Farid Esack, a professor of religious studies at the University of Joburg, said: “It is of grave concern that violence directed at Muslim sacred sites - regardless of its disparate motives - is becoming relatively common and even normalised. There is little that can be done to stop a deeply troubled individual acting violently anywhere, as was the case with the Malmesbury attack.
“There is indeed a theological tendency among Muslims, who regard the existence of shrines and the reverence for those buried there, as a form of heresy. However, none of those in South Africa have ever suggested - let alone encouraged - attacks on shrines or those who visit the kramats. This notwithstanding, the Muslim community must continually ask itself about the possible relationship between routine hate speech against other Muslims who have different approaches to dogma and whether we provide fodder that could be invoked for violent attacks,” Esack said.
“We must draw a line between acknowledging theological differences and defending our own positions, on the one hand, and the demonisation of real people and incitement to the destruction of life and property on the other.”
This is in light of the latest torching of the Sayed Mahmud kramat in Constantia.
Professor Faadiel Essop’s great-grandfather (Sullaiman Shah Mahomed) had founded the Shah Mohammed Trust 100 years ago, in order to preserve the history of the kramat in Constantia. Sayed Mahmud, who was a religious leader of the Malaccan Empire, is buried at the kramat. Kramats are graves that have, for centuries, been revered by the Muslim community.
Essop explained that during the desecration, the cloths that covered the grave were burnt. “A cabinet containing Qur’ans was also set alight, but luckily it was not destroyed. A framed photo of the Madina mosque was also thrown to the ground and set alight. The police are viewing this in a very serious light. We are looking at the security at the site, but we also want to know why the legacy of our forefathers is being attacked. We are strongly against it.”
The Muslim Judical Council (MJC) said they were highly distressed and dismayed by the arson attack and the blatant disrespect shown towards Muslim burial sites was a cause of great concern.
Head of the Muslim Cemetery Board and deputy president of the MJC, Shaykh Riad Fataar, said: “In the past, there (had been) attempts at the same thing and it stopped. We hope this is not a resurgence.”
The recent attacks came after two worshippers were killed and two more injured by a Somali attacker at the Malmesbury mosque. In an attack in May at the Verulam mosque in Durban, a man’s throat was slit and other worshippers were injured.