Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Prophet is remembered in Cape Town

Time for reflection. Mawlud 2017.

THE Ad Dai'rut us-Salihiyya Dhikr Circle, led by Hajjah Naema Manie, held their annual mawlud - the commemoration of the Prophet's birth - at the Ahmedi mosque in Victoria Rd, Grassy Park, Cape Town. 

The packed mosque was addressed by Shaykh Ziyad Fatar and Shaykh Muhammad Allie Khalfe, who both spoke about the noble aspects of the Prophet Muhammad and his life, which was one of clemency, mercy and respect for all. The riwayats - verses - of the famous Barzanji poem on the life of the Prophet were recited in the unique, melodious Cape Town style.

At the conclusion on the event, members of the dhikr circle traveled to the Madinah Institute Mass Mawlud being held at the Century City Convention Centre. Founder of the Institute, Shaykh Muhammad bin Yahya al-Ninowy, said that the Prophet was an "imam" for those lost, grieving or undergoing trial. "The Prophet, bless him, is a mercy for all," he said, adding that Capetonians should never abandon their tradition of reciting the Barzanji mawlud.

Hajjah Naema hands out roses, a sign of love.

The mosque was filled to capacity.

Yellow roses were favoured by the Prophet.

The elderly enjoy the occasion.

Commemorating the Prophet [saw].

Sh Ziyad Fatar.

The rows.

Hajjah Naema leads the recitation.


Sh Allie Khalfe.

Hajjah Naema.

Mustafa Atef from Egypt dazzled with his poetic voice.

A packed auditorium is reflected on the screen.

Reciting the Barzanji at Century City.

The Group presents Shaykh Ninowy with a specially baked  cake.

Sh Ninowy addresses the crowd.


 All photos copyright Shafiq Morton and Ad Dai'rat us-Salihiyya Dhikr Circle.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Historic visit to the Cape by Tuan Guru descendant

Sekretaris Muhammad Amin Faruq is re-united with his Tidorean ancestor after 127 years. © Shafiq Morton
HISTORY was made in the Cape this past month when a direct descendant of Imam ‘Abdullah ibn Qadi Abdus Salam (Tuan Guru), Sekretaris Muhammad Amin Faruq, toured the city together with the Sultan of Tidore, His Excellency Jo Hussain Abu Bakr Shah.

This was the first time that a delegation from Tuan Guru’s birthplace had ever visited the country. Sekretaris Faruq describes himself as the fifth generation from Sha’an Yughni, Tuan Guru’s third eldest son (of eleven), who was left behind in Tidore in 1779 when the Dutch exiled Tuan Guru to the Cape for political resistance.

Hosted by the Rakiep family, the delegation visited the Castle, the Slave lodge, the Awwal mosque, the Bo Kaap museum and parliament, amidst family functions and a symposium held at Islamia College. At parliament, the visitors were received by Minister of Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel, himself a descendent of Tuan Guru.

The historic visit was the culmination of decades of passionate, but largely unacknowledged research by the late Hajji Nur Erefaan Rakiep in locating Tuan Guru’s family in the eastern archipelago, and establishing his own family heritage.

According to Sekretaris Faruq, Tuan Guru is the grandson of Habib ‘Umar Rahmat al-Faruq, who left Cirebon in northwest Java in the 17th century for Tidore. It has been established that Habib Faruq was a descendent of Sunan Gunung Jati, or Sharif Hidayutallah, one of the Wali Songo, or nine founding saints of Java.

An examination of the family chains, though sometimes broken, do reveal that Tuan Guru (via Sharif Hidayutallah) could have been a Hussaini Sayyid, from the line of Zain ul-‘Abidin to ‘Ali al-‘Uraidhi from Imam Ahmad al-Muhajir, who trekked to the Hadhramaut in about 820 CE from Basra in Iraq.

It is believed that the offspring of Sayyid ‘Alawi bin ‘Ubaidallah, descended from the house of Imam Ahmad Muhajir, travelled to the Far East, Pakistan and India. Sharif Hidayutallah (died circa 1558 CE) traces his lineage through Sayyid ‘Abdullah Azmat Khan of India. 

There are no links of Tuan Guru to Morocco, which has been the result of a confused transcription of “Molluca” or “Maluku”, the sea bordering Tidore.

