The Department of State Security’s announcement that a 15-year old Kenwyn girl, harboring intentions to join the radical Islamic State (IS) in Syria, was intercepted over the weekend has sent shockwaves through the local community. The incident has raised concerns over potential radicalization of Muslim youth in South Africa, and whether recruitment cells may be operating within the country.
Prof. Suleman Dangor of the Islamic Studies department of the University of Kwazulu-Natal said the case mirrored a trend of young Muslims reacting to the political situations within majority Muslim countries.
“They [youth] are angry with the fact that the US, Britain, France and so on are killing Muslims, and they are also very disillusioned with Muslim rulers. They get easily influenced via social media, as has been seen in the case with this girl, believe that they have to go and join this so-called jihad,” he suggested.
This however would not pose a threat to peace and stability within the South African context. Dangor said the country’s lack of involvement in conflicts within the Middle East, gave little reason for the country to become of such retaliation.
The rise in support for IS has brought about questions as to why so many Muslim youth have sought to align themselves with such radical causes. Much of the rhetoric has linked this rise to a strong ‘propaganda machine’ on the group’s part, enabling them to attract people to a goal of establishing and expanding a self-styled Islamic caliphate.
“For many Muslims, especially those disillusioned with what’s happening in the Muslim world, the caliphate is the solution. The belief is that once the caliphate is established all the problems will vanish. This romantic idea of a caliphate is very appealing to these people,” he noted.
Dangor was extremely doubtful that any of the country’s Islamic institutions could be considered a ‘breeding ground’ for radicalization, as has been the case in other Western Muslim minority populations. However, to tackle any potential radicalization of the youth, he said it was imperative the local Ulema use their voice to try and convince young people to stay clear of such activity.
“There should be anti-propaganda campaign on behalf of the Muslim community here in South Africa, to ensure the young people don’t get easily influenced, or try to make their way to Syria to join ISIS,” he added. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)