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‘What Will People Do When Palestine Isn’t Trending Anymore?’

Today in What Now: talking about Palestine and solidarity with writer and podcaster Nashwa Khan.

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Hi all, welcome to another Monday edition of What Now! Today we’ve got a really interesting conversation on Palestinian solidarity and media bias from the “imperial core,” with writer and podcaster Nashwa Khan.

Nashwa is the host of Habibti Please, a podcast about feminism, activism, and the Muslim diaspora — or as she puts it, “something for the girls.” Khan grew up in Florida, but moved to Canada before high school and is currently based in the Toronto area, and focuses her current work on under-covered social movements as well as Canadian and American politics and a plenty of cultural commentary to boot. 

Nashwa is also one of the newest members of the Discontents collective, which we’ve been working with for most of this year, so this seemed like a perfect time to chat. 

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I wanted to talk about Palestinian solidarity, and how it’s viewed in the wider Muslim American and Muslim Candian diaspora. Muslims in the west are very much not a monolith, but I think they’re kind of treated as such by the U S media a lot of the time, particularly in regards to issues like Palestine. So I just wanted to ask, in your experience, what role that issue has played in the diaspora in general?

It’s unavoidable that in pretty much every Muslim space, Palestine will come up. Moving to Canada was so interesting because my first understanding of oppression, and why Islam has principles of social justice, was through hearing in the mosque, from childhood, about what goes on to Palestinians.

That’s just something that’s like a feature on Fridays — like our version of a sermon, it’s called a khutbah, where an Imam will usually talk about a social issue. We used to hear about Bosnia, Somalia, and Palestine is a huge one. Part of the Muslim-Canadian, Muslim-American experience is constantly hearing about there are these Muslim people who have seized over seven decades of oppression, occupation, and imperialism, and part of our duty as Muslims is to help anybody who’s oppressed.

What’s interesting is that in Canada the conservative and zionist lobbies are rather strong. I’ve seen in Canada, more so than America, there are diasporic people who are hesitant to talk about Palestine. People told me right away when I was starting in media, you know, don’t touch Palestine, don’t touch Palestine if you want a CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) job. 

It’s so weird compared to Florida — it’s so much more political in Florida being Muslim. But in Canada, as a Muslim, you can be easily elected a Liberal member of parliament, which is our center party. Muslims love that center party, it’s very professional. And there’s so many Muslims who are at the CBC, which is interesting, because the CBC won’t really cover Palestine. There’s like a whisper network among Muslim media people here where they’re like “don’t touch it, don’t touch it.”

That ties into the other question I was going to ask: I feel like there was a short period at the beginning of this latest bombardment by Israel that people were talking about as a sort of watershed moment, when public perception of the issue really started to change. Is that something you saw from your perspective as well — this issue of what Palestinians face really starting to sink in with people that it hadn’t connected with before? 

I guess the big question is what will people do when Palestine isn’t trending anymore. What is the next neighborhood being evicted in Jerusalem right now? I hope it’s different — it feels a little different, because there are more people showing up, but it feels like it may just be a moment. 

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