Durban - Farhad Hoomer claims he is being treated like an outcast by sections of the Muslim community. This after he was kicked out of an Islamic conference and allegedly labelled a “terrorist” by the organisers.
Hoomer, 42, a businessman from Overport, Durban, is facing a charge of terrorism in the Verulam Magistrate’s Court. He is also accused of having links to the militant group Islamic State.
The father of eight said he was shocked and hurt when he was prevented from attending the Southern African Ulama Forum Conference hosted by the Darul Ihsan Humanitarian Centre at the Crescent Hall in Parlock.
The conference was set down for two days - October 19 and 20 - and, according to Hoomer, the public was invited to attend via radio.
He attended the conference on Saturday and was welcomed by other guests. However, when an official noticed his presence, Hoomer claimed he was asked to leave.
He said he left the conference to attend prayer at a nearby mosque. After the prayer he noticed an official taking pictures of him with a cellphone, but he didn’t do anything about it. He returned the next morning but was stopped at the entrance of the parking lot.
“The official told me I was not allowed in the area. When I questioned him, he said I was a terrorist and I was affiliated to Isis. The official added that those in charge of the conference did not want to allow me in.”
Hoomer refused to leave the venue and asked to see the officials in charge.
He said five officials subsequently met him, together with members of the police and a private security company.
“They again asked me to leave. I told them I wanted clarity on why I was not allowed to attend the conference. They promised to arrange a meeting for us to discuss the matter.”
Hoomer said he left the conference but felt like an outcast.
“I was hurt and what shocked me the most was that this was an Islamic event. Before my arrest, I was welcomed by this organisation. We have prayed shoulder to shoulder together. Now, all of a sudden, I am an outcast. The court is yet to determine if I am innocent or guilty but the organisers have already found me guilty.”
Hoomer said he was confident he would be found not guilty.
“I was arrested just over a year ago and none of the maulanas or Islamic scholars have spoken to me or called me about the allegations against me. How do they now find me guilty without even speaking to me? How can they label me as a terrorist? They have already prosecuted, put me on trial and sentenced me.”
Hoomer has written to the centre seeking an apology but is yet to receive a reply.
“They never set up a meeting to clarify why I was not allowed into the conference.
“They need to apologise for the injustice they have caused and the fact that they have impaired me in front of people that morning.”
Hoomer was arrested in October last year in Reservoir Hills along with 17 other men. He has been accused of being the mastermind behind the attack on the Imam Hussain Mosque in Verulam in May last year.
The attack claimed the life of Abbas Essop.
The group is also accused of planting incendiary devices around Durban.
“The allegations levelled against me has put a strain on me and my family. I ran a property business and a diamond and gold business. I have lost R15million in revenue since I was arrested.”
Hoomer said he had only recently been granted permission to travel aboard for business.
“I am trying to get my businesses back on track. The majority of my suppliers and business affiliates have pulled out of business with me because I am now labelled as a terrorist.
“I was kept in custody for 53 days and this was emotionally traumatic for my eight children, four of whom are in school as well as my wives.”
Hoomer said he knows nothing about Isis or terrorism.
“These things are happening in Syria and Iraq. I cannot comment on them. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Just look at the life of Nelson Mandela.”
The Darul Ihsan Humanitarian Centre said the Southern African Ulama Forum Conference was only for Islamic scholars.
Muhammad Ameer, the centre’s secretary, said the conference was part of a professional development programme.
“Being a conference of Islamic scholars, participation is strictly by invitation only and confined to individuals belonging to the fraternity. Delegates were required to register electronically. Only registered persons were allowed entry into the conference.”
However, certain individuals, added Ameer, served as volunteers and support personnel.
“Mr Hoomer arrived at the conference venue in Parlock on Sunday morning and insisted on being allowed to attend. He was intercepted by security at the entrance, denied entry and (was) requested to leave.”
Ameer said Hoomer was told about the attendance protocol and requirements and he left the venue.