Home PodcastInayet Wadee Islam, Qatar and Islamophobia in Universities in South Africa

Islam, Qatar and Islamophobia in Universities in South Africa

by Salaamedia Intern
Qatar has handled the World Cup pretty well but it must take responsibility for its treatment of migrant workers Photo Freepik

World – With the FIFA World Cup taking place in Qatar, a Muslim country, it has been placed under a microscope. Every issue, no matter how small it is, has been magnified. Qatar, to its credit, has so far handled the event very well and has also exposed the hypocrisy of the West.

Islam and Muslims have always been put on trial by the West. With Qatar hosting the World Cup, it has been easy for the West to try and paint Islam in a bad light as it always has done. Since the Spanish conquest of Granada, the West have been trying to paint Islam in a bad light, explained Dr. Quraysha Ismail Sooliman, Program Director at the Center for Mediation in Africa at the University of Pretoria. 

“From that time this narrative has been spun that Muslims are different. They’re the wrong religion and so that contest between Islam and Christianity began that many years ago. In each time the modern Western state that has evolved and developed was underpinned by its capitalist ideology and has sought to find an enemy in each instance to target. They do this and they utilise this propaganda in order to harness the support from the local constituencies to drive the racist ideology that underpins the Western modern state and that is the racist ideology of white supremacy. They find an enemy in order to deviate the attention of their constituencies and citizens in order for them to continue their exploitative nature of what their state and their ideologies demand.”

White supremacist ideology perpetuates the ideology that one is superior over everyone else. The superior’s rules and laws must be followed by the inferior and accepted as universal. However, there has been an awakening by the South and people are finally releasing their worth, their values and their own traditions, said Sooliman.

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Islam, Qatar all under the spotlight 

The Qatari government has made it very clear from the onset that their laws, traditions and religion will be respected and adhered to. Sooliman admires just how staunch and firm the government has been. Those who believe Western ideology is best have been shocked by Qatar and their ways.

“I think people with this ideology and understanding the West is best and that Western liberalism is the only ideology have been shocked. They’ve been confronted by this and no other Muslim country has really done this to them before. It is fantastic. If you look at how the opening stadium was inaugurated, it was with Surah Ar-Rahman. People have said that as you enter Qatar, you are greeted with large billboards that have the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). There is still that same demeanour inside the country where women are respected. The modesty is clearly there. You can see it. They have not allowed for the lewdness. They have not allowed for alcohol to come into their country, in an open display where you’re having drunken people trashing places.”

Qatar has also taken the World Cup as an opportunity to spread Islam. They have invited prominent scholars like Dr Zakir Naik and others to be in their educational centers to give talks in an effort to spread Islam. To teach and explain Islam to all who want to listen. For this, Qatar must be congratulated and admired, said Sooliman. 


The treatment of migrant workers in Qatar

While Qatar has kept firm on their beliefs, traditions and cultures, they are not without fault. Leading up to the World Cup many newspapers reported on the treatment of migrant workers in the country. These are aspects of the country that must be worked on and Sooliman believes they will.

“In all of this, despite the fact that they have been unapologetic, you must realize that Islam doesn’t have where you take some and you leave some. The fact of the matter is that a light has been shown on them with regards to migrant lives and exploitation of workers. It is problematic and I really hope that the Qataris will now seriously address these situations. They’re a very wealthy nation. Just increasing the minimum wage of these migrant workers won’t make them poorer and it won’t even prevent investment from coming to the country. People are desperate to invest in Qatar. Perhaps they can be the one light that we can look up to and say look, they’ve realised their shortcomings, they’ve noticed their mistakes and they’ve put into place things that need to be fixed.”

One must also take into account the reports from the West, the United Nations and the Middle East all differ with regards to the treatment of the migrants. Whether the number of deaths and treatment of migrants is exaggerated or not, Qatar prides itself on being an Islamic nation and as such, they should hold themselves true to the values of Islam, explained Sooliman.

