Despite the fact that the year 2014 has caused many South Africans to lose some hope in the country’s future, Imam Rashied Omar says reconciling with fellow citizens will be the key to a prosperous future. Twenty years after the advent of a completely democratic republic of South Africa, Omar believes it is only the hope and faith of citizens that will turn around the despondency of so many of his countrymen and –women.
“As people of faith we always have to keep the lamp of hope alive; so that no matter how dire things are we can always believe in the human spirit. That [is] one of the key narratives of South African history, as well as an imperative of the Qur’an, that after hard times there will be ease.”
He said that reconciliation must be understood to be a long process, one that may lead many to give up along the way.
The past year has also seen tensions between members of the international Muslim and Christian communities flare up again, as was the case with Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in the Middle East, where Christians have been persecuted in the name of Islam by groups acting as self appointed representatives of the global Muslim community.
“Relations between Muslims and Christians and Muslims and other religions, is an important part of the teachings of Islam, that we need to live in peace and harmony, and that people have the right to choose different religions. In Nigeria Boko Haram have been attacking Christian settlements and in the Middle East ISIS has been persecuting long-standing Christian communities. Of course we do not condone this behaviour; we need to say that the large majority of Muslims do not agree with their behaviour.”
Omar said during the festive season Muslims should try to become closer to their Christian compatriots, to ease into the new year without friction between the two religions.
“I would like to ask Muslims to, at this celebratory time for Christians, reach out and try to heal the misunderstandings that may have resulted from the sensationalist media [reports] on these events,” Omar urged. VOC (Andriques Che Petersen)