Coming out of the conference hall at the end of the 'South East Asia (SEA) Organizations Roundtable Conference on Palestine and Lebanon in facing the Zionist and Anglo American Imperialism' at the Century Paradise Club, Kuala Lumpur a few years ago, I was met by my eight-year old son who begged me to treat him at a KFC outlet.
After being told not to eat at KFC, drink Coca-Cola and refuel at Caltex as part of a campaign to boycott American and Israeli products, I said a 'shaky no' as the boy kept on begging. It was a big test for me as I was torn between staying in line with what was raised and agreed upon at the seminar and to fulfill my son's small request.
I was about to give in because I didn't have the heart to say no to such a request, moreover it was about food, but at the last moment I pulled out the pamphlet given by the Anti-Zionist and Boycott America Movement (GAZA) and gave it to the boy to look at.
On the cover, there was a picture of a dead Lebanese child with the words, 'If you did this (ate at KFC, drank Coca-Cola and refueled at Caltex), you have conspired with the American and Israeli regimes to kill the Muslims of Palestine and Lebanon'.
The boy flipped to page two and saw 10 other reasons why Muslims should boycott American products. In page three, there were logos of about fifty products to be boycotted by Muslims.
The boy looked closely and said: "Father, Pizza Hut is not listed, so let's go to Pizza Hut!"
Softly, I told him to see the back page, and the boy saw the pictures of more than 10dead bodies of Palestinian and Lebanese children, many of them covered in blood. The words on that page read: "If you keep on buying American products, the brutality of the Zionists will be prolonged."
After much persuading, my children at last agreed to have Ramly burgers at Kampung Baru as an alternative. I was relieved and as the boy and his siblings were busy ordering their food at a stall, I flipped open the file of the conference.
The roundtable talk that was organized by 'International Affairs and Foreign Relations Department of the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS)', saw two papers presented by one representative of Hamas, Omar Obeid (he represented the Chief Whip of the Palestine Parliament, Dr Khaleel a-Haya) and Essam Mustafa from a Palestine NGO, followed by discussions by representatives of various Muslim groups in South East Asia and South Asia such as Jamiat-el-Islami of Pakistan and Bangladesh, Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS Indonesia), Muslim Association of Thailand, Parti Pembangunan Bangsa (Brunei), Jamaah Islah Malaysia, Parti KeADILan Rakyat (PKR) and Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM).
The conference ended with resolutions, among others condemning the incursions and continuing atrocities perpetrated by the Zionist-Israeli regime, the delayed action on the part of the Security Council of the United Nations and gave unanimous support to the Palestinian and Lebanese people in their confrontation against the aggression and tyranny of the Zionist-Israeli regime.
The roundtable conference also unanimously agreed and resolved that participants from all countries, undertake, in the immediate future, to set up a Secretariat to be headed by a Secretary preferably from Malaysia. This Secretariat requires a seed capital or funding to move the planning by galvanizing both Islamic parties and Muslims-based NGOs.
Four areas were highlighted to be worked on - they were the political initiatives and lobbying efforts (international, regional and national), humanitarian and relief work, media-cum-research and development and fund-raising (economic action) and aid.
When discussing the Palestinian and Lebanese issue, a point raised by a delegation caught my attention. He said Muslims were alarmed when a specific issue popped up but it will be much better if Muslims were always equipped and ready to cope with any circumstance that might befall the ummah.
The Muslim community all over the world, especially when they were the minority in a country, were ill treated even to the extent of being prosecuted in their homeland. History speaks volumes about that situation, for example the plight of the Rohingya Muslims of Burma, the Kashmiris in Indian-occupied Kashmir, the Moros of Southern Philippines and the Malays of Cambodia and Southern Thailand.
To get a clearer picture I interviewed a few delegates. The first was Ustaz Mohamed Islam, the Vice President (International) of the Rohingya Ulama Council, who said the sad episode of the Muslim minority groups began when they were betrayed by their leaders.
"The leaders were not sincere, and when the cruel regime in power chased us out of our homeland, they betrayed us in exchange for worldly pleasures," he said.
He and a member of the council, Mohd Sedek, said, the government and Western media were biased in their reports and often portrayed the Muslims as rebellious, traitors, terrorists and guerillas.
They said Muslims were also to be blamed because many were not living in accordance to Islam. They swayed from the Muslim way of life and practiced un-Islamic norms such as usury and the Western way of living like exposing their aurah (physique).
Maulana Ataur Rahman, a Jamiat-e-Islami member of Parliament from Pakistan, agreed that some of the Muslim leaders were not sincere in protecting the ummah and to uplift their lives in accordance with the Islamic requirements.
He said in Pakistan, the people were tired with Western ideas and propaganda and were trying to make Islam as a way of life but its leaders were swaying and bowing towards Washington and London.
"If not for the rigging in the elections, I am confident the Islamic party will win the elections," he said regarding the 2002 general elections which saw the Jamiat-e-Islami and its five other component Islamic parties including the Shiite 'Tehreek Islami' won 68 out of the 342 seats in Parliament.
He said it was a remarkable achievement by the Islamic component parties (Mutehaddah Majlis Amal - MMA) as previous elections saw them with only a few seats. In 2002, other then getting more seats, they also had the right to govern the North West Frontier (NWF) state.
Even though the president (Pervez Musharraf) was leaning towards US President (George) Bush and British Prime Minister (John) Major, the majority of the people are with us, claimed Ataur Rahman who is MP for Mardan in NWF.
"If the election was transparent, we should be in power," he said and accused Musharraf of trying to repeal the hudud laws introduced by President Zia-ul-Haq in 1979.
He said it was clear that some of the Muslim leaders were betraying the ummah as they were not sincere in their actions but only wanted to hold on to their power even if they had to bow down to those at helm in Washington, London and Moscow.
Ataur Rahman said, Muslims, whether they were Shiite or Sunni, should always be united not only when confronting and pressured in certain issues such as the plight of the Palestinians and Lebanese, but in all areas at all times such as education, economic and international relations.
If the Americans could be proud in producing world renowned products and food such as KFC and McDonald's and drinks such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi and so on, why can't Muslims produce their own brand products that could be easily marketed to the 1.5 billion ummah. Perhaps Zamzam drink and Ramly Burger could take off as the maiden projects among Muslims!