/ 1 April 2024

Who will Muslims vote for?

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Beliefs: Matters such as Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian people and the role of women in society are among the issues that will decide where Muslim voters place their crosses in May’s elections. Photo David Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Muslims in South Africa enjoy freedom. Freedom to practise our religion anywhere and freedom from persecution. 

As active citizens in a country that gives us this liberty, we have a duty to vote. That vote must be used for good, for leaders who can lead effectively and make the country better for all living in it.

So, who does that vote go to? 

Grappling with who to vote for is a problem many South Africans face and it often feels like there isn’t anyone worth voting for. 

The three main parties — the ANC, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) — all have numerous issues and none of them stands out as a party worth voting for. 

A legacy fraught with corruption in recent times stains the ANC; the DA has failed to condemn an oppressive state committing genocide and there is massive inequality in some places it governs and the EFF is known for its populist statements and allegations of senior members benefitting from the looting of a bank. 

These are just some of the issues in the three main political parties.

Muslims don’t make up a large number of the population — somewhere under 2%, according to the 2022 census. That number is estimated to be around a million people. 

As one of these people, I struggle to find a party to vote for — one that aligns with my beliefs as a Muslim and a South African. 

The topic of leadership in Islam is an important one. Leaders have a massive responsibility to the people to rule with kindness and compassion, be resolute and not stray from its goals. 

In conjunction with this is trustworthiness — this is seen in the religion as a key tenet of leadership. 

Some scholars break down the concept of trustworthiness into four categories: justice, responsibility, integrity and accountability

These must be considered when electing a leader. Do they match these qualities? 

Finding a leader in South Africa with all these attributes would be tough, especially if you’re looking at the three main parties. 

So, let’s delve into the more emotive issues that are likely to sway the Muslim vote. 

The undeniable elephant in the room is the Palestine situation. 

The DA’s stance on Israel is generally to stay clear of the issue. The party was quick to condemn Hamas after 7 October but has remained remarkably silent since the 30 000-odd Palestinians have died. 

They have repeatedly said that they stand for peace but the removal of an MP who stood for Palestine, the removal of pro-Palestine murals in Cape Town and leader John Steenhuisen’s recent comments when questioned on the genocidal intent of Israel speak volumes. This is what he said: “One man’s genocide is another’s man’s freedom.”

As a religion that is reeling from the events in Palestine and one which believes in the words of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) — Muslims believe him to be the final messenger from God — we will rememberwhat he said about the Muslim community. 

“The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy are just like one body. 

“When one of the limbs suffers, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever.”

The DA, which has governed Cape Town since 2009, might just have lost significant voters in that region. Out of pure solidarity for Palestine, it would be appalling for a Muslim to vote for the DA. 

ANC politician Fasiha Hassan had some strong words, calling the DA a Zionist party, a racist party and one that supports an apartheid state. 

She concluded that “there is no freedom-loving, justice-fighting person who can in their good conscience still vote for the DA”.

On the other side of the coin, the EFF has displayed solidarity with Palestine. The party’s readiness to picket, protest and fight for Palestinian rights is likely to earn it favour with Muslim voters. 

The ANC has covered itself in glory with its actions towards justice for the Palestinians. 

Taking Israel to the International Court of Justice, a willingness to prosecute South Africans serving in the Israeli army and overall solidarity for Palestinian people will play right into Muslim minds, almost guaranteeing votes. 

But what about the ANC’s failings? They can’t be ignored, especially the corruption element. Corruption is criticised in Islam — so much so that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “May the Curse of Allah be upon the briber and the bribe recipient.”

The Qur’an also says that: “To complete the perfect setup of the universe with all its facets, God sent messengers to show people the right path and be good models in doing good and preventing corruption.” 

This details that corruption is a key element in damaging our world and must be taken seriously. 

Corruption plagues the country. It ranks 72nd-most corrupt out of 180 countries, according to Transparency International’s corruption report. 

The ANC can’t seem to get away from corruption allegations. With that in mind, can they be voted for? 

From left field is Al Jama-ah — the party that sometimes says the right things when it comes to social justice, corruption, healthcare, water and other important issues. 

However, they make problematic statements on other issues, such as women in the workplace. Their leader Ganief Hendricks recently hinted that women should not work. 

The religion is explicitly clear that women have every right to work and pursue careers. An example of this is Khadijah, the first wife of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), who was a successful businesswoman and a leader of women in Islam. 

Al Jama-ah has had Thapelo Amad and Kabelo Gwamanda serve as mayor of Johannesburg. Neither has done a good job. 

Amad was particularly bad, resigning a few hours before a vote of no-confidence was set to go ahead.

Gwamanda recently took around 10 days to address a water issue which led to about half of the residents of the city having no water. 

The city is plagued by water and electricity cuts but, admittedly, it could be argued that they are not necessarily his fault. Nevertheless, his leadership does not inspire confidence.

So back to who to vote for. It might be time for new blood. Perhaps one of the newer parties deserves a shot. 

Still, the ANC and its fight for Palestinian justice on a global scale might tip many Muslim voters to place their crosses to that side in May, despite the inefficient leadership and corruption.

At least there are ways of taking the corrupt to task — not that it always works out.