It is critically important that South Africans be at the forefront of the struggle against racial and religious profiling. So says anti-apartheid struggle stalwart Dr. Essop Pahad speaking in response to a petition launched by the Concerned Africans Forum (CAF), opposing the British Home Office’s decision to deny a visa to the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC) executive director, Na’eem Jeenah.
The prominent South African academic was due to attend a European Council on Foreign Relations conference in the United Kingdom, but was denied entry on the grounds that a refusal would be in the best interest of the British public. This was under the guise that Jeenah could pose a threat to national security. There was however no reasons given as to why British authorities assumed him to be a threat. In response, CAF has submitted a petition to the Home Office requesting the decision be reversed.
Speaking after chairing a media briefing to announce the petition, Dr. Pahad criticised the UK governments labelling of Jeenah as a security threat as being ‘absolutely absurd’.
“Na’eem has done and said nothing in his entire life, and those of us who have worked with him know that he has no connection with any terrorist organisation, and will never have any connection. In fact, he is implacably opposed to these acts of terror,” he stressed.
The petition has been largely well received both locally and abroad. The group’s initial expectations were to garner around 40 names, but that has since been exceeded; a total of 200 signatories have added their names to the petition. They include several well-known personalities, including political figures and academics. Amongst the more notable supporters is Labour Party politician and former British MP, Peter Hain.
“I think that the demand to the British government to reconsider their refusal to grant Na’eem a visa is starting to gather storm,” declared Pahad.
Expanding on his views on the denial, Pahad suggested possible involvement of the U.K. Zionist lobby, which holds some level of influence in the regions politics.
Another potential sphere of influence according to him could have been the growing wave of Islamaphobia amongst right-wing parties across Europe.
“We should all be concerned at what we’ve seen in Europe over the last few years, which is the growing influence of very right-wing chauvinist movements who are even winning elections, and becoming important players in parliamentary politics. I think those right-wing forces pose a danger to peace and security,” he suggested. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)