Our world, and the struggle to make it a just one, lost someone great – and way too soon. I met M. Junaid Alam when we were in college. We were part of a small generation of young radicals in dark times – the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the beginning of the series of wars that the US has been fighting since. A defining part of those times was the wave of anti-Muslim racism, which had terrible consequences for Junaid’s South Asian, Muslim, and outspoken family. Always trying to seize opportunities for our side, even in bitter times, Junaid helped found Left Hook, a news and opinion website whose content was written by young radicals.
To me, the most striking things about Junaid were his sharp mind and his unwavering seriousness. He devoured ideas and had an encyclopedic knowledge of the Left. I don’t remember him talking just for the sake of talking. He really wanted to know what you thought, and he wanted to know what you thought about his thoughts. He was always seeking collaborators in the fight against oppression and for liberation. Toward the end of his short life, Junaid was especially focused on writing about the experiences of Muslims in the US, and US imperialism and freedom struggles in the Muslim World.
Junaid died of cancer at age 31. I am sorry, Junaid, that your passing came in such dark times in this country, for the Muslim World, and really for so much of the world. But we know that after the darkness comes the dawn. We will never forget you, and we will remember you into the promising and hopeful future.
One of Junaid’s last posts on his facebook wall says so much about the kind of person he was: “You cannot choose cancer, but you can choose how to engage the dozens of people in the hospital who in ways big and small are trying to cure you and help you. Learning so much about so many inspiring, supportive, and dedicated people.”
This tribute was posted by Mara Ahmed on her blog. Mara Ahmed is a Pakistani American filmmaker and artist based in Rochester, NY. Her production company is Neelum Films.
Khury Petersen-Smith is a geographer and activist who lives in Boston. He completed his PhD in the spring of 2016 at the Clark University Graduate School of Geography. His dissertation, “Pivoting to Asia: Sovereignty, Territory, and Militarization,” focuses on U.S. militarization in the Asia-Pacific region. Khury’s research interests include U.S. empire, territory, place, and resistance. His activism is wide-ranging, but has focused in particular on opposing U.S. empire, resisting racism, and solidarity with Palestine. Khury is the co-author of the 2015 Black Solidarity Statement With Palestine, which was signed by over 1,100 Black activists, artists, and scholars.
Muhammad Idrees Ahmad
Junaid was an exceptional writer and a precocious social thinker. Eight years back I used one of his articles for discussion in a sociology seminar. Later when I learned that the author was barely 22, I was incredulous—and envious. Such clarity of mind, such rigor, such facility of expression are rare even in more seasoned thinkers. His example encouraged me to read more, think harder, write better. At the time I had wondered how far a mind like that could go. Alas, reality intervened and fate proved indifferent to his talent. The world has lost a great mind.
Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, a lecturer in journalism at the University of Stirling in Scotland, is the author of The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War.