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Remaining vigilant of extremism in our midst

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The following is the Jumuah Khutbah delivered by Imam Rashied Omar from the Claremont Main Road Mosque on Friday 15th July. 

Over the past weekend we received the disturbing news of four people being arrested in Gauteng province in connection with charges related to planning acts of terror on South African soil in support of the so-called Islamic State of Syria and Iraq aka Da`ish (the Arabic acronym for ISIS or ISIL). On Monday 11 July 2016, 24-year old twin brothers, Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie of Newclare, appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrate Court on charges of terrorism.

On the same day two other siblings, 20 old Fatima and 24 year old Ebrahim Patel, from Azaadville, appeared in a nearby Kagiso Magistrate court on charges relating to the possession of firearms and explosives. According to police reports all four individuals had previously unsuccessfully tried to travel to Syria to join Da`ish.

While we need to wait for the outcome of the court proceedings in order to make a full judgement about the merits of these cases, this is not the first time that South African Muslims have been confronted with the prospect that some, albeit a small number, of our youth are being attracted to and recruited by Da`ish. The most notable South African link with Da`ish was the appearance of a man purporting to be from South Africa in a 2014 video released by Da`ish entitled, “Eid Greetings from the Land of Khilafah”.

In the video, he urges his South African compatriots to join Da`ish. This video was followed by reliable reports that a few South Africans have left our country to join Da`ish in Syria during the past two years. In April 2014 a group of 23 individuals from Roshnee, Vereeniging, were reported to have left for joining Da`ish controlled territories in Syria. In response, the Jamiatul Ulama of Gauteng convened a special conference in Roshnee in which they denounced Da`ish is a deviant group.

A year later, in April 2015, a 15 year old girl from Cape Town was pulled from a flight before trying to leave the country to join Da`ish in Syria. The girl was released into the care of her parents. In September 2015, South Africa’s State Security Agency, confirmed that eleven people, including three children, who travelled to Da`ish held territory in Syria earlier returned to South Africa, after being disillusioned with the group.

Their lawyer claimed that they had travelled to Da`ish held territory in Syria to support relief efforts. In April 2016, Bilal Cajee of Vereeniging, became the fourth South African believed to have been killed fighting on behalf of Da`ish. His death in Syria was confirmed by his family.

It is palpable that there is a crisis of extremism gripping the Muslim ummah, which we are not immune to and about which we cannot remain silent. As long as innocent lives are lost through wanton acts of violence committed by Muslim extremists, we have to keep stating unequivocally, that the sanctity of human life is a supreme value in Islam and nothing is worth the cost of a human life.

However much it pains us, we should never tire from asserting that the heinous acts of murder and violence by Da`ish and their ilk are dishonourable and betray any expression of faith in Islam. Their claim to act in the name of Islam is an aberration of our faith and we must therefore unswervingly proclaim loudly and unequivocally “Not in Our Name.”

While there has been a resounding and united condemnation of Da`ish from the local Muslim leadership and organizations across the spectrum, efforts to further rebut and engage their Islamic doctrinal roots through educational programmes remain scarce. It is my considered view that as a Muslim community we need to have more educational programmes that reach out especially to our youth in order to inoculate and immunize them against extremism and sectarianism.

As is evident from the young age of the individuals arrested on charges of terror last weekend, our youth remains Daish’s most vulnerable victims and we need help them understand the detrimental nature of their extremist ideology. The best way of doing so is by empowering them with a life-affirming, compassionate and more inclusive understanding of Islam.

This life-affirming message of Islam is eloquently illustrated in the following verse of the Glorious Qur’an of Surah al-Anfal, Chapter 8 verse 24, where Allah the Sublime, exhorts Muslims in the following manner:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا
O Believers,
اسْتَجِيبُوا لِلَّهِ وَلِلرَّسُولِ
Respond to the call of Allah, and the Messenger,
إِذَا دَعَاكُمْ لِمَا يُحْيِيكُمْ
Whenever Allah calls you unto that which will give you LIFE (Q8:24)

While we in South Africa may not have experienced the direct impact of extremist violence, we know that there are many within our communities who harbour support for some of the sectarian tendencies that fuel much of the extremist violence of Da’ish. It is these sectarian tendencies that we have to curb and challenge before it gains further traction in our communities

At this time, as conscientious Muslims and committed citizens of this country, we should lend our support to the South African government and its security agencies, to assist them in whatever way we can to avert any crime or attack by extremists of whatever stripe.

While we call on all South African citizens to remain vigilant we condemn attempts by agent provocateurs and information peddlers who mislead the public with spurious information which has no basis in facts. We should also continue to remain vigilant of those who use incidents like these arrests, to enflame Islamaphobia and tarnish all Muslims with the brush of extremism. We should lead by example and stand firmly alongside all our compatriots in our quest for peaceful co-existence, inter-faith dialogue, and compassionate justice for all.

Let us make a special supplication at this sacred hour of jumu`ah and ask Allah, the Most High, to bless our country and to protect all of our citizens from all kinds of calamities. We also pray that Allah, the Most Compassionate, leads us to ways of bearing witness to the noble teachings of Islam with moderation and in balance.

We especially pray for our youth – that Allah keep them in the company of good friends and bless their relationships with their parents and families. We pray for Allah’s rahmah – Compassion, Mercy and Tenderness – to be ever-present in our lives.

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1 comment

  1. To reverse extremism, the Saudis firstly, and then the Muslim world needs to abandon Wahhabite Salafism in favour of peaceful, Sufi-based, Sunni Islam.

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