SA Muslims speak out against ISIS
People all over the world are concerned about the violent expansion of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. South African Muslims have also spoken out strongly against this grouping, condemning its actions, calling it a terrorist organisation and stated that it is unlawful for anyone to join it. Furthermore, a broad grouping of SA Muslim organisations have expressed their gratitude for being part of the SA community and their concerns that groups such as ISIS, Boko Haram and Al-Shabab could jeopardise the freedoms that South Africans enjoy. The press in SA is quick to jump on negative news regarding Islam, but have all but ignored the important steps taken by SA Muslims to counter the rise of ISIS and to discourage support and recruitment activities in our country.
Muslims all over the world are currently busy with Ramadan, a period of fasting, a time to practice self restraint, a time to cleanse the body and soul from impurities and to refocus on the worship of God. It is an ideal time to speak out against forces like ISIS that bastardise what the Qur’an teaches, what Muslims worldwide stand for and what Ramadan signifies.
In late May 2015, a broad grouping of SA Muslim organisations including Call of Islam, Jamiatul Ulama SA, Muslim Judicial Council, SA Muslim Network and Union of Muslim Students Associations joined together to address the growing concerns surrounding ISIS and in particular its attempts to recruit members in SA. The grouping released a national sermon which was delivered in mosques all over SA on 29 May 2015. This move was not widely publicised in the SA media and hence I would like to share some details with you (courtesy of Voice of the Cape).
The sermon and associated press release focused on a number of important points. Islam has a long and splendid history in SA, many sacrifices were made to ensure that Muslims become part of the social fabric of SA, Muslims were actively involved in the anti-Apartheid struggle and the SA of today allows for the peaceful coexistence of Muslims with the rest of SA society. SA Muslims should be grateful for this and should not affiliate themselves with groups and persons that would jeopardise the freedoms that South Africans enjoy.
The sermon speaks about the oppression and occupation that millions of Muslims face and advocates that such oppression should be opposed. However, it calls for a response that is consistent with the spirit and the values of Islam. It calls for peace rather than war, the chances of justice being better with the former.
The sermon notes that members of the SA Muslim community have joined or attempted to join ISIS, but states that “The vast majority of Muslim scholars around the world have clearly condemned ISIS and have categorically stated that it does not represent Islam or Shariah.” It goes further by arguing that it is unlawful for anyone to join ISIS, because of its criminal activities, shedding blood unlawfully, labelling Muslims as disbelievers, violating people’s honour, usurping people’s property and creating corruption on Earth.
Finally, the sermon “calls for mercy, love and rejection of terrorism and extremism, which represent envy, rancour and hatred.” It “advise(s) people not to be deceived by false slogans and calls of such groups.”
It is very important that South Africans acknowledge the struggle that Muslims face to counter the negative influence of groups like ISIS. They must acknowledge the strain it places on local families, the fear of losing their family members, the fear that it may lead to violence returning home. South Africans should offer their support to local Muslim communities in countering this common enemy. Racial en religious stereotypes should be avoided. We should all speak out against oppression and violence whether it is perpetrated against Muslims or by groups corrupting Islam.
We have been very fortunate as a country to have largely avoided extremism and extremist violence since the late 1990s. Now is not the time to become complacent. Reach out to your Muslim neighbours, colleagues and friends. Understand the religion better as well as what it stands for. Talk to them about the threat of ISIS and the factors that may be contributing to its attraction. Remind yourself of the important role that the Muslim community has and continues to play in our beautiful country. One of the 11 reasons I love SA is our diversity. Let’s continue to celebrate it.
How do you feel about ISIS and the threat that it poses? Are you concerned that local recruitment could lead to violence returning to our shores at it has happened in other parts of the world? Did you know that local Muslims are actively opposed to and are countering groups such as ISIS? What can you do to contribute? I would love to hear your feedback.
In the mean time, keep your talking straight!