Ulema in Cape Town have been urged to address the Syrian crisis from the mimbar during Jumuah and to perform the Qunoot on Friday. This impassioned plea for special prayers comes as the world watches the exodus of tens of thousands of Syrians, trying to flee the devastation and brutal war in their homeland. More than 380,000 people have arrived in Europe by sea this year, figures from the UN’s refugee agency showed Tuesday, including close to 260,000 in Greece and 121,000 in Italy. The human cost of the tragedy was highlighted last week in what is now an iconic image of three year old Syrian Aylan Kurdi, whose lifeless body was found washed up on a Turkish shore after a migrant boat capsized.
“We all join the international community in their cry and deep emption for the type of visuals we have been exposed to in the last few days particularly when we have seen the photos of this young children who have drowned in search of a better life with their families,” said Muslim Judicial Council president Maulana Igsaan Hendricks.
“We join the call by figures such as Imam Rashied Omar to bring home to our people to the importance of the humanitarian crisis unfolding, one that we have never seen on this scale before. We call on imams to include the qunoot in their jumuah and to keep the focus on the Syrian crisis in the weeks to come.”
“At the same time, it is important that we speak out against the political establishments, governments of tyranny, terror groups that are responsible for the displacement of the Syrian people. It’s despicable how a nation is being bombarded by their own president, Bashar Al-Assad.”
As European leaders scramble to respond to the mass migration, Germany has emerged as an unparalleled leader in responding to this crisis. Heart-warming images of Germans welcoming Syrians have garnered the world’s attention, with hundreds of ordinary people assisting refugees with food, clothes and shelter on their arrival.
Hendricks said he was so encouraged by this effort that he had personally written a letter to the German ambassador in South Africa expressing gratitude and appreciation for the initiative taken by the German people in providing comfort to the Syrians.
However, he expressed disappointment at the response of the oil-rich Arab Gulf countries. The only Arab countries to have accepted Syrian refugees are Jordan and Lebanon, two weak economies with very limited means. To a certain degree, some rich Arab countries have sent some aid to refugees in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, but no major plan has even been offered that would appear to be aimed at making a serious difference.
“It is time that we articulate this to our Gulf States and say that as Muslims we need to exercise our responsibility to this crisis,” Hendricks stressed.
For South Africans, there is a deep lesson to be learnt about the importance of humanity and compassion, in light of the country’s own struggle with xenophobia and the migration of African people to our borders.
Hendricks recalled that during the outbreak of xenophobia violence in 2008, a portion of the MJC headquarters was used to accommodate refugees seeking safety. Since then, the MJC and other human rights organisations have made significant strides in integrating more refugees into the broader society and in the Western Cape, the ulema body now has a stronger cooperation with Muslim foreign nationals in the townships.
“There are many valuable lessons for us and we must remain in the forefront of keeping our hearts open to serve the cause of humanity.” VOC