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South African Muslims reject the violence of extremists

?Fatima Asmal

More than a thousand SA Muslims have signed a petition rejecting the actions of militant groups such as Isis, Boko Haram, al-Shabab and al-Qaeda.

Wits vice-chancellor Adam Habib is one of those who has endorsed the petition. (Waldo Swiegers, Gallo)

“As South African Muslims, we reject the actions of groups that have adopted murder, kidnapping and violence against innocent people, the destruction of schools, sacred spaces and forced conversions in the name of Islam,” says the petition on change.org, titled “Reject Violence in the Name of Islam”.

Economist Sha’ista Goga, who initiated the petition, said she had done so because, although she and her family and friends had been “deeply disturbed and affected” by the actions of Isis in Iraq and Syria, some online comments suggested that Muslims supported the actions of these groups.

“We felt it was important to make a strong statement against these actions,” she said this week. “I find it repugnant that they use the term Islamic State when their very actions are so contrary to the spirit and teachings of Islam. Furthermore, I think it is deeply offensive that they claim to be a caliphate or Islamic state with the implication that their actions are sanctioned by the religion, when it is a perversion of it.”

Several prominent individuals, including Deputy Minister of Basic Education Enver Surty, Iraqi ambassador to South Africa Dr Hisham Al-Alawi and Wits vice-chancellor Adam Habib have endorsed the petition, as have Islamic organisations such as Awqaf SA and Feed.

Goga said that the petition would be presented at an interfaith vigil planned for September 6 in Johannesburg at which religious leaders and followers would pray for people against whom acts of violence have been perpetrated in the name of faith.

US beheading
Earlier this week, Isis released a video in which members of the group were seen beheading United States journalist Jim Foley.

The Jamiatul Ulama of South Africa, the council of Muslim theologians, distanced itself this week from the actions of Isis in a statement.

“Warfare does not absolve the members of any Islamic caliphate, state or entity from the responsibility of human rights and the rules of engagement where women, children and the elderly as well as civilian noncombatants [are concerned]. Their lives and property are never targeted, but safeguarded,” said Maulana Ebrahim Bham, the secretary general of the body.

“It therefore seems strange to us that an Islamic state would be founded on atrocities, massacres and extrajudicial punishments that include summary executions of individuals suspected of crimes.”

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