DA MPL Imran Keeka

Durban - The DA in KwaZulu-Natal is raising a ruckus over an alleged offensive remark made by an ANC member over MPL dressing in Islamic attire in the provincial legislature.

A legislature sitting to remember anti-apartheid revolutionary Oliver Reginald Tambo turned sour on Friday when the ANC politician allegedly blurted out in isiZulu, “What kind of a man wears a dress?” after DA MPL Imran Keeka had left.

Keeka told Post he was dressed in traditional attire for mosque and while he is used to parliamentary jabs, this one had crossed the line.

“It is an insult not only to the Muslim community but to every person who practises their religion. Comments such as these cannot come from a movement that was once glorified and hailed for liberation.”

Keeka said the insults began when he took the podium to debate on service delivery issues. In a statement, DA spokesperson Mbali Ntuli said Keeka was insulted as he was leaving.

“The comment is an insult to both Keeka and the entire Muslim community. It is also, by extension, a slap in the face to all men who wear religious attire, regardless of their faith, and indicative of religious intolerance of the highest order and has no place in our democratic and free society,” she said.

Ntuli and Keeka said they would be writing to Legislature Speaker Lydia Johnson for her to make a decision on whether the remarks were parliamentary or not.

The ANC member has reportedly slammed the allegations, saying the DA was blowing the matter out of proportion and vowed to seek legal action for defamation.

The member has not responded to several calls seeking comment, but ANC provincial spokesperson Mdumiseni Ntuli said the claims were untrue.

“What (the member) actually said was that the work of OR Tambo and his generation made it possible for us all to choose how to pursue our religion and beliefs, including a choice of dressing like Keeka. The ANC can never be the one that looks down upon religion and belief.”

Religious organisations said such insults, if true, were unacceptable.

Said Moulana Abdullah Khan of the Jamiat-ul-Ulama: “We have come far and being able to dress in an Islamic attire is part of that freedom we enjoy in South Africa.”

Ashwin Trikamjee, president of the SA Hindu Maha Sabha, said: “Nowhere in any law does it suggest how a person should dress. The state should be encouraging different cultural and religious practices. Even the highest legislature body of Parliament must realise that the English colonial trend of dressing in suits is not the only acceptable attire.”

Bishop Raj Moodley of the Reformed Evangelical Church of South Africa said: “Religious freedom is enshrined in the constitution. If the religious dress code identifies with a person’s particular religion or culture he/she is free to exercise his/her religious freedom. Context plays an integral part but no person should be insulted for wearing what they deem fit to be part of their religious culture or background.”

Keeka said the matter would be heard by the Speaker on November 21.