“There is a problem. The extent of which we don’t really know. The media is so slanted and so skewed. The propaganda that’s coming out is so full of disinformation. If you look at the story written by Western mouthpieces and then you look at what is being released in terms of the Middle East newspapers, it’s two different stories all together. The numbers don’t match from both sides as far as the humanitarian organisations that are reporting. The UN is more suspect. We have to take everything with a pinch of salt but we do recognize that there is a problem and this problem needs to be addressed because Qatar claims to be unapologetically Muslim with particular values and traditions which they say they uphold. Then they need to uphold also the very basic fundamentals that were taught to us by the Prophet (SAW) that is that you be just to your workers. That you be just in other issues.”

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The hypocrisy of the West is being unveiled

According to Sooliman, Qatar was the best choice to host the World Cup as they are now opening the eyes of people from around the globe. Showing them what Islam truly is all about and not what Western media has portrayed it to be.

“They’ve upheld their values on the one hand and they’re doing their best to be hosts and to welcome their guests. For the most part, if you look at it, the majority of the world’s population have been indoctrinated by the media and by their governments into believing something about Islam which it is not. To believe the entire world’s Muslim population is like that 0.1% that is extremist. This has been the best opportunity for them to experience Islam and to come into contact with Muslims on a day-to-day basis to simply understand what Islamic culture is all about and perhaps to start asking the questions about what Islam is.”

Sooliman also gave credit to citizen journalists for their work of showing the world exactly what is happening in Qatar. She believes that without them, the media would not be able to tell the world whatever they pleased.


Islamophobia in South African universities 

During the course of the year, Muslims at the University of Pretoria were forcibly removed from their prayer room. The student’s prayer room was taken away from them. They followed due procedure and were even silenced after Susan Adendorff, Director Facilities Management at the University of Pretoria, held a meeting without the students present, explained Sooliman.

“Susan Adendorff called for a meeting with somebody outside of the university space and said that she didn’t want the students to be present. Now how does a university, where its constituency is the students and the students are paying the fees, say that it wants to talk about a particular issue that is directly related to the students but does not want them present? When I said right at the beginning of this year this was directly from the Apartheid template, this just put the nail in the coffin to prove that I was right. Apartheid was also about speaking on behalf of. Never giving the voiceless their own voice. Never letting the voiceless articulate with their own voice and this is what she has done again.”

There has been no communication between the university and the Muslim Students Association (MSA) up till now. They have also failed to find an accommodation for the students to perform their prayers. A survey taken by the MSA showed that at least 96% of them “feel that they have been totally disenfranchised and discriminated by the university by the removal of the Muslim prayer facility”, said Sooliman.

Adendorff refused the Muslims students to put a new carpet in the prayer room at the Groenkloof campus, said Sooliman. This further exacerbated the discrimination felt by the Muslims students.

“One of the older facilities’ managers who was there saw the situation and he said all you have to do is just write this letter and say we’re changing the carpet and it’s fine. He gave them that permission but when he gave them that permission, she overrode that permission and she sent huge documents to them to tell them they must get health hazard certificates etc. All these kinds of documentation are applied to construction work. Is installing a carpet construction work or is there a difference between installation of a particular piece of fabric or cloth or woven piece of material different from construction work where you have heavy machinery? She’s gone out of her way to make things difficult for them and this for me is certainly Islamophobia 101.”

Sooliman firmly believes the students need to make a legal issue out of this matter. According to her, the university is counting on the students to not take the legal route because if they do, they will certainly win.

While Qatar is spreading Islam to all those who visit, we must not be relaxed on our shores. Islamophobia is still rife in the country and Sooliman has urged all to be proactive and take a stance against those who wish to discriminate against the religion. By education and showing people what Islam truly is, there is hope that acts of Islamaphobia will decrease and the lies of the West will no longer be listened to.

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