‘Don’t import religious intolerance to SA’

The same way as SA Muslims oppose ISIS ideology, we should guard against any other ideology preaching hatred, writes an Al-Qalam Reporter. A Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed in India recently has triggered toxic social media exchanges between sections of Hindus and Muslims here in South Africa that threatens to rupture the strong bonds these communities enjoyed for decades. An urgent call has gone out for this to stop before it jeopardizes good relations within communities. Now community leaders are scrambling to calm sectors of both communities whose anger has mostly being fueled by inflammatory and doctored posts on social media that is triggering blistering, hateful attacks on each other, raising tensions from both sides. Central to this friction and caustic debates on local social media is the dreaded Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) which the Indian Government has passed that grants citizenship to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries – but excludes Muslims. This move has triggered mass protests by hundreds of thousands of people across India – millions who feel they may be classed as aliens in their own country. What is happening in India has sparked debate between Muslims and Hindus in South Africa with some of the exchanges turning hateful. This in turn has drawn battle lines over the thorny issue that goes against the grain of religious sensibilities. The local tensions