“Eight years ago I said to the president that I am a Zuma man and I never changed – I am still a ‘Zuma man!” This was the unequivocal statement by the newly elected Muslim Judicicial Council (MJC) president Shaykh Irfaan Abrahams, in welcoming President Jacob Zuma at a special event hosted to honour the ANC in Cape Town at the Darul Islam High School in Surrey Estate on Thursday.
As Zuma and ANC bigwigs hit the campaign trail in the Western Cape visiting townships on the Cape Flats, the MJC rolled out the red carpet for Zuma at a late afternoon lunch. The event was hosted after the president was unable to attend an MJC iftaar this Ramadan.
While proceedings got off to a late start, guests patiently waited South Africa’s leader. The event was attended by numerous prominent personalities, including; the Minister of Water Affairs and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane, ANC City of Cape Town mayoral candidate Xolani Sontashe, former ambassador to the US Ebrahim Rasool, Judge Siraj Desai and former ANC Western Cape leader Marius Fransman.
The proceedings which was MC’d by Kashif Wicomb, began with an opening dua that was performed by ex-president of the MJC, Shaykh Ebrahim Gabriels, followed by qira’ah by renowned qari, Shaykh Ismail Londt.
In his opening address, newly inaugurated President of the MJC, Shaykh Irfaan Abrahams, welcomed the Zuma and affirmed his support for the African National Congress and its president Zuma.
He said that the historical relationship between the MJC and the ANC is a fact the organization holds in high esteem. In light of the 300 years of the banning of Islam within South Africa, the MJC president spoke of the sacrifices of predecessors who worked to ensure freedom of culture and religion within the country.
Abrahams further noted that the ANC’s show of support for the people of Palestine is unprecedented.
“As a people who stand with the oppressed in other parts of the world, we appreciate the definitive position that the ANC took when it invited the political head of Hamas, comrade Khaled Mashal, as its official guest in 2015. Comrade Mashal went on record and said that the South African government is one of the greatest supporters of the people of Palestine,” Abrahams stated.
Given continued conflict within the Middle East, he said that the situation in Syria needs to be addressed and described the conflict as having resulted in the “biggest refugee crises the world has seen.”
Closer to home, Abrahams, who regards himself as a community activist, called to attention the continued scourge of gang violence within the Cape Flats.
As a means to combat gang related deaths, he called for tougher action, improved access to resources and the establishment of a dedicated gang unit.
The shaykh also spoke to the level of unemployment that plagues residents and urged government to assist in revitalising the artisan trade within the Western Cape.
In light of growing tensions in the run-up to the local elections, Abrahams called for an end to racism and xenophobia that has divided many communities.
“Stability and security of our country is a responsibility of each and every South African. We call on all our citizens to identify any activities that pose a threat to our democracy and our shared freedom. ”
Reflecting on the ANC’s long fought credibility, Abrahams called for a united and stable ANC. He stated that as a ruling party, citizens require the ANC to commit to the values enshrined within the Freedom Charter.
“It should not be forgotten that there are those detractors who would like to see to the ANC disintegrate.”
He also spoke to the extensive contribution of the Muslim community to the South African economy and to their role in alleviating socio-economic ails across the country.
“Through large community development and social cohesion programmes, in the past financial year we estimate that as a collective the Muslim community has contributed in excess of R2.5 billion in social development initiatives to the people of South Africa,” he continued.
In closing, Abrahams affirmed that the MJC is working to serve all members of society, irrespective of their race or creed and requested that the government work in partnership with the MJC to build a strong civil society.
Meanwhile, President Zuma addressing guests thanked the leadership of the MJC for hosting his delegation and stated that the event symbolises the unique role that the MJC plays within the Western Cape.
In response to the MJC’s request to establish a partnership, Zuma asserted that the ANC’s policies are directed toward assisting the poor.
“We believe that no one who is made in the image of God must suffer whilst others are not suffering. I appreciate what the MJC has done for poor communities – this is what I believe we should all do,” Zuma asserted.
He said that the ANC firmly believes in religious tolerance and freedom, and assured that the party works toward “peace, harmony and stability.”
Given recent attacks in Europe, the president commended the MJC for their condemnation of the attacks and acknowledges that the name of the religion of Islam is recklessly used by individuals who conduct these attacks.
In light of Shaykh Abrahams support of the ANC and his describing himself as a “Zuma man”, Zuma thanked the MJC for not shying from associating with the ANC and himself.
He further noted the significance of the Mkhize clan’s official acknowledgement of Islam as one of the clan’s religions, indicating that this event speaks volumes of the role of the MJC within the South Africa.
“The fact that the king of the Zulu’s will be receiving you to recognise Islam, that speaks volumes of the role you have played in the Country and that they believe that they have to have a relationship with you. We think that if we work together then we can make South Africa great.”
He added that the ANC is working toward improving race relations within the South Africa, as well as cementing international relations, particularly in the Middle East. Closing the event, former MJC president Maulana Ihsaan Hendricks affirmed that following the end of his term as president, he is now able to openly declare his support for the ANC.
He said that President Zuma showed unwavering support for the welcoming of Khaled Mashal and his delegation in South Africa.
“Because I was privy to the numerous attempts to bring the delegation to South Africa, it is only President Jacob Zuma who made it possible, not for the Muslims for South Africa, but he showed Muslim world,” Hendricks added.
He said that in spite of what he described as the betrayal of the Arab world, Zuma showed the world that a South African president will affirm solidarity for the people of Palestine. As a result of Zuma’s support for Hamas, Hendricks said that it should be expected that Zuma is to experience increased criticism.
“We have not come to pray for the ANC, we have come to pronounce our support of the ANC. We commit ourselves, strategically and collectively against the retrenchment of white-colonialism.”
Hendricks further noted that while the forefathers of South African Muslims hail from foreign lands, the Muslim community is “very much indigenised” into South Africa.
“We are not a foreign people that came as expatriates into this country. So, a Muslims we can proudly say in South Africa that president Jacob Zuma is my president,” he continued.
In his concluding remarks, Hendricks urged South African Muslims to acknowledge that their identity as South Africans is an integral aspect of their Islamic ethos. VOC