What was meant to have been a joyous and fulfilling end of Ramadan has turned into one of sadness and tragedy, as the Muslim community in Cape Town reels after a devastating and senseless attack at the Malmesbury masjid. On Thursday morning, two musallees at the mosque, 74 year old Ismail Bassa and Ziyaad Hidji, were stabbed to death by an unknown attacker, while they were spending their last moments of itikaaf. The assailant fled the scene and after a police chase, was fatally shot. Two other musallees were wounded in the incident.
Following news of the attack, the Muslim Judicial Council leadership, president Shaykh Irfaan Abrahams and deputy Maulana Abdul Khaliq Allie, immediately travelled to the mosque this morning to speak to the musallees and express condolences to the families affected.
“To our understanding, the worshippers were performing I’tikaaf (seclusion in the mosque). An unknown assailant entered the mosque in the early hours of the morning and joined the congregants in night prayer. From information received, the assailant looked very disturbed and intent on creating mischief,” said the MJC in a statement.
“Just after 3am, when the worshippers retreated to rest, the assailant attacked the imam first and then murdered the members who came to the Imam’s defense. After escaping from the masjid, some congregants gave chase before police attempted to apprehend the suspect. In a hostile attack on the police, the assailant was killed.”
The MJC has condemned the attack in the strongest terms.
“Islam is not a religion of violence and holds all life sacred. The character and nature of the Muslim community in South Africa has always been that of tolerance and respect and therefore, this reprehensible attack – that occurred on what is possibly the final day of Ramadan – has deeply shocked the community,” said MJC president Shaykh Irfaan Abrahams.
The ulema body has asked the community to allow SAPS and the HAWKS to complete their investigations before jumping to conclusions on the motive behind the attack.
“We hope that this is an isolated incident and we asking for calm in the community. We don’t want another xenophobia attack in the country. We are pleading for calm and to let the police handle it,” said Abrahams.
Former South African ambassador and ANC Western Cape member, Ebrahim Rasool, who joined the MJC at the home of the family, issued his condolences to the bereaved.
“Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un (from Allah we come and unto Allah we shall return). We we wish that they are granted highest place in Jannah and that they are rewarded for an I’tekaaf that was so tragedy ended,” he said.
Rasool said he was saddened that this incident took place against the backdrop of a contentious debate within the Muslim community on the Cape Accord, a document that reiterates the need for tolerance, understanding and compassion in the Muslim community, and which speaks against sectarianism.
“This is not the time to speak for or against the Cape Acord. This is a time when tragedy is in close ranks,” said Rasool.
The Claremont Main Road Mosque also sent its condolences to the family and urged the community to cooperate with the police.
“We call on conscientious Muslims to re-double efforts at promoting intra-faith harmony and to foster a local environment of adhab-al-ikhtilaaf and ta’awun – an ethics of disagreement and cooperation in the promotion of goodness.”
The Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa called on Muslims across the length and breadth of South Africa to unite around the values of peace, tolerance, compassion and mercy.
ANC Western Cape secretary Faiez Jacobs said president Cyril Ramaphosa had requested him to give his condolences personally to the deceased families and the Malmesbury community.
“He was shocked and horrified when he heard of the incident,” said Jacobs.
This attack comes just a month after another mosque attack in Verulam, KZN. It also takes place during, the Laila-tul-Qadr, the most sacred last ten nights of Ramadaan.
“Religious freedom is a constitutionally enshrined right in South Africa and needs to be respected and protected. In this regard we call on police and the provincial government to ensure security at all mosques across the province as the Muslim community prepares to celebrate Eid al-Fitr tomorrow or Saturday. There are 200 mosques that need to be secured to prevent similar attacks,” said Jacobs.