A senior researcher at the Media Review Network (MRN) has lambasted a Sunday Argus special report which alleges that the area of Roshnee in Vereeniging, Gauteng has become a hotbed for ISIS-recruitment. The publication, released over the past weekend, also suggests that more than 300 South Africans have made the so called ‘migration’ to Syria, and that at least 11 recruitment cells are currently operational in the country.
According to the MRN’s Ibrahim Vawda, much of the content of the article could be deemed as “rehashed” from a similar story published by the Sunday Independent in late 2014.
“To me there is no difference, it is merely semantics…if you read the article and try and analyse it, there is nothing new the writer is telling you,” he explained.
He stressed several ‘key’ issues with the story, which he said lacked any real substance, including the use of anonymity in terms of naming sources. Also of concern was usage of terms like ‘recruiter’, amongst others.
“He presents this recruiter as actively recruiting people to join ISIS. The way he presents it is as if there is such a person practising his trade in Roshnee. My own contacts in Roshnee have told me that they have no evidence of such a recruiter that is operating,” he said, further noting that the community itself was very close-knit, suggesting residents would have been aware of such a recruiter.
But while critical of such stories, he urged Muslims not to be complacent about the possibility that such groups lure young, vulnerable South Africans. This was also in response to suggestions that local Muslims often put up a wall of defence against anything criticism towards the community.
“We must not forget that like every other community, in ours there will be fringe fanatics. Like those who went over and fought on the side of ISIS, and they’ve come back and said that yes they have done so,” he said, in reference to the 11 ‘disillusioned’ ISIS recruits who were repatriated in September.
But the journalist Yazeed Kamaldien argued that his sources did not want to be named out of fear.
“It’s a small community and people feel the consequences will be disastrous if they reveal their identity. We need to be very sensitive to the identities of these people,” he told VOC Drivetime.
On criticism of the article, Kamaldien said: “It’s important that we report on this as a minority group in Roshnee and the Muslim community. We are not putting our heads in the sand and ignoring it. We need to view this from a balanced perspective, and I feel I have done that,” he said, referring to an additional article he wrote, which cautions against Islamophobia.
Vawda was also keen to tackle the ideologies of ISIS, questioning whether the group really held the values of that of a Muslim organisation.
“Are they really interested in establishing a new caliphate? If that is the case then where does it state that Omar (A.S) or Ali (A.S) took people and executed them in public, saying that if you don’t join Islam we will kill you? Has there been any such evidence in our history? There has been nothing at all,” he stressed.
“If any Muslim with any number of brain cells accepts that as being teaching Islam, Allah helps us all.” VOC (Mubeen Banderker)