Johannesburg – An article by Sunday Times journalists has pointed the finger at foreign nationals in South Africa for funding the Islamic State (ISIS).
The article makes mention of foreign nationals setting up shops and funnelling the money to ISIS as financial aid. Attorney, Nadeem Mohammed, has handled many of these cases of foreign nationals allegedly funnelling money to ISIS. In his experience not once has the courts been able to prove any such action.
“I have represented many people within the country who have been accused of this financial aid issue and it is something that it is a narrative that this state is so unbelievably desperate to show to the people that it’s actually happening in South Africa. To my current knowledge and the matters that I’ve been involved in, there is not a shred of evidence that they’ve actually been able to show that money has been sent from South Africa to any other organisation abroad or within Africa for purposes of financial aid.”
Hawala transfer system being used to fund ISIS
It is estimated that around R6 billion has been funnelled to ISIS from foreign nationals and others who are ISIS sympathisers. They claim the money has been transferred using the Hawala transfer system which is used all over the globe. Mohammed believes this notion is unwarranted as not every transfer made using this system is to fund ISIS.
“Six billion to be honest with you is probably somewhere around 20% of the actual figure if you’re talking about Hawala just generally speaking. It is a massive, massive underworld economy on its own. Just because there’s money transferring out of the country that automatically it is now to support and to aid terrorist organisations like ISIS.”
For Dr Ahmed Haroon Jazbhay, Executive Member at Media Review Network, the main question is how did the journalists acquire these figures? The Hawala system is notorious for having minimal to absolutely no records on money transfers.
“There are foreign nationals involved in money laundering through the Hawala system, but this doesn’t necessarily imply that that money is going towards ISIS. We need to unearth the story behind the methodology that is involved in coming to these figures of R6 billion.”
Kidnappings fund ISIS
Also mentioned in the article, is that kidnappings fund ISIS. Rich families are being targeted with the ransom money being transferred to ISIS to fund their operations. According to Mohammed, this isn’t the case as from his own experience these kidnapping syndicates actually work alongside the South Africa police force.
“Kidnappings as it is currently in South Africa is being done by syndicates which are actually police officials and active police officers. In one case every single one of the kidnappers that were arrested were sergeants or captains … It’s a criminal act it doesn’t necessarily just automatically have to do with ISIS.”
Countering Islamophobia in South Africa
Dr Haroon Jazbhay believes the articles are just a way to stir up Islamophobia in the country. That there is a hidden entity behind all of this is not far-fetched. The journalists are either willing or being used as pawns to create these tensions in our country. It is now up to Islamic institutions to teach the youth how to counter these allegations, says Jazbhay.
“It’s very important that educational programs in our communities from the most impoverished communities to the most affluent communities to madrasas to schools to universities and so on implement programs in order to deal with countering this narrative … There must be some sort of effort to ensure that the Muslim community is now in a position to counter this Islamophobic narrative and the Islamophobia industry.”
Somalian, Ethiopian, and migrant community
The Somalian and Ethiopian community have been pointed out by the journalists as one of the biggest contributors to ISIS. For Mohammed, these people are prominent business members who have contributed vastly to the economy of South Africa and are operating legally in the country.
“The Somalian and Ethiopian community have probably invested somewhere collectively in the region of about, over the last five to ten years, somewhere in the region of about R350 million in the country. They all have valid and legal business permits. They all have either corporate or very successful retail businesses within the country.”
Gayton Mckenzie, President of the Political Alliance, has suggested that illegal foreigners are funding ISIS. He is backed up by the three journalists who claim they have evidence of this as well. Dr Vusumuzi Sibanda, Chairperson of the African Diaspora Forum, has called for them to provide this evidence as well as show proof of how they traced the money.
“If they could give us a trace. Exactly that shows the money leaving South Africa from traders in the township is actually headed towards supporting terrorism, that would really help.”
Banking vs other methods of money exchange
One of the biggest issues facing business owners is opening bank accounts because of the documentation that is required. It is for this reason business owners don’t bank their money and send some of it home.
“How do they really propose that they will show that this money is going to terrorism? If that is happening, we are unhappy about that. And we are not even saying it is not happening. Because we are not going to speak for those people that might be committing crime. But what we are saying is if there is crime it should be brought to light. Not to simply say we have got the evidence, but it’s not brought to light. It’s actually creating a lot of hatred between migrants and native South Africans.”
There are a lot of allegations which all lead to the Islamic and migrant communities. Such allegations only serve to cause tensions. Both groups have called upon the journalists to release the evidence they claim they have in an attempt to get to the bottom of the situation. Julie Allie spoke with Dr Vusumuzi Sibanda, Chairperson of the African Diaspora Forum. Listen to the interview here.