The South African Muslim Network (Samnet) says the deputy minister of international relations recent statements on Boko Haram stokes the dangerous flames of xenophobia, and needs to be treated with vigilant cynicism and utmost caution. Minister Lwellyn Landers sparked outrage last week when he said South Africans “shouldn’t be surprised if Boko Haram is operating in South Africa”.
Commenting on the issue, Samnet said Landers’ statements seek to divide, not only Muslims – and this during the holy month of Ramadan – but all Africans.
Landers told reporters at Parliament last week he had been informed by a reliable source that Boko Haram has succeeded in integrating in many communities.
“They don’t go around wearing specific colours or overalls or logos. So… you’ll never know that the person sitting next to you is a member of Boko Haram. That’s how effective they’ve become,” the minister was quoted as saying.
But Samnet amd other analysts agree the minister’s statement were unsubstantiated and have no proof.
“The remarks already ignited internet forums with the kind of anti-foreign sentiments similar to those found scrawled on doors and placards during the 2008 xenophobic violence – except that these statements are being made by people who are in a different social strata than those that suffered in 2008. This by no means makes it better or worse, but merely serves to amplify the hatred. Some of the statements are so racist and anti-African that they do not justify repetition,” said the organization.
Samnet said Landers’ statements encourage suspicion and the “shadiness” is reminiscent of the worst days of the apartheid era.
“The potential end result of statements such as these, especially in economies such as ours where there is still racism, lack of adequate education and services, rampant political corruption, and widespread poverty and male idleness – as history can attest time and again – is paranoia, hatred and violence, especially against our brothers and sisters from the rest of Africa, and now, scarily, against Muslims. The implications for unwarranted Islamophobia are far-reaching and are also an underhanded insult, uttered as they have been during the holy month of piety and grace.”