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“It is in human nature that violence is disliked”

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Cape Town has witnessed weeks of frustration and anger pouring into its streets, with communities of the Cape, inclusive of Parkwood, Mitchells Plain, Siqalo, Khayelitsha and Bo-Kaap violently protesting to have their demands responded to by City officials.  With the most recent violent protests witnessed in predominantly Muslim communities, communities have been divided about the approach to the lack of service delivery and the violation of human dignity.

For clarity on what the Shari’ah (Islamic law) prescribes as acceptable means of protest, we spoke to scholar of Islamic studies and peacebuilding at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, Dr imam Rashied Omar.

Omar explained that while the issue of protest and Islam is an under researched area, communities do have the right to protest and bring to the attention of those in authority their grievances.

However, he said individuals need to adopt non-violent mechanisms to having their concerns heard.

“People have a legitimate right to protest against what they perceive to be acts of structural violence [violation of basic human rights] or assaults on human dignity – even if that’s a perception…The important thing is that we need to find ways of doing it non-violently.

“When we speak about la unf (non-violence) some Muslims think ‘what are we speaking about.’ Yet, there is a very rich tradition within Islam of non-violence.

“I’m thinking of the so-called frontier Ghandi, a man by the name of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, who organised a 100,000 Muslims, a strong movement called the servants of Allah who fought British colonialism in India.

“The current crisis in Syria, there is a great scholar, Shaykh Sa’eed, who is a graduate of al-Azhar and currently in exile in Turkey. He developed a theology of non-violence based on the Qur’anic narrative of the two sons of Nabi (prophet) Adam, Habil and Qabil,” Omar stated.

Omar said that while he is not an advocate for violent uprisings, he admires the patience that communities of the Cape have observed while being denied their basic human rights for more than two decades of democracy.

He asserted that the marginalised, poor and persecuted require astute and courageous leadership to channel their legitimate frustrations and demands into constructive action for social change.

“It is drastic action. It is not sitting back and accepting assaults on your dignity and structural violence, but responding in ways that maintains your dignity and honour.

Omar said that often when people engage in violent action, they lose the moral high ground.

He further noted that the first time that the Prophet Mohamad (Pbuh) engaged in warfare was in the Battle of Badr – two years into the Makkan period

“The Qur’an in fact mentions this in Surah Baqarah; when the Muslims were give the permission after non-violent activism for more than 12 years. Often, as Muslims we do not recognise that the Prophet (Pbuh) did not start off engaging in warfare. He was persecuted throughout the Makkan period,” Omar continued.

Citing Surah al-Hajj, Omar said that Allah has given individuals permission to defend themselves if they are being oppressed.

“Permission [to fight] has been given to those who are being fought, because they were wronged. And indeed, Allah is competent to give them victory.”[Surah al-Hajj: 39]

The shaykh emphasised the fact that the succeeding verse elaborates on the rule; “And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned.” [Surah al-Hajj: 40]

While fighting has been permitted if certain criteria are met, Allah affirms in the Qur’an that it is in human nature that violence is disliked.

“Fighting has been prescribed or you, but you dislike it.” [Surah Baqarah: 216]

He said that within the context of South Africa, the violence experienced under the former regime has left an endemic mark within a now democratic society.

“What we are suffering of in South Africa now, is because of the violence of Apartheid. Once the jinni out of the bottle, it consumes you, it dehumanises you and takes many generations to heal,” shaykh Omar continued.

VOC 91.3fm

 


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