Cape Town - Ahead of Ramadaan, Shia Muslims in Cape Town are on edge following a deadly attack and the discovery of a bomb at the Imam Hussain Mosque in Verulam, Durban.
Muslim scholars and clerics have called for calm and tolerance following what is described as a terrorist attack against Shia Muslims by Sunni extremists.
As local Muslims are trying to make sense of the attack, prominent community activist Imraahn Mukaddam circulated a letter on social media in which he lambasted the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) for speaking against Shia Muslims in the past.
“(The MJC) should be concerned because they are part of the problem of discrimination against Shia Muslims,” Mukaddam said.
“The hate speech became even more vociferous recently, especially at the opening of the new Ahlul Bhayt Centre (Shia mosque in Ottery). When the MJC issued a fatwa against intermarriage of Sunnis and Shias, I was incensed and considered taking this matter to the Human Rights Commission as well as the CRL Rights Commission as I found the positions taken by the MJC to be reminiscent of the apartheid Mixed Marriages Act and the call to boycott all who were associated with the Ahlul Bhayt Centre smacked of religious intolerance and undermined our constitution and our uniquely South African values,” Mukaddam said.
The MJC rejected Mukaddam’s claims. “The MJC’s policy has always been, and will always be, that of tolerance towards any other sect or religion. Never in 74 years of existence has the MJC insinuated or promoted violence of any kind. We maintain, and will always maintain, that life is sacred and must be protected and respected at all cost,” said MJC spokesperson Mishka Daries.
Mukaddam said the MJC should become part of the Cape Accord - a document that commits all Muslims to proactively engage each other in promoting understanding and fraternal union.
Imam Dr Rashied Omar from the Claremont Main Road Mosque said ordinary Muslims needed to familiarise themselves with the content of the Cape Accord and the direction it offered towards greater tolerance among and between different Muslim groups.
“At the same time, other prominent Muslim institutions and leaders must be encouraged to also sign and endorse the Cape Accord,” Omar said.
At the Shia mosque in Ottery, caretakers said the atmosphere was very tense. They also barred the Cape Argus entry into the precinct and refused to comment on whether they had installed any additional security.
Farid Esack, professor in Islamic studies at the University of Johannesburg, said the attack in Durban was a terrorist attack.
“Based on the eyewitness account of one of the survivors of what the attackers said, I am convinced that the Verulam mosque attack was indeed a terrorist attack.
“This is further substantiated by the method of attack. The fact is that the attackers came prepared with petrol bombs, thus making it clear that they came to destroy both life and property and set the mosque on fire, specifically targeting an area, a closed room of the mosque where religious artefacts peculiar to this particular sect (Shia Islam) were kept on display.”
The Open Mosque in Wynberg founder Dr Taj Hargey said the attack was a cause for alarm. “The attackers think they will be redeemed in the eyes of Allah and go to heaven. We have a climate of intolerance which is a huge problem in South Africa .”