SA under threat from Indian law
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Durban - A law in India that has torn that country apart threatens inter religious harmony in South Africa.
On December 12, the Indian government passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that granted citizenship to religious minorities from neighbouring countries.
The new citizenship law, which was an amendment to a 1955 legislation, provides Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But the amendment made no reference to Muslims and was seen by some as being an anti-Muslim.
Protests have been held around India as well as in other parts of the world, including North America and Europe.
On Friday, an organisation called the United Muslim Nation Organisation (UMNO) and the People Against Apartheid planned to protest against the law outside the offices of the Indian Consulate General in Durban.
However, it was called off following offensive comments that have been attributed to the UMNO, in particular, one Yakoub Baig (sic).
Yacoob Baig, of the UMNO, said: “I was one of the conveners of the picket and that is why I was targeted.”
“I emphatically deny any association to the statement. I have briefed my attorney and solicited police to investigate the origins of the post and serve justice,” he said.
He believed it could be members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) - a right wing Hindu, paramilitary organisation - that has some support in South Africa.
Baig said the protest would be postponed to a date yet to be confirmed.
“It is still an important issue. It is not a matter of Hindu versus Muslim. It is about opposing an unjust law and fascist Narendra Modi (Indian Prime Minister). We are standing in solidarity with those who will be victimised.”
A pro-Indian group, the United Indian Movement (UIM) had planned to hold their own protest on the same day, at the same time and at the same venue.
Amit More, of the UIM, said the CAA was not an anti-Muslim law and was aimed at saving lives.
“People must stop spreading hate and lies to discredit the law. That is why we are holding the protest. It is a peaceful prayer that protests against the persecution, abduction, raping and forceful religious conversions of minorities in Pakistan.”
More believed that an international political agenda was being pursued in South Africa.
“This is not a South African issue. It is an Indian law that followed parliamentary proceedings. The Pakistanis are pushing their agenda to cause tension in South African communities. Traditionally the community has not been so divided.”
He said the UIM had approached the RSS to see if they would join the protests but they declined.
More said he was unaware of the letter that Baig was referring to.
“In the past, I was accused of bringing international political agendas to South Africa but that is not true. I have no political agenda and planned to step back in the future.”
Initially, the UIM planned to gather at the Durban Hindu Temple on Somtseu Road. However, they will now meet outside the Durban Magistrate’s Court.
Nirupa Misra, the chairperson of the Durban Hindu Temple, said they were not involved with the protests.
“On principle, we distance ourselves from anything that is not religiously or culturally based. Protocols must be followed and there is a vetting process for any organisation that wished to hold anything on or around temple property.”
Misra said they had not granted permission for any group to gather at the temple for Friday’s rally.
Meanwhile, the premier of KwaZulu-Natal has strongly condemned the message circulating on social media.
Sihle Zikalala said: “We will not tolerate the views of extremists and religious fanatics who want to stir the pot of hatred and intolerance. Bigotry holds no place in South Africa which was founded on the principles of religious tolerance and mutual co-existence.”
He said the views did not represent the majority of the Islamic faith but was an attempt by provocateurs to sow division.
He called for an urgent investigation into the matter.
Ebrahim Bham, the secretary-general of the Jamiat Ulama (Council of Muslim Theologians), said he was unaware of the impending protests.
“But our position has never changed on the CAA and we still condemn the law which would cause more harm than good. It is dangerous and divisive.”
Moulana Yusuf Patel, the secretary-general of United Ulama of South Africa, said the Indian government signalled that Muslim migrants were not welcome in India and incited Islamophobia.
Ashwin Trikamjee, the president of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, declined to comment as he was unaware of both the upcoming local protest and CAA law itself.
Colonel Thembeka Mbele confirmed that a case of intimidation was opened at the Sydenham police station for investigation.
“The complainant alleged that he was at his home when he received a WhatsApp message insulting the Muslim and Hindu religion. It was alleged that the message was sent in a group chat and the complainant is now in fear for his life.”