South Africa’s major Islamic theological bodies have united under one banner to take a strong position against any form of religious intolerance and violence. This was the outcome of a teleconference amongst the ulema bodies this morning, in response to yesterday’s unprecedented attack on the Al Hussein masjid in Verulam, KZN, which left one person dead and injured two others. Amongst the bodies present were the United Ulema Council of South Africa, Jamiatul KZN, Jamiatul Ulama Gauteng, Muslim Judicial Council, Darul Ihsaan and the Sunni Ulema Council. The ulema bodies have expressed their concern at rampant speculation and aspersions on social media on what could have motivated the attack.
“Until the police have established the facts, we cannot accused any particular groupings or nationalities of this crime. This is causing dissension in the ranks of the Muslim community. We therefore call for calm and want to use the few days before Ramadan to be introspective and tolerant and respectful of each other,” said the MJC.
Muslims scholars are calling for an end to sectarian discourse that has surfaced since the incident occurred at approximately 14h30 on Thursday in the Durban suburb of Ottawa.
Speaking to VOC, the secretary general of the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), Shaykh Isgaak Taliep, said the ulama body condemned the attack in the strongest of terms.
“This morning, inshallah, we have a arranged a national teleconference with all of the ulama bodies throughout the country so that we can deliberate around this particular matter and put particular measures in place.”
“For us as a Muslim Community, [we] need to do some introspection and I would also caution our community not to make irresponsible statements [on what the motivation could be],” said Taliep.
In a statement, the MJC described the act as “so violent and repulsive in nature” – and unprecedented in South African history.
We further condemn the senseless killing of innocent individuals at the centre. Life is sacred and must be preserved and protected. Whether it is a mosque, synagogue, church or any other sacred place of worship, the space must be protected at all costs. Such a heinous act cannot be allowed to be repeated. We remind South Africans that the makeup of our society is one of religious, cultural and ethnic diversity and tolerance. These qualities are what makes South Africa so unique as a country. We should make every effort possible to preserve our uniqueness and diversity from ALL forms of threats. We call upon the South African Police Services (SAPS) to do the necessary criminal investigations, so that the perpetrators can be brought to book and face the full might of the law – MJC president Shaykh Irfaan Abrahams
Maulana Fuzail Soofie of the Habibia Soofie Masjid in Westville, Durban, believes the attack is an isolated incident. Soofie said the Muslim community of Durban does not have a history of tension between different sects.
“In reality there has been no tension between minority groups and the rest of the community…so this is what we would we call an isolated incident in terms of the history of KZN.
“Although there are differences of opinion that people will talk about, but that has remained at that level only. This has taken everybody by surprise simply because it’s not something thought of being perpetrated by our local Muslims in terms of fueling sectarian comment.”
Meanwhile, local religious bodies such as the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa, Ahlul Bait Foundation of South Africa and civil society organisations such as the South African Muslim Network (SAMNET) have added their voices.
The Jamiatul Ulama South Africa together with the United Ulama Council of South Africa (UUCSA) said the attack is not an act of sectarianism, but an unjustifiable act of violence.
“We condemn these acts of violence which foster nothing but tension, mistrust and insecurity within communities,” said Jamiatul Ulama spokesperson Maulana Ebrahim Bham.
Ml Bham says people must not assume that the attack was part of sectarian violence.
“So the moment we make examples and we start using the aspect that this has happened in Pakistan and other places, we might be giving an impression that this is necessarily so.”
While the motives for the attack is unknown, there is no shred of evidence that the gruesome encounter was an act of sectarian violence and urged the communities must refrain from labeling it as such.
Ml Bham said they hope the authorities will act swiftly in investigating the matter, apprehending and successfully prosecuting the suspects involved in the attacks.
The motive for the attack is unknown at this stage. The Hawks have taken over the investigation.
The South African Muslim Network (SAMNET) said its essential that the perpetrators be arrested alive so that the exact reason for the attack is discovered during their interactions with the justice criminal system. SAMNET chairperson Dr Faisal Suliman appeal to the media and public not to speculate about the cause of the attack as it may not necessarily be religious, political or sectarian.
“Speculation and innuendo may have dangerous unintended consequences and is unwarranted. The South African Muslim community abhors this sort of violence perpetrated at any religious institution,” he said.
“Our condolences to the families of the bereaved and we pray for the speedy and complete recuperation on the injured. No religion preaches nor condones any act of violence on any innocent person and perpetrators of suchh violence must not claim nor be given any religious legitimacy.”
VOC 91.3 fm