While opposition from the Zionist lobby to Hamas’ South Africa tour was expected, the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) has expressed its dismay that individuals within the local Muslim community have criticised the long overdue visit. The group, led by the Palestinian political organisation’s leader, Khaled Meshaal were hosted by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) last week, drew condemnation from pro-Zionist organisations which slammed Hamas as a “terrorist group”.
However, it is the criticism from within the Muslim community that has shown firm support towards the Palestinian cause for freedom and self-determination that has sparked the ire of the ulema body.
“That plays directly into the positioning of the Zionist federation and those who are fundamentally opposed to Hamas, and want to maintain the rhetoric of Hamas being a terrorist organisation,” said MJC president, Maulana Ighsaan Hendricks.
Hendricks sought to remind the public that numerous groups and figures from different factions within Palestine have made previous visits to the country, often to overwhelmingly positive receptions from the Muslim community, and the Hamas delegation need be viewed no differently.
Hendricks reminded Capetonians of the ruling party’s close ties with both the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Palestinian Authority. He said South Africa has a history of engaging with prominent Palestinian figures such as Farouk al-Kaddoumi, Shaykh Kamal Khatib, Shaykh Raed Salah, Dr. Naim Ateek and the iconic leader Yasser Arafat, who have all visited South Africa.
From his point of view, the ANC and the MJC has opened itself to engaging with Palestinian leaders from all different organisations in order to understand and get greater insight into the Palestinian dynamic.
“I think it is in line with the principal outlook that South Africa has taken over a number of years, particularly over the last 20 years of our own freedom and democracy,” he stated.
“What is so different about the initiative of the South African people and the ruling party to agree, in principle, to bring Hamas to South Africa?”
Hendricks said the delegations visit was a decisive moment for the country, in that serious attempts were made in prior years to engage with, and bring the resistance movement to South Africa. However the ANC’s stance in support of Palestine with regards to the Middle East situation meant that such a visit was possible.
“In the Arab World, by the admission of many prominent Palestinian leaders, they clearly remind us that it is not as easy to make a visit to any of the Arab countries (as it is to visit SA),” he noted.
The delegations’ visit coincided with that of representatives of Al-Quds TV, a Palestinian broadcaster described as ‘the official transmitter from Masjid al-Aqsa’. As a result, Hendricks highlighted that programmes hosted with the delegation were successfully broadcast within the occupied territories. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)