Throwing stones in the war of terror
In the 1980s, whenever we had protests against the state (none of which had any legal protection), the police usually broke them up. When we organised these on university grounds, we sometimes had a degree of protection. The cops would then look for an excuse for attacking us. Often, they would claim that they waded in with their batons, rubber bullets and tear-gas because of “stone-throwing”.
It seems to me that the
I have repeatedly said over the past few years that the South African Muslim community has largely been cocooned from the attacks against Muslims in most parts of the world today; we have not really understood what Bush’s war of terror really means for ordinary Muslims. The Dockrat saga has suddenly and painfully brought that war into our front yards. We cannot, anymore, bury our heads in the sand about what it means or think just of our responsibility as being in solidarity with Muslims elsewhere; it is now here!
Perhaps it was to punish
The submission of the names was made in the context of a global climate of fear, where many Muslims around the world have been intimidated into silence, acquiescence or, even, collaboration. It is a climate where being Muslim, looking Muslim or sounding Muslim can easily carry uncomfortable (at best) consequences.
Most South African Muslims felt immune from this global climate. Not any more! Especially not after the US has announced it has more South African names to add to its list. And I doubt this is an idle threat. Of course, South Africans have not been completely immune from these experiences. Even our Department of Foreign Affairs is now complaining about South Africans being harassed, interrogated and deported from foreign airports.
As a community, South African Muslims must take principled stands on these issues. And the first principled position is that we will not remain silent in the face of injustices against anyone – Muslim or not. The Dockrats, therefore, deserve the support of the general South African community for as long as they are victims of such arbitrary actions by the US and anyone else. If there is no evidence (that is sustainable in court) produced that they are guilty of anything illegal, they must be regarded as innocent and our community must do whatever is necessary to attempt to protect them from the cronies of that Son of a Bush in the White House.
However, the difficulty about taking a principled stand is that it can become discomforting. It is in recognition of this that Allah says in the Qur’an: “Stand out firmly for justice… even as against yourselves, your parents or your kin…” (4:135). Allah advises us to do the right thing but also advises us that it will not be easy. And so too is it in this case.
I was recently discussing this issue with a friend, just before I delivered a khutbah on the topic. He asked me what I thought of the Dockrat listing but, before I could respond, added, “I think where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” I still insist that there must be proof of even the smoke. Besides, as anyone trying to start a braai knows, there does not have to be a fire where there is smoke.
But his comment brought back to my mind the stone-throwing excuse that the cops used in the 1980s. A problem at some of those protests was that there actually were people who threw stones at the police. Stone-throwing as a form of resistance has its place; a demonstration is not necessarily that place. Those that threw stones from within a demonstration and thus prompted the police attack often fell into one of three categories: agent provocateurs, ill-disciplined individuals or zealots.
All three of these categories exist in the Muslim community today and we cannot afford to concede ground to any of them. Certainly, there are agent provocateurs and spies even in our mosques. We should not be paranoid, but we should also not be naïve. And there definitely are ill-disciplined and over-zealous individuals in our community who will attract the worst attacks of the imperialists’ terrorist war on us, either ignorant or unconcerned of the consequences for the community as a whole.
We would often seek out the ill-disciplined and over-zealous in our protests and give them a good talking-to – or worse. Because in our demonstrations were also children, the elderly, the disabled, pregnant women, the slow-runners, the unfit… Unless they had agreed to be part of a stone-throwing mob and unless they had been informed of the consequences thereof, it was unfair and unjust to force those consequences on them.
We do have people in our community who are sympathetic to Al-Qaida and the Taliban; we do have people in our community who hold the same ideologies as those groups (who do not believe in human rights, who believe that men are superior to and in charge of women, who believe in an Islam that is intolerant of people of other faiths and even of other Muslims who do not agree with them, who believe that only they have the truth from Allah).
The question is: how do we deal with this phenomenon? Can we, as a community, allow such people to expose us to a war not of our choosing? Can we allow them to expose the weak among us to attacks without their being informed of this? Can we allow them to run rampant in our community, insisting that “the kuffar” must be killed (which, of course, includes our neighbours), that women must be locked up in their houses, that Muslims must overthrow all governments of the world and establish a khilafah (I wonder who will be the caliph)?
As much as I supported the first part of the government position on this issue (that they required credible and sustainable evidence) I think that their second part was equally correct: that if such evidence is provided and can be upheld in a court of law, then the government will have to act in terms of its legal obligations.
The Muslim community too, needs to consider how it acts in terms of its moral obligations. The “stand out for justice” verse, after all, implies certain moral responsibilities irrespective of who the other person is: Muslim or non-Muslim. Anyone that promotes injustice – whether an individual or a government – must be isolated by the Muslim community and dealt with in a fitting manner.