A South African Muslimah's Blog

Constructing Identity: Loud Whispers, Lasting Echoes

Xenophobia May 24, 2008

Filed under: islam south africa xenophobia — Safiyyah @ 4:23 pm

As waves of violence wash across South Africa, our country is once again plunged into that bottomless pool of oppression…

Allah says in Quraan: “And what is wrong with you that you fight not in the Cause of Allah, and for those weak, ill-treated and oppressed among men, women, and children, whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from You one who will protect, and raise for us from You one who will help”

The victims have become the victimizers.
History is repeating itself, in acts of shocking discrimination and violence.

I cannot help but feel dread and fear for those foreigners that I know in S.A, the domestic worker who used to help me around the house, the gentleman who tends my parents garden, and so many others, who fled their lands, to escape war, poverty, starvation and disease.
Fled to what? The hellish nightmares of their pasts reignited!
What will become of them?

What have these people done, to be looted, shot, burned and beaten to death? Just like me, and some of you, they left their homes in search of greener pastures. The money they earn supports not only them but extended families in their mother countries. It is the backbone of their existence, but survival has become a dangerous sport…

Whilst reading the array of online articles on the events following the attacks, one common accusation repeats… “South Africans prefer to employ foreigners because they can pay them low wages and exploit them” At first, my mind rebukes this, but then I think about it, and sadly, I realize this is true, and particularly rife in our own communities.

I recently watched a documentary by AIM on the role of Muslims during the Rwandan genocide, and Subhanallah, I was proud to see that the small (0.3%) Muslim population fought AGAINST the genocide, giving shelter and protection to their fellow human beings, regardless of tribal affiliation. The director of the documentary commented afterward “Whilst those who took sanctuary in the churches died, those who went to the masjids, lived!”Let us follow in their footsteps, brothers and sisters.
Let us reflect on the underlying prejudice that plagues us, and once and for all, “exorcise” the racist demons within us. Let us admit that all South Africans contribute to the escalating state of chaos in our country, some through violence, and others through exploitation, and majority through indifference.

Being so far away from it all, I feel helpless to do anything, but I trust that the large and more than able (financially and physically) Muslim community will not let any foreigner, in their employ, acquaintance or bidding go unprotected.Let us not repeat the legacy of Apartheid, that the greater numbers of South African Muslims are simply bystanders, and have a “sit and watch”, “look after our own interests” attitude.

The challenge is now for our masjids, to open its’ doors and our hearts, in an hour of need. I wonder, will the masjids address this issue? Will they use it as an opportunity to build bridges with the large Somali, Malawian, Bengali, Pakistani and other foreign congregants? Or will we sweep it under the carpet, and pretend it doesn’t exist, for fear of becoming embroiled in political turmoil, forgetting that religion and politics go hand in hand? Will the masjids engage with the migrants and give them a platform to voice their stories too, or will they remain just the muadhins, cleaners and caretakers of the masjids?

Isn’t it ironic that the migrants are flocking to government buildings and police stations, when the House of God should be a first option? But how will they come, if they are not invited? Call me an opportunist but I see this as a unique channel for da’wah, by extending ourselves to all persecuted people, by reaching out towards our common humanity, we will set a lofty example, for practice is a far better teacher than theory.

Remember the Negus? That Benevolent Christian African king who harbored OUR Muslim brethren when they were being persecuted?
Remember Bilal, the Abyssinian, the first muadhin of Islam?
Remember Mariah, the Coptic, who gave our Prophet (PBUH) a son Ibrahim?
How shall we repay these debts?

Verily, those who believed, and emigrated and strove hard and fought with their property and their lives in the Cause of Allah as well as those who gave (them) asylum and help, – these are (all) allies to one another. (8:72)

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