The climax of the tour occurred on a baking hot morning, 30 October, when the Sultan and Sekretaris Faruq visited the grave of their long lost island ancestor, for the first time, at the Tana Baru above the Bo Kaap. It proved to be a deeply moving, and poignant, reunion with many tears.

In an interview at the grave, Sekretaris Faruq said that the visit of the Tidoreans had been a historic moment, as for years, nobody had known where Tuan Guru was. He said it was interesting that Tuan Guru had been honoured as “Mister Teacher” in the Cape, as in Tidore he had been given the honorific title “Jo Guru”, almost the same equivalent, before his exile.

The Sultan of Tidore said that his visit had been inspiring. He said that when he returned home he would seek an appointment with the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, to get Tuan Guru declared a national hero in the same way that Shaykh Yusuf of Makasar and Prince Nuku – who’d both resisted the Dutch – had been honoured.

Shafiq Morton is currently researching a book on Tuan Guru entitled “The Life and Times of Tuan Guru” under the aegis of Awqaf SA.

His Excellency Jo Hussain Abu Bakr Shah (right) wearing the ceremonial yellow of the Tidorean sultanate.

When even the devil is ashamed: the ‘mufti-universe’ of sectarianism and the admonitions of Sinai

THERE is a story that the devil sits on a throne, and that each day all the demons report back to him. The reward for the one who has perpetrated the worst possible deeds on earth, gets a chance to sit on the devil’s throne and to boast. And because the devil’s court is a house of naked envy, all the other demons get jealous, and want to destroy the one on the throne.

So when the devil takes back his seat, the ‘victorious’ evil spirit finds itself thrown to the dogs of malice. The braggart that had previously enjoyed a few moments of notoriety – which he sees as fame – is soon set upon like a pack of hyenas, and forgotten.

A Sufi Shaykh, who passed on a few years ago, once said times had got so bad that even the devil himself was beginning to feel ashamed. A man of wit, even until the end, there is a definite barb in what the Shaykh said, as atrocity follows atrocity.

In our community, I have begun to wonder recently whether our own devil wears not Prada, but the self-imposed title of a ‘mufti’. Harsh, yes. But in a world of isms, especially sectarianism, anonymous local cyber gangsters – supporting a swarm of these ‘muftis’ – have been pouring hate, vitriol, and specifically polytheism and kufr, on a recently built Shi’ah mosque in Cape Town.  

Poor people are rooting in the dustbins outside their palatial homes, their brothers and sisters are crying for help in the townships, the youth are asking questions – and yet, these ‘muftis’ (there seem to be no women in their ranks) – blithely condemn others on  a manner of issues, and even regard them as a threat to their faith.

There are some serious questions here: firstly, if someone else’s beliefs are threat to yours, have you not considered that they might not be threat to mine?

Secondly, in traditional Islam, classical Ahlus Sunni Islam a mufti is an honoured position bestowed upon a learned elder by other learned elders, usually in the area of Usul ul-Fiqh, the understanding and application of Shari’ah. In classical Ahlus Sunni Islam, a mufti is a solitary title given to the most senior, experienced jurist in a city, or a country. It is, therefore, surreal that we should have so many ‘muftis’ in South Africa.

Thirdly, there is the irresponsible abandon with which things are declared forbidden in this ‘mufti universe’, this done without adequate legal argument, maslahah (the concept of social benefit) or consideration of valid opposing views – all pre-requisites of fiqh.

In addition. the willingness to indulge in takfir – in our case a blanket declaration of unbelief on others one disagrees with creedally, or even politically –  is another symptom of the ‘mufti’ disease, and contrary to the tolerant spirit of the Ahlus Sunnah. And in case ‘tolerance’ is seen as a weakness, Sayyidina ‘Ali – the fourth Caliph – once threw an orator out of the mosque when he failed the tests of a scholar.  

On the question of takfir, all the Righteous Caliphs, Sayyidina Abu Bakr, Sayyidina ‘Umar, Sayyidina ‘Uthman and Sayyidina ‘Ali were always very reluctant to declare unbelief. This tradition was carried on by the famous legal imams, Imam Malik, Abu Hanifah, Imam Shafi’i and Imam Hanbal, as well as Ja’fr al-Sadiq.

