By Anees Teladia
While the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) has been focused on the abuse of religion in the church sector, it can be called upon to investigate any issue affecting Muslims.
The Commission has been in the spotlight recently amid a public outcry over bogus Christian pastors, who perform fake, and often dangerous, religious rites while eliciting money from their congregations.
The CRL Commission is an institution tasked with the protection of cultural, religious and linguistic groups in South Africa.
According to co-director of the International Institute for Religious Freedom, Christof Sauer, the CRL Rights Commission serves a vital function and has made considerable progress with cultural and linguistic groups in South Africa.
As far as religious groups are concerned, however, the CRL Rights Commission seems to have more trouble with success. Some religious leaders have accused the CRL Rights Commission of going beyond its mandate.
“Religious groups got a bit upset about how they were treated by the CRL Rights Commission in the past 5 years,” said Sauer.
“The CRL Rights Commission has started conducting a massive investigation, including bona fide religious institutions. These [institutions] were subpoenaed to hearings and that’s where the atmosphere was already poisoned.”
This is unfortunate as the CRL Rights Commission notes how media has “amplified” and “sensationalised” some self-appointed religious figures and leaders who are merely exploiting and misleading people.
“The CRL Rights Commission says religion has been commercialised and captured by rogue prophets and preachers,” according to Sauer.
In cases where girls or women want to wear hijab but are faced with institutional challenges, the CRL Rights Commission examines such cases and attempts to ensure that religious rights are reinforced.
The commission also deals with issues relating to halaal certification, i.e. regarding complaints around the claimed inability of non-Muslims to buy non-halaal certified products.
“There is then the case of black Muslims saying, ‘We are a minority among Muslims and we are not being properly considered and respected by the CRL Rights Commission. We also want our rights protected’,” added Sauer.
However, Sauer acknowledged that the CRL Rights Commission has no executive, legislative or adjudicative power.
“The CRL Rights Commission is a watchdog.”
“If [you] are part of what is called the ‘coloured’ community and feel marginalised as a cultural group by a majority group, you could try to lay a complaint with the CRL Rights Commission.”