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Samnet tackles bad Muslim perceptions

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The South African Muslim Network (Samnet) held a meeting on Tuesday evening, to discuss the seemingly negative manner in which Muslims have been portrayed by the local and global media. The meeting came on the back of several issues that have further deterred the reputation of the global Muslim community. One of these are the actions of the Islamic State (IS) group in Northern Iraq and Syria, which have done little to repair an already fragile Western image of the Muslim population.

The current debate has been compounded by a Facebook post from ANC Youth League (ANCYL) member, Affan Sosibo, who expressed frustration at the “weakness” of the Muslim community that had been so active and influential during the Apartheid struggle. Sosibo’s online rant was in relation to the public discourse around the conflict in Gaza, the worst violence seen in Palestine in years.

“Muslims and Jews are really frustrating me now. Jews are so frustratingly powerful. While the SAJBD was demanding a meeting with the ANC, Jewish tycoons were meeting ANC fundraisers, and Jewish intellectuals like Paul Trawhela, David Saks, Saul Dilowetz et al wrote more than fifty pro-Israel articles and bold editorials in News24/7, Politicsweb, the Star and INEWS,” he wrote.

“The Muslim Judicial Council issued one statement congratulating the ANC for condemning Israel and that was it! Muslim tycoons (The Surves, Mias and Abramjees et al ) were too busy tweeting about how good is the weather, how clean are the beaches and how much fun they had at last night’s dinner function. Muslim intellectuals, were nowhere to be heard in the public discourse. (credit must be given to Ebrahim Fakir for his occasional anti-ANC outbursts). Even Hindus are taking shots at Muslims. Just read the POST and Sunday Times EXTRA and you will find that 99% of good stories are about Hindus and 99% of negative stories are about Muslims.

“The Muslims are sinking so low to a point that in the next decade they will be a pariah community in their own country. How a community that contributed so decisively in the struggle for freedom and became architectures of our constitutional and judicial system in the early stages of our democracy can be so weak and irrelevant is really puzzling.”

Samnet chairperson Dr Faizal Suliman, in response to the post, said it was an indictment and a poor reflection on the Muslim community.

“It is also a stark wake up call for some regarding the manner in which the mainstream media portrays Muslims,” he said .

He acknowledged that despite the size of the local Muslim population, most were not openly active in speaking out against such negative portrayals of the religion. At the same time however, he was also critical of the fact that the local media often overlooked positive Muslim related stories.

Thursday is set to mark the 13th anniversary of the horrific 9/11 attacks on the twin towers, and the occasion comes as the IS continue to make global headlines for their brutal campaign to expand their self declared ‘Islamic caliphate’. With this in mind, Suliman suspected the media would likely have a field day with their reporting.

“We’ve written about 9/11 in different contexts and aspects, other than the justification of the war on terror that followed. We don’t get that at all, and I’m sure tomorrow it is going to be the IS as the backdrop of the new 9/11 narrative or the continuing 9/11 narrative,” he suspected.

According to Suliman, the community had a tendency to delegate the issue of speaking up towards Muslim organizations, instead of raising their own voice. He suggested a lack of understanding as to just how influential the community, most notably business owners, could be.

“I think we need to start learning to speak out from a position of strength,” he said.

“Perhaps we shouldn’t be relegating it to one or two organizations, but rather using our own spheres of influence.” VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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