Consequently, the obsession by some to declare a newly constructed Shi’ah mosque a ‘temple’ and a ‘house of kufr’ is a case of blind intolerance. It is, tragically, symptomatic of the sectarian culture of takfir, which has so bedevilled the Muslim community in recent decades – and in no small measure, is thanks to the house of Sa’ud and the dangerously reductionist notions of Ibn ‘Abd ul-Wahhab.

Yes, Sunni and Shi’ah do enjoy differences; some present testing academic questions. Unfortunately, space does not allow for anything more than an acknowledgment of this, but we are not trivialising things. What is more important here is to consider the adab ul-ikhtilaf, the honourable manner of dealing with difference – recommended by all scholars, via the example of the Prophet.

The point is that traditional Ahlus Sunnah scholars, whilst expressing their academic concerns about Shi’ism, have never declared the Shi’ah as polytheists or kafirs, and for over 1,400 years have allowed them to perform the Hajj cheek-by-jowl with Sunnis.

Historically, scholars of the Al-Azhar – such as Shaykh Shaltut of the pre Sisi era – have regarded Shi’ism as another ‘madh-hab’, or school of thought. Anyone who is uncomfortable with this, is free to contest it with the tools of Islamic discourse.

In countries such as Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Yemen, Shi’ah lived peacefully with Sunnis for centuries until the dark clouds of 20th century sectarianism – introduced by the takfiri psychosis of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Da’esh – gathered on our horizon. And dwelling on, or bemoaning, Zionist-western backed conspiracies serves no purpose, because we are the people who have to deal with the curse of takfiri sectarianism.

As we know, its worst excesses have manifested themselves in Syria, Iraq and various eastern and western capitals at the hands of Da’esh. The recent Sinai massacre, shocking in its execution and brutally inhumane in its bilious justification, is but the most recent example of the bloodthirsty spleen of preaching hate and takfir in the name of God.

Our local ‘muftis’ and their anonymous acolytes – pouring petrol on the local Shi’ah community whilst waving a match – need to understand the consequences of their inflammatory and thoroughly seditious behaviour. The Sinai massacre, after all, is the tragic end-game of takfir – and if we don’t heed the warning now, we are all doomed.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The story of the two Sarahs – Saartjie Baartman and Saartjie van de Kaap

I HAVE been researching a book on Tuan Guru, Imam ‘Abdullah ibn Qadi ‘Abdus Salam of Tidore, one of our iconic historical figures at the Cape. What has emerged, so far, is that what we know is fragmentary, and that we have absolutely no details of his life before his exile to the Cape in 1780.

Despite this, a personality does emerge. It is evident that Tuan Guru – who described himself as ‘mazlum’ (the oppressed one) – was feisty enough to defy the Statute of India to hold the first jumu’ah (Friday prayers) in the Chiappini Street quarry, and to be a pioneer of education via the establishment of his madrasah (school) in 1793, five years before the founding of the Awwal mosque, the first in South Africa.

In searching for Tuan Guru, other characters such as Tuan Sayyid Alawi, Achmat van Bengal from Chinsura, Jan van Boughies of Long Street and Paay Schaapie – the kindly dervish with a calabash on his head – emerge from the shadows.    

Profound in this journey is just exactly how colonialism has marginalised the narrative of those not writing it. Archivally, it is often just a throwaway line, a quick derisory mention by a colonial official – or as in the instance of the Awwal masjid, a court case – that gives us the leads.

Being of their times, the accounts are also patriarchal. Women are rarely mentioned, and if they are, it’s fleetingly. The Slave lodge, a house of many horrors, became a glorified brothel and records show that not one person was ever convicted for the rape of a slave woman at the Cape.

So it is supremely ironic that I find two women – both Sarah, but called the Dutch diminutive ‘Saartjie’ – who play such a crucial, but disparate, role in our early history. Both lived at almost the same time, but their lives could not have been more different.

Saartjie van de Kaap is the daughter of Trijn van de Kaap, who married a manumitted slave, Coridon of Ceylon, a landowner. Trijn is most likely a compaction of ‘Katerina’. Despite not knowing her original name, we do know – via the archives – that after the death of her husband in 1797, Trijn owned four slaves and rented out property.

What’s noteworthy is that Trijn, and not a male family member, inherited Coridon’s landed estate. This indicates that Coridon (and Trijn) must have had knowledge of Islamic law allowing Muslim women – despite the paternalism of the era – to own property.

