At first glance it looks like people bowing down to other people. Maybe an ancient rite of worship before the weapons that hang nonchalantly from their erect bearers, who smile slightly, perhaps a plea for favor from the master. How easy it is from this photograph to infer a relationship of domination, when it is clear who is who on each side. How easy it is to conclude that the dominated side accepts the domination, the hierarchy, as part of Creation. Pierre Bourdieu writes in "Masculine Domination" that the ruled impose on the relationship of domination categories that have been formulated from the point of view of the rulers, and thus they cause these relations to seem natural.
Even the information that this is a photo of the weekly demonstration in Umm Salmona in the Bethlehem area, protesting the separation fence and the lands it is stealing, and that those who are bowing down are actually demonstrators who are praying, cannot erase the impression of prostration, of submission. But that is what is seen in the first glance of a non-Muslim, of someone who connects as a ruler (even if we deny this connection). Those defiant backsides of people who minutes earlier were rescued from the blows of the soldiers, offer another option to Bourdieu: They are not conforming to what we see at first glance, and are imposing categories of their own on the relationship of domination.
For the true Muslim worshiper, says a man named Fahr, a devout Muslim, the soldiers in front of him don't even exist: "Prayer is not the physical movement. It's a feeling - the values are connected to the soul, the soul is connected to Allah, the land is connected to Allah, Palestine is connected to Allah, the fence is connected to Allah, and so is destiny. When a Muslim says 'Allahu Akbar,' the worshiper feels that Allah is greater than anyone in front of him. And when the worshiper brings his hands to his ears, he leaves everything else behind him. Including the soldiers. He doesn't see the soldiers."
Even Palestinians who are not religious do not see a weakness in the worshipers here, and certainly not submission. "If you erase the worshipers from the picture," says Lama, a totally secular woman, "you won't understand what the soldiers are doing there at all. They're disconnected, out of place, UFOs. But if you erase the soldiers and only the worshipers remain, they are in their proper place and all their actions are natural and in harmony with the surroundings."
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