Every few years or so, Malaysians are called again to participate in a nationwide boycott of those brands we perceive to be linked to the cause of Zionism. I, for one, have never been a supporter of this favorite pastime of some. Not because I don’t have enough willpower to stay a hundred feet away from a Starbucks or a McDonald’s, but because I don’t see how it helps in fighting a cause that I have, and continues to, study in my young adult life.
Let me start with the most basic reason I have never succumb to the call of boycotting even years ago: the person you are hurting are not the militant Israelis, but the part-time student working behind the counter or the full-time manager that has three kids to support at home. Do you dare hurt these people’s only income when they are not doing anything haram? Unfortunately, some people believe that by boycotting these American brands, they are indirectly hurting the American economy, and thus the funding for Zionist movements in the United States. But it is not as simple as that—nothing is. Your neighbors that own the franchise are the people that would have to bear the brunt because once they have paid royalty for the trademark and reimbursement in training to the franchiser, net income—or lack thereof—would go directly to the franchisee, your local friend who is in it for the simple reason of doing business. Sure, if our boycott succeeds in failing their business, they wouldn’t renew their contract, and by some calculation, it would create a tiny little dent on the American franchiser; so tiny that they would probably even miss it anyway, and therefore not affecting the larger Palestinian cause. Instead, there will be one extra young mother who suddenly finds herself without a job. I personally don’t have the heart to do that to someone.
Another person would argue that it is not their finance we are attacking, but the solidarity we are showing through these boycotts that is more important. I’m no Palestinian, but I’m sure, us not doing something does not elevate their spirit that much. Solidarity is all good and fine, but there has to be a channel to showcase this commitment of ours as fellow Muslim brothers and sisters to the outside world, and not just through Facebook. Social media does work—though few in between—to mobilize the masses, but to get a message across, we need a credible third party: the somewhat impartial media. Research has shown that the only way boycotts have been effective so far is if the reputation of said brands are tarnished through the useful use of the media. But in our country, boycotting won’t work because our media dares not publicize these boycotts across our borders in fear of economic repercussions. For me that is not a wussy move but pragmatic. So if this effort to show our solidarity does not attract international attention, how does this help the Palestinian cause?
My answer is simpler and it doesn’t hurt anybody (after all, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”—Gandhi), and hopefully, it could be effective. Let’s organize a mass hajat prayer, preferably organized by respectable institutions such as the government, and call local and international media to witness the scene. Why I think this is effective? Because every year, Muslims’ pilgrimage during the Hajj period is covered by news networks such as Al Jazeera and CNN with awe. People are inspired and intrigued by our unity to perform such rites out of our faith in one God. And if we are able to demonstrate our solidarity by participating in a mass prayer, we would also be killing two birds with one stone: first, as I’ve mentioned, is the plausible power of the media, and second, the most effective outcome I believe, is God’s answer to our sincerest prayers for those affected by the whole crisis. Ultimately, what or who is more powerful than the Almighty?