In her household was Ahmad van Bengal (registered as Job van Bengalen), and Tuan Guru’s most trusted associate, who had married her daughter, Saartjie. It was while the property was owned by Trijn that the Awwal mosque was established in 1798.

It is in her will of 1841 that we see her character. After Ahmad van Bengal passed on in 1843, and with the Muslim community beginning to fragment, she had the foresight – and courage – to request Imam Abdol Barrie (as opposed to one of her three sons) to be the imam at her funeral.

She appointed an independent advocate as the executor of her will, instead of her sons Mochamat, Hamiem and Saddik, who were – to her great hurt – planning the establishment of the Nurul Islam mosque.

In addition, her will stated that the property at 28 Dorp Street be used as a mosque by her descendants for as long as Islam remained at the Colony, and that conditional to this was that the property of the mosque never be sold, or mortgaged.

Indeed, not only was the first mosque in South Africa initially owned by a woman, Trijn van de Kaap, but also the first waqf in South Africa was decreed by her daughter, Saartjie van de Kaap.

From the triumphs of Saartjie van de Kaap we go to the trials of Saartjie Baartman, the most tragic symbol of the colonial era, and a victim of the grossest scientific racism in modern times. Born in the Gamtoos River area, and from the Gonaquasub clan, she allegedly ‘signed’ a contract with an English ship surgeon, William Dunlop, to go to England.  

Baartman’s large buttocks and enlarged pudenda made her the object of fascination by the colonial Europeans, who presumed that they were racially superior and that ‘negroid’ peoples were primitive and over-sexed like animals.

She was paraded in a cage like a circus animal, her vital parts covered by a cloth. Sadly, after her death in 1815 – due to a combination of alcoholism, syphilis, possibly pneumonia or smallpox and even heartbreak – two Khoi-San would be taken to Germany in the same manner in 1845, with two more being shown as ‘Bosjemans’ in a travelling circus in 1846.

Baartman attracted the attention of George Cuvier, a naturalist, who asked if she could be studied as a science specimen, when she was sold in France to an animal trainer. From March 1815 until her untimely death, Saartjie Baartman was prodded and studied by French anatomists, zoologists and physiologists.

Cuvier concluded that the young Gonaquasub woman was a link between apes and humans. Interestingly, Cuvier observes that Saartjie Baartman was actually an intelligent woman, with an excellent memory – especially faces. She spoke Khoi, Dutch, passable English and a smattering of French, and had a lively personality.

Cuvier even mentions that her shoulders and back were ‘graceful’, that her arms were ‘slender’, and that her hands and feet were ‘charming’ and ‘pretty’, yet – sadly – he is unable to break from the acculturated shackles of his racism, or even comprehend his grotesque contradictions. 

In every way, I would suggest that Saartjie Baartman and Saartjie van de Kaap are kindred sisters, spirits of our unrecognised history – one an icon, one a pioneer. It is said that no one chooses their destiny, but in the contrasts – and in the victories and in the supreme tests of their lives as women – we find meaning in what they represent that resonates even in today’s South Africa, from the wretched to the sublime.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The inquest of Ahmed Timol's death in detention, seeking the final truth

THE re-opening of the inquest into the causes of Ahmed Timol’s death in detention, 45 years after the fact, is most certainly a long-awaited constitutional triumph. However, with it comes tremendous pain, and the nightmares of an era when security policemen were licensed killers.

For me, it is a distressing story to write – as like so many – these shadowy men were once an integral, and unpleasant, part of my life. I was one of the lucky ones, though, escaping a certain Lieutenant Frans Mostert. He’d arrived at Lavender Hill High School, where I taught then, early one November morning in 1985.

Accompanied by three cars, a mustard coloured Colt Gallant, a box Toyota Corolla and a red vehicle (whose make I can’t recall), Mostert’s story to the principal that he just wanted to ask me “a few questions” was not convincing. I was warned and managed to avoid the reception committee.

This happened after the Security Police had been tailing us for some time, even detaining one of our comrades and beating him up at Maitland Police station. His “crime”? He couldn’t name a “blonde lady” in the group. In those days I had long hair and the “blond lady” was actually me. I was only identified later, and as an extremely minor activist, it seemed as if my time had come.    

I had a narrow escape from Mostert, but I still had to go underground. In those days you were guilty by association, and I was privy to the location of some buried AK47s that would not only have incriminated me, but others too.

