In a bid to resist historical amnesia, each month displays a prominent anti-colonial Muslim figure from across the globe.
A novel calendar hopes to battle anti-Muslim bias and recentre the historic roles played by Muslims who fought for their people’s freedom amid the scourge of imperialism.
Launched by Strive UK, an advocacy group established by members from the Indian Muslim diasporic community, the calendar introduces 12 Muslim figures that sacrificed their lives fighting European colonialists from the 15th to 20th century.
“This calendar is resistance to historical amnesia, increasing Islamophobia across the globe and a fight against the attempt to ostracise Muslims from history and public sphere,” Sageer Mohammed, president of Strive UK, told TRT World.
Students associated with Strive UK, primarily girls aged 10 to 22, were behind its genesis.
“The idea behind this calendar and the stories that are interwoven between these months make it so special,” Zara Muhammed, Secretary-General of Muslim Council of Britain told TRT World.
“We understand the platform we provided for the young researchers will help in the fight against [Islamophobia],” Muhammed said.
The month of January can be seen juxtaposed with the image of Variamkunnathu Kunjahammed Haji. He was the most prominent anti-colonial fighter against the British and established his own kingdom for several months in the Malabar region in the south Indian state of Kerala in 1921. At the end of the war, he was caught and killed by the British.
The current Hindu nationalist BJP government in India recently decided to remove the names of 387 martyrs of the 1921 Malabar Rebellion including Kunjahammed Haji from the fifth volume of the Dictionary of Martyrs of India’s Freedom Struggle published by the Indian Council for Historical Research, an autonomous body under the Indian Ministry of Education.
“We know Islamophobia is expeditiously increasing in India. Remembering Variamkunnathu Kunjahammed Haji itself is a fight against it,” 22-year-old researcher Nida Fazili told TRT World.
Three more Indian anti-colonial figures were also listed in the calendar.
One of them is Tipu Sultan, who was the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore. Although he was martyred in 1799 in the Anglo-Mysore War, he has been subjected to a Hindutva-led vilification campaign after the decision was made to celebrate his birth anniversary by the previous Congress-led government in Karnataka.
Aman Mohammed, an 11-year-old student, prepared the description of Tipu Sultan.
Ghaziya, a 14-year-old student prepared a note on Zainuddin Makhdoom I & II. Both hailed from Kerala and stood against the Portuguese invasion in 1498. Tahrir Ahlil Iman and Tuhfathul Mujahideen, two prominent anti-colonial works of literature, were written by Zainuddin Makhdoom I & II, respectively.
Tahrir Ahlil Iman is considered to be among the earliest Muslim works of anti-colonial literature.
Izzudin Qasam, a towering figure in Palestine in the fight against British and Israeli occupations, is another important figure. He played a leading role in the 1921 Syrian revolt against French colonial authorities.
“He travelled across Palestine speaking to and encouraging the people to resist British colonialism and Zionism. He raised a guerilla army called the Al Kaff Al Aswad (Black Hand) and had early success in fighting them,” the calendar explained.
“The question that I asked myself was, that he had a decent job and reputation in society, so why would he go and fight for the causes of the oppressed rather than just having a very peaceful life. Izzudin was not a person who would just speak, but he really walked the talk,” Ibrahim Sageer, an 11-year-old student who prepared the note on Qasam, told TRT World.
Hiba Faisal and Hana Faisal, siblings aged 11 and 12, prepared the write-up on Ahmed Urabi, who was the first political and military leader in Egypt to rise from the peasant class. He is now considered a national hero in Egypt for resisting European interests in the region.
Africa also witnessed rampant invasions from Britain, Germany, Spain, France, and Italy in the 18th and 19th centuries — to which Muslims and their leaders played a huge role in resisting.
Prepared by 11-year-old Rehaan Shejin, the calendar then introduces Omar Al Mukhtar, the Libyan leader who spent his entire life fighting the British, French, Spanish, and Italians in numerous battles. Successful in many of those battles, he was popularly called “The Lion of the Desert” and inspired anti-colonial struggles not only in Libya but across the world.
Another African anti-colonial figure included in the calendar was Abdelkader El Djezairi from Algeria.
Djezairi was an Islamic scholar who fought against the French invasion of Algeria in the 19th century. He would resist the French for around 15 years until he was captured in 1847. An inspiring description of his life was written by a 12-year-old student Ryan Sanooj.
During the same period in the 19th century, Somali religious and military head of the Dervish movement, Mohammed Abdulla Hassan, led a two-decade-long confrontation against British and Italian armies in Somalia.
“The Ottoman Empire named him the ‘Emir of the Somali’,” the description on Abdulla Hassan in the calendar, prepared by 11-year-old Hasanul Banna, said.
Next is Muhammed Ibn Abd Al Karim Al Khattabi, the leader of the large-scale Berber resistance movement in Morocco against Spanish and French colonial forces.
The Spanish army, which comprised 60,000 soldiers, had suffered “one of their worst military defeats in June 1921 when they fought in a battle with the army of Mohammed Ibn Abd Al Karim,” 13-year-old Eshan Shajin narrated in the calendar.
Turning the page to the month of June sees the entry of Chechnyan fighter Imam Shamil, who led a campaign of armed resistance against oppressive imperialist Russian rule in mid-19th century Chechnya.
By bringing together various Muslim tribes and clans across the Caucasus, Shamil created an army that “battled the Imperial Russian Army for 25 years, inflicting many defeats on their mighty enemy without outside help,” 14-year-old Zoony Aloof notes.
The Male rebellion of 1835 was introduced by 13-year-old student Mohammed Mosan. The calendar said it was one of the largest recorded slave rebellions in the Americas, one which was organised by a group of enslaved African Muslim scholars in Salvador of Bahia, Brazil.
Then comes the Tanzanian rebellious movement, called the Maji Maji War of 1898, written by 11-year-old Sadiya. It was a popular rebellion against German occupation in the region of Tanganyika under the leadership of Kinjikitile Ngwale, a Muslim mystic sheikh that lasted for two years.