Currently, the ‘Arabs’ have chosen a Palestinian ‘Idol’ for themselves. Of course, their happiness knows no bounds! They are on ninth cloud, and very rightfully, too. Who knew, after all, that Palestinians could sing? Who had imagined that Palestinians could have attractive voices? Who had ever supposed that this marvellously unbelievable talent could still exist in the streets of Gaza? And isn’t this very special talent – of singing in an expensive three piece suit on a posh stage – the only thing that was missing to make the Palestinian picture complete? Isn’t it all that the decades long struggle needed? Isn’t this the final stamp on the whole region’s ‘happiness ever after’, after which no bullet will hurt and no death will pain, no bomb will destruct and no rocket will demolish?
Muhammad Assaf is the UN Youth Ambassador to the land that has been offering innumerable sacrifices for decades now. He is rendered the hero of the people who have fought a strong enemy, enjoying the backing of the superpowers of the world, with their bare chests. He is supposed to be the most beloved to the people who have offered at least one martyr from each family. He is to be the most famous among those who have accomplished the most impossible of heroic tasks.
Therefore, most rightfully, he has been the most important issue for the Palestinian authorities this month. The President Mahmoud Abbas spoke to him by phone and reportedly gave him a diplomatic passport. Big local businesses also backed him and sponsored billboards with his pictures at major locations, while the Bank of Palestine threw money in a campaign to collect 350,000 votes for him, each costing 40 cents. Some cafes offered a vote for every cup of coffee ordered at their shop.
And why shouldn’t it be? He has ‘brought joy to the people who didn’t smile for the past 66 years’, after all! Was this all that the nation needed in order to be able to smile under the shade of the occupation? To have somebody bearing their nationality sing and dance with the well-off people who are so far away from misery and suffering that they can’t even hear it, and so blinded to the plight of their people that they can hardly see a glance of them. The nation that has been sleeping and waking with the music of the tanks and gunfire, is supposed to be proud of itself because one of them can forget all their plight and sing with joy. Those for whom the journey to a hospital or a grocery store is a challenge due to the Israeli checkpoints, should hail the youth who managed to reach Lebanon through bribing the officials on the borders. Those who lose the freedom of movement in Israeli jails, should dance with joy because one of them can dance on the stage. Those whose greatest wish in life is to see to their own imprisoned father should be relieved because their countryman’s parents attended the song party crowning their son as the ‘Idol’ of all Arabs. Those who are weary of seeing destruction and bloodshed everywhere, should cool their eyes with the view of a dashing young man in a stylish suit. Those who have lost their own children and dear ones, should rejoice because this man lived to win this great crown. Those whose cries of agony are stifled and suppressed should be glad that one of them can sing through a microphone.
What’s more, those who crave a single Sajdah in the Aqsa Mosque should be thankful because the son of their own nation has managed to prostrate, in thanks for being the Idol, in the middle of the elite superstars – who sing when the nation weeps, laugh when the nation cries, apply make-up when the nation bleeds, carry guitars when the children of the nation carry stones, and display the most stylish and attractive clothing while the youth of the nation is wrapped in the Kafan.
In times such as these, when not only the men, but the women and the children also suffer under the occupation, when many around the world neither know of the Palestinian issue nor recognise it, the Palestinian embassies abroad are ‘instructed to urge expatriates to vote for the Palestinian competitor, because he is “the pride of the Palestinian and Arab nation”.’ Who should be the pride of a nation accustomed to sufferings and struggle, after all, but a singer? Who has served the nation under war but one who carries a guitar and mike? What weapons are to free such a nation but a beautiful voice and a dancing talent? Who should be the ‘Palestinian goodwill ambassador’ and given a ‘diplomatic passport’ but a singer?
And whom should the national bank campaign for with their money, who should be represented on billboards all over the country, who is more worthy and capable of ‘expressing the feelings of all Palestinians’, or ‘putting Palestine on the map’, but the said ambassador of Palestinians and pride of all Arabs? Whom should the President campaign and ask the nation and the diplomatic power for support for, whose pictures should the officials be displaying on their Facebook profiles, whom should the whole country be proud of, but this ‘warrior of music’? And what can be greater evidence of his greatness and success than the Israeli congratulations offered to the Palestinian authorities, but their offer of a permission to travel to the West Bank and perform at concerts there as well as Gaza to the one whose ‘victory’ is ‘a source of pride and a victory for our people on the road to achieving its dream of establishing an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital’?
The wise poet of the Ummah, Allamah Iqbal, had long ago predicted,
میں تجھ کو بتاتا ہوں تقدیر اُمم کیا ہے
شمشیر و سناں اول، طاؤس و رباب آخر
(Come, let me tell you what the history of nations is. It starts with the sword and the arrow, and ends with music and dancing.)
It is high time we learn the great lesson, and do our best to avoid the history summed up in these two lines.