Mostert had somehow got wind of this, and he’d become like a rabid dog. My fear of being detained, like everyone else, was real. By 1985 nearly 60 people had died in detention and we knew what the torturers were doing – especially at Culemborg, a disused shunting yard in Cape Town’s CBD.

Last week, mindful of the Timol inquest and the invitation to do a story, I put up a post on Facebook and re-visited the TRC files. After a few harrowing hours of going through testimonies, I grew angry. Very angry. I’d been reminded, again, of how few of these demented men had pitched up at the TRC.

The Facebook string was even more illuminating. We’ve really forgotten how many people were touched by the State of Emergency. The list of security Branch psychopaths increased with every post. This struggle narrative, the one of the rank-and-file, is one that must be told. 

And even for those high-profile victims – like Imam Abdullah Haron, Suliman Salojee, Steve Biko, Dr Hoosen Haffajee, Dr Neil Aggett and Ahmed Timol – there are also stories that still need to be told.  

So when Judge Billy Mothle of the Gauteng High Court ordered that all the surviving policemen (three out of 23) who were involved in the detention of activists Salim Essop and Ahmed Timol, be subpoenaed to testify, I cheered.

For John Vorster Square is not only responsible for the death of Timol, but six other activists too: Wellington Tshazibane, Mathews Mabelane, Samuel Malinga, Dr Neil Aggett, Ernest Dipale and Clayton Sithole.

The inquest – this time a proper one in response to findings and representations to the NPA by the Timol family – sits again later this month to further investigate claims that the police lied to mask the truth of Timol’s brutal killing in 1971.

Magistrate JL De Villiers, who sat on the enquiry, has been accused of ignoring key forensic findings in exonerating the police – who bizarrely claimed Timol, a teacher and member of the SA Communist Party, had jumped out a 10th story window.

It will be interesting to hear what these men have to say, almost half a century later, about the killing of Timol and the torture of Essop and so many others in a vault – called Die Waarkamer (the Truth Room) – in Room 1013.

“I will authorise the issue of subpoenas to all the police who were involved in the arrest and interrogation and detention of Mr Essop and Mr Timol. If they are still alive, I am authorising, through the NPA, to issue subpoenas,” said Judge Mothle, instructing the police commissioner to help the court.

Salim Essop, who was detained together with Timol and who is now an elderly figure, testified how 15 officers had taken shifts, beating him, pulling out his hair, electrocuting him, suffocating him and urinating on him. They did this to him for four days, whilst not allowing him to sit or rest. He was hospitalised after slipping into a coma.

He recalled having seen a hooded person being escorted by two policemen whom he assumed to be Timol, because of his clothes. Timol, he said, was in a terrible state, unable to walk unaided. Essop testified that due to their torture, no-one would have had the energy to jump out of a window.

Dr Dilshad Jhetam – who was detained because she knew Timol – was shocked, slapped, deprived of sleep and forced to urinate in her clothes. She recalled hearing Timol screaming in a nearby room, his screaming suddenly stopping on the third day of her interrogation. She said a female security branch officer had later told her “the Indian is dead”.

Almost five decades later, those words “the Indian is dead” are as spine-chilling as the dark day they were uttered. They help to remind us that we come from a sombre past – 300 years of colonialism and 46 years of apartheid – years hallmarked by structural violence and institutionalised racism. These are the ghosts that we have to excorcise. And as Nelson Mandela said on his release from prison: forgive, yes, but forget not. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Moon sighting Cape Town

The sun sets on Ramadan 2017, Sea Point, Cape Town.

IN SPITE of cold weather, thousands gathered at Three Anchor Bay, Sea Point, 
to look for the new crescent marking the end of Ramadan 2017. With the moon 
13. 5 hrs old and with a lag of 42 minutes for sighting, the crescent was not
seen. For the moon to be seen it has to be at least 16 hrs old with a sighting 
time of at least 45 minutes after sunset.

The moon was only visible in parts of western US and South America, in 
spite of countries like Nigeria, Australia and Saudi Arabia voting to celebrate
 'Eid ul-Fitr, the festival day marking end of the Holy Month. In the Qur'an 
it states that Muslims should begin the month with the sighting of the crescent, 
and conclude it with the sighting of the crescent.

