Congratulations on reaching the 10th anniversary of Interpal. How did you come to find yourself so closely affiliated with the Palestinian cause?
|`The experience of meeting so many people around the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the years, and inside 1948 Israel, has been, literally, life-changing. There is a resilience that is inspirational and the feelings of genuine brotherhood remain with me. This is true also of the camps in Jordan and Lebanon where the forgotten Palestinians live in exile.'
Jazakum Allahu Khairan (May God reward you) for your kind words. It is only through the Blessings of Allah that Interpal has reached this milestone. I also feel blessed to have been involved along the way. My involvement began in 1988, during the first Intifada, when I was asked to be the Amir (leader) of a delegation of British Muslims which went to Palestine to see for ourselves what was happening.
It was a shocking experience, because what we had seen on the news was only part of the story. The oppression, the poverty, the restrictions, the death and destruction, were all much worse than we had expected. However, the spirit of the Palestinians, Muslims and Christians alike, was incredible, and from that moment on I was hooked. On my return to Britain, I was involved in raising awareness through talks around the country, showing slides and explaining what we had witnessed. This developed into a small book called Blood on the Holy Land, which was a report of our visit. It's still available, I think, from Mustaqim Islamic Art & Literature in Milton Keynes. I have made a number of subsequent visits to Palestine, and have been involved in both relief work and awareness programmes ever since.
How did Interpal come into being as a charity dedicated solely for the benefit and betterment of Palestinians?
Interpal (or, to give the charity its proper name, the Palestinians [sic] Relief & Development Fund) was born out of the optimism of the Oslo Accords, and really took over the work of the now defunct Palestine & Lebanon Relief Fund. As a single issue charity registered and based in Britain, Interpal focuses on helping Palestinians in need, whether they are in Palestine itself or in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon. Although our trust deed allows us to help needy people worldwide, we believe that there is a great need to focus on Palestinians because of the central position of Palestine, especially Al-Aqsa Mosque, in Islam; because it is a long-running humanitarian catastrophe and, last but not least, because there are and were already Islamic charities with a world-wide remit.