Home PodcastInayet Wadee The contemporary issues facing Muslims in South Africa

The contemporary issues facing Muslims in South Africa

by Salaamedia Intern

South Africa – The Muslim Community in South Africa has been faced with different issues on a social, economic, political and even religious level. While it is fine to have different views on a subject, the important thing is to come together and try and solve the issues at hand. 

Muslims in South Africa have already made their mark in the country. From the building of madrassas to mosques to other Islamic institutions. However, according to Dr Faisal Suliman, SAMNET Chairperson, despite establishing their presence in the country, they are still debating on trivial issues instead of focusing on the larger ones at hand. 

“The Muslim community from five cabinet ministers in Mandela’s cabinet to now, we’ll be lucky to have one or two Muslim members in parliament in the new election. Why is that important? Because the centres of power don’t listen to you from your WhatsApp groups, they don’t listen to you from social meetings at weddings and such. They listen to you when you are organised and present. We don’t have an office in parliament as a Muslim community. It is not a lack of funding.”


Muslims are lacking activists in the community 

The Muslim community are blessed in a sense that we are allowed to practice our religion freely. There are plenty of Islamic institutions in the country. That is not lacking. However, Muslims are lacking in the political and activism sphere.  There are not as many as there were in the past at least. Suliman has no issue with madrassas but believes more needs to be taught to the youth in terms of activism work.

“You don’t see our Muslim community, generally, taking up causes. Let alone Muslim causes. We just have to look at the silence and the empathy in South Africa related to what is going on in other parts of the Muslim world. We need to start teaching more activism I think we need to start teaching ethics from our madrassas and from our Muslim schools that you have to do things.”

The lack of activism work and just sending messages on WhatsApp has created a “comfort zone”, according to Mustafa Darsot , social justice activist. This comfort zone is extremely dangerous for Muslims to be in. Darsot made mention of the incident that happened in Leicester this year. The same can happen in South Africa and if we continue to be in this comfort zone, it will not end well.

“There are operatives here in South Africa because they are trying to stir things up. They’re importing nonsense from India into South Africa … We’ve been stuck in this, and we need to get out of that comfort zone. We need strong leadership, we need activism, we need people to get into the political sphere and that’s very important.”

Social media is being used by the youth for all purposes but not to spread awareness about important issues. However, it can also be used to rally influence for important issues and gain support for them. Darsot is convinced the youth is lost and they need to find their way. They need to become true activists.

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There is no unity amongst the Muslims and no one knows who to vote for

For a community to be strong, it needs to be united in their goals. There will always be people who have different opinions or ideas, but it is important for everyone to rally behind one idea. Due to all the splits in the Muslim community, there appears to be no Muslim voting bloc, explained Suliman. When there is so much confusion between Muslims on who to vote for, one must vote for the party they feel will best help them out, said Darsot.

“People must look at all political parties, for the simple reason, to see where they can make a difference. The first challenge to every South African Muslim or not is to see how that party can deliver for you. That’s what we need now and everybody is crying for service delivery.”


The Muslim privilege mindset must stop

During Covid-19, an incident occurred at the Cabana Beach Resort between Muslim guests and others when music was being played loudly while Jummah salaah was being read. The Muslim guests were granted permission to use a certain area at the resort for salaah. However, they went over the allocated time and thus, when activities at the resort resumed, it disrupted the salaah. While there were shouts that Muslims have a right to perform salaah, Darsot pointed out that such Muslim privilege needs to stop. He also raised a point on why they decided to read salaah at the resort when there are many mosques in the locality. 

“We resign ourselves to the Muslim privilege. We are so many, we dominate the resort at this time of the year so we must have our way. That Muslim privilege mindset must stop. People think we are in a utopia but we are a minority.” 

These actions then provide a perfect example for hate and radicalisation to take place in the community. In the end, it will only do more damage to the Muslim community. 


Focus on the main issues and leave the Aalims aside 

These days, many get drawn into the debates Aalims have between each other. The Muslim community have become split because one follows one Aalim and so they cannot associate with someone who follows another. Instead of heading forward, the community is regressing into times when marriages weren’t allowed because people were from a different clan or class, said Suliman. The only way forward is to ignore the issues between Aalims and not split up because of it. 

“I would have liked to say it would be good to reach a stage of political maturity where we say, okay there are differences on these issues but on political strategy, on getting together on a communal level, there should be cooperation. The level of cooperation to look beyond that doesn’t exist … It can only start by us saying no. Don’t get involved in moon sighting issues, in photography issues, all of these fights between Aalims. Put it aside. Start looking for the right things to do. We are here and we have to make it work because our children are here.”

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The role of the media 

The role of Muslim media is an important one in today’s society. There are many talks being held in the mosques regarding various things. The role of Muslim media is to bring alternative ideas and talks to the Muslim community, said Suliman. 

“The role of Muslim media to bring those alternatives thoughts and ideas is absolutely crucial. The Muslim media need to be empowered, need to be supported. Forget the small things.”


What needs to be done 

There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, especially from the youth. One thing Darsot would like to see is the youth getting more involved in activism work and using social media to benefit the community. 

“They are lost. They must understand we are not running anywhere. It’s your future. You guys have to wake up and join the activism and political sphere. Being that they are so social media conscious and savvy, they must use it to their advantage. Our youth must go into those opportunities. They need direction, they need leadership … Don’t restrict it. We need them to get everywhere.” 

Suliman firmly believes an activist mindset needs to be developed within our youth. If not through madrassas and Darul-Uloom, then it must be done through the Muslim media. It is the only way for the future generation to be part of the government and help to create a better future for not only the Muslim community but everyone at large. 

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