In light of growing confusion about the South African National Qur’an Councils (SANQC) 11th Regional Qur’an competition, organisers have confirmed that the competition will take place as planned. While the competition was for the past two years hosted at the Nizamiye Masjid in Midrand with the full cooperation of the Saudi Arabian Embassy and the Saudi Arabian Religious Attaché, SANQC on Thursday evening released a statement indicating that the Embassy wished to relocate the event.
SANQC said that on 22 July 2016, it was informally contacted by the Religious Attaché that the Turkish ambassador lodged a complaint with a Saudi counterpart in protest of the Saudi Embassy hosting the competition at the Nizamiye masjid. According to SANQC, the Religious Attaché, speaking on behalf of the Saudi Ambassador instructed the organisers to relocate the competition, threatening to retract funding if its instruction is not respected.
It was believed Shaykh Maher Al Muayqili would attend the South African National Quran Competition, as announced by Shaykh Abdurahman As-Sudais, the imam of the Masjid-al-Haram,on his Facebook page on Wednesday.
Given the logistical difficulties to relocate the competition at such short notice, a meeting was subsequently hosted on July 24, 2016, between the SANQC Shura Council and two representatives of the Saudi Embassy, including the Religious Attaché.
SANQC, however, says that the Saudi representative’s treatment and overall conduct during the meeting was unacceptable, describing it as “defamatory and condescending.”
“The religious attaché insisted that he knew the dynamics of the South African Muslim community better than the South African ulama and that we relocate the competition to resolve their diplomatic dispute with Turkey. He suggested the use of the local masjid would be sufficient for the competition and that the entry to the competition should be restricted to a select invitation list and not allow the general public to attend. The religious attaché proceeded to threaten that the Saudi Arabian Government has money and the authority to allow and/prevent the imam’s visit,” said SANQC in an official statement.
In response to the Embassy’s requests, SANQC advised the Religious Attaché that the South African Muslim Community is able to operate and support its religious responsibilities independently. Given the Embassy’s threat to deny the imam of the haram’s presence at the event, SANQC indicted that that “the hearts and homes of South Africans are always open to the Ulama of Saudi Arabia.”
“We wish to record that the reason behind the imam not attending has nothing to do with venue of the masjid, but rather the result of the ulterior motives and agendas of certain individuals, both local and foreign,” the statement read further.
“SANQC has possession of sufficient evidence of the conduct of and identities, foreign and local, involved in their attempts to sabotage and falsely malign the SANQC and its senior ulama members in a bid to prevent the Qur’an competition from being held.”
SANQC further notes that the organisation will not allow the Qur’an to be used “as a pawn in any context, political or otherwise.”
The Saudi embassy could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Speaking to VOC News, SANQC representative Maulana Sulayman Patel confirmed that despite the events that has transpired between the organisation and the Saudi Arabian Religious Attaché, the competition is not postponed and the venue has not been changed.
The event commences at 8.30am and ends at 9.30pm at the Nizamiye Masjid, Midrand. VOC will broadcast the event live on Saturday evening from 6pm till the conclusion. VOC