upon you and your Imam (Mahdi) is from among you”? ………..(Islam. Bukhari, kitabul-Anbiya, Chapter Nuzul Isa bin Maryam)

    Two years ago I suddenly got a pull to visit the Holy Shrine of Hadrat Shirdi Sai Baba (rh). Since then Baba has been guiding and protecting me and he calls me his son. During one such visit at the Temple of Hadrat Shirdi Sai Baba (rh) I saw a white ball of light approaching me from the right side during night aarti. When the aarti ritual was over, this white ball of light moved away. Recently Baba has informed me that this ball has been put into my heart by him and because of this over the period of time I will become spiritually one with God the Most High ~ an Avatar !!

    This could be connected to the Kalki Avatar.

    “Whenever the Law declines and the purpose of life is forgotten, I manifest myself on earth. I am born in every age to protect the good, to destroy evil, and to reestablish the Law” … (Hinduism. Bhagavad-Gita 4.7-8.)

    All these 3 powers ~ Mahdi, Messiah and Kalki Avatar combined make up the world savior. This world savior is destined to save the mankind from the rigors of today. The day to day lowering of human values, humans behaving more like a vicious animal (it is ironic sometimes it is difficult to distinguish human beings from animals), the breaking up of relationships between the family members, between communities and on larger scale the countries has become the order of the day. Such a one fully prepared and powered to address the ills of today head-on and shall annihilate the ills of today and make the humanity step forward towards a new golden era… the Satyuga ~ the golden period. He shall be one who makes dharma or pure religion prevail over numerous other corrupted religions followed world-wide. One who brings all countries on a common platform… can only be the deliverer! The society as of today awaits the coming of this world savior! Call him the Messiah of the masses or the downtrodden denizens of the society… coming of him would be a boon to the mankind at large!

    My case is in some ways similar to that of Prophet Younas (as) as mentioned in the Holy Quran. He was called by Allah the Most High for a divine mission but initially chose to run away from it. Many times over the years I too have tried to avoid getting too deeply into spiritual and religious things and have tried my level best to lead a normal life. But every time I tried to do that, Allah the Most High would pull me back into it and this has happened several times during the past few years. Since I could not run away from Allah’s call, I had no option but to submit humbly to it.

  8. Ahmad Ibn Hussein says:

    This is an amazing post, devoid of any aggressiveness in it’s delivery. We know that the prophet Jesus stood for everything right and just and bore glad tidings to everyone irrespective of race or gender. But the truth is, knowing exactly where his journey began would help to appreciate him better. This post has given that to me.
    Over the years there have been many who have pondered over this little matter. Some who didn’t completely accept the stories they’ve been told of his origin created a mental image of him that they found more comfortable. I saw a movie some years ago where a little black American went the whole hog and literally painted a picture of Jesus with a black skin just like his own. It was his own small way of trying to make the prophet his own for the needed spirituality to satisfy the cravings of his soul.
    There may be disagreements with regards to his ethnicity, but the good news is that we all agree that he was the messiah sent forth during that period to ameliorate the suffering of his people.
    Let’s hold on to that fact and let love lead our way to salvation. God be with us.

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