The Crescent Observers Society, which has been sighting the moon in Cape 
Town for over 60 years, is the authoritative South African body for crescent 
observation. Qualified moon-sighters - or "maankykers" - also go to sight the 
moon in other parts of South Africa and report to the Hakim, Shaikh Seraj
Hendricks, in Cape Town before a decision is made for the whole country.

The moon-sighting for the end of Ramadan in Cape Town - unique because 
of the crowds it attracts - is a major media event, covered by radio, television 
and print internationally. Moon-sighting to determine the lunar Islamic 
calendar  is a practice dating back to over 360 years in Cape Town as Muslim 
slaves and political exiles were sent to the tip of Africa by the Dutch East India 
Company in the 17th century. It is said that the colonialists and the apartheid 
authorities could ban or restrict a host of practices, but not looking at the sky.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The big storm, Cape Town 7 June

Sea Point promenade, 3 pm, 7 June.
AFTER drought conditions for most of the summer and an unusually warm autumn, a massive storm from rumbled in from the Atlantic, slamming into the Western Cape - and Cape Town - with rare force. Gusts of over 100 kmh accompanied by torrential rain, gave relief but the cold added to the misery of those in informal settlements and on the streets. Further east, fires raged in places like Knysna. All signs of global warming, the general unpredictability of weather and other climatic factors. However, with the storm came 12 metre seas and chaos as a Spring tide caused a huge surge and spectacular imagery in places such as Sea Point.

A lone seagull tries not to fly backwards to Milnerton as Thermompalye maxes at 15 foot.

The boiler at Thermopalye is at the bottom of  that wave.

The tide starts to surge. 

Foam biking.

Beach Road gets slammed. It was later closed.

The foam runners.

The promenade, usually peaceful, gets violent.

Hard-core photographer in the eye of the storm.

Madiba's glasses get a short-sighted view of the storm.

The swell in Table Bay towards Milnerton. Note the size of the swells compared to the containers.

Slam dunk Sea Point.

Photos Copyright Shafiq Morton

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Ramadan terror is not in our name

BAGHDAD, Manchester, Kabul and London. Who knows who will be next? The headlines reflect unspeakable acts of terror against innocent civilians, some in the name of a now fragmented “Caliphate”, a so-called “Islamic state” in Syria and Iraq being smashed to pieces – militarily at least.

And as the IS group fragments, and its foreign fighters die on the battlefield – or slink back like whipped dogs to their home countries – the “War on Terror” industry stands to make trillions out of security, and inconveniencing airline passengers – especially Muslims who will be extensively profiled.

And as former IS foot-soldiers and acolytes commit atrocities in the capitals of the world in contradiction of every tenet of Islam, Muslims bear the brunt. Let’s be clear. The IS group does not represent Islam. To kill an innocent person in any faith is major breach of that faith. Islam is no different. Muslims do not condone the killing of innocent civilians.

And even if these terror acts may prove to be false flag operations in a world of burgeoning fake news, our response should be exactly the same. Bombing and killing in public places, burning people alive, intimidatory limb-chopping, enslavement, marital bondage and the execution of dissenting Muslims, has no legal precedent in Sacred Law.

Shari’ah – it’s lexical meaning is a watering hole – has been designed, say scholars, not just for the benefit of Muslims, but for all mankind.

The IS group is an apocalyptic, end-time cult – shamefully propped up at certain stages by certain Gulf countries, the US and even Turkey – for a mixed cocktail of political agendas in a destructive regional conflict. Sadly, the ugliest dimensions of this conflict have spilled over into the west, the west whom the IS group holds responsible for all the ills of our era.

Obviously, there are serious questions arising in the Muslim world such as a massive youth bulge, chronic unemployment, unending dictatorships, occupation, foreign meddling, a lack of economic growth, drone strikes and endemic corruption.

To this effect the IS group magazine, Dabiq, has called on “Muslims” to rise up with acts of terror against host governments outside of IS territory, saying that failure to do this – or to emigrate to the mythical “Islamic state” – would render one an unbeliever (whose blood would be halal).

But this is a naïve, uninformed and inappropriate response. Did the Prophet (s) ever say that two wrongs would make a right? Or that as believer, the means would ever justify the end? Or, that death was the very ethos of faith?

Indeed, the IS group has proved – that by supporting terror as a means to its end – it has nothing to do with Islam, or any genuine faith. The IS group might have been founded as a so-called “Sunni vanguard” against the lack of national reconciliation by former Iraqi leader, Nuri al-Maliki. But the IS group, Islamic? Never.

The IS group, initially a political response to a regional political problem caused largely by the Bush family, swept up recruits through a mixture of genuine social grievance, street-savvy social media and the emotionalism of manufactured religiosity.

In the hands of Hajji Bakr, the former Saddam Hussein Republican guard officer and the original engineer of IS, the group’s agenda mutated into an ad-hoc, pseudo-Islamic notion of neo-colonialism to gain revenge against political Shi’ism.

What has set the IS group apart from the neo-Wahhabi extremists that preceded it, such as Al-Qaeda, was the fact that for a while, it controlled large swathes of territory. It amassed billions of dollars by looting national treasures, violating historical sites, robbing banks and selling pirated oil to neighbouring countries.

As the Iraqi and other allied forces sweep up former IS held towns and cities, there is evidence that the IS group did run a “state” – of sorts – and that at certain levels it did reach limited levels of functionality. But that is all we can say. For how much of a state is a failed state?

The political vacuums of Syria, Iraq – and even Yemen – may not be our fault. However, the sad truth is that as a world community, rapidly becoming over-run by Trumpism and political dishonesty, nobody actually cares. It means that we as Muslims have to stand up and be counted amongst those who will not tolerate terror, lies and slander in our name.

In the same way that the odious trolls of Islamophobia such as Pamela Geller, Geert Wilders, Ayan Hirsi, Sheila Musaji, Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes and other racist shills consistently trot out their phobic nonsense online and on Fox, we have to be there as well – challenging with adab, good argument and common sense.

This means that we will have to repeat, over and over – and over again – that we do not support suicide bombings, crude jihadism, misogyny, discrimination against other faiths and injustice. We have to remind the world – and ourselves – that the IS group represents utopian madness; that what it does and says are all perversions, not only in our name, but in everybody’s name too.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Historic prayers at Cape Town castle

The Cape Town Castle, built by the Dutch East India Company is surrounded by a moat fed by Table Mountain streams.
Photos Shafiq Morton

NOT all is bad in post-apartheid South Africa, reeling from the shady and reckless rule of a profligate President Jacob Zuma who has sold off the country to the Guptas, a group of Indian-born businessmen from Uttar Pradesh.

Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta arrived in South Africa from Saharanour, India, sent by Shiv Kumar, their businessman father, to explore business opportunities in the country – something which they have done to the point of state capture and ongoing controversy.

The corrupt shenanigans of the power elites aside, Cape Town Castle – built in 1658 – was the scene of historic Friday – or Jumu’ah – prayers at the end of May. They were incorporated into a cultural pre-Ramadan festival held inside its walls.

What is significant is that the Castle, a corporate structure built by the Dutch East India Company, was where slaves (many of whom were Muslim) were incarcerated, tortured and even torn apart at the wheel.  During World War I and II, the Castle was garrisoned by troops, as it was during the apartheid era.

In 1994, on the dawn of South Africa’s first democratic elections, a group of Muslims involved in the 300th anniversary of the arrival of Shaikh Yusuf of Makasar – an Indonesian exile sent to the Cape by the Company in 1694 – prayed the post sunset prayers on its lawns.

This was a hugely symbolic moment, marking the first time after 346 years that Muslims were free to practice their faith in a place that once typified the arrogance of imperial and apartheid grandeur.

To top it, the Friday prayers were led by Mufti Ebrahim Khalil al-Awadallah, the Islamic legal authority in Ramallah on the West Bank in Palestine. As a Palestinian, the occasion was not lost on him. In a broad-ranging address, in which he condemned extremism, he said that Palestinians – longing for freedom from Zionist apartheid – often looked to South Africa for inspiration.

The Castle entrance.

Cape Dutch gable inside the walls.

The historic prayer in  April 1994, led by Shaikh Yusuf da Costa.
Shaikh Abdul Karrim makes the call to prayer.
Mufti Ebrahim Khalil al-Awadallah in prayer.
Mufti Ebrahim Khalil al-Awadallah
A large crowd attended the Friday prayers.
Mufti al-Awadallah addresses the crowd.
Second left Shaikh Ebrahim Gabriels Muslim Judicial Council and Ebrahim Rasool, former Premier and SA ambassador in Washington.

Women listen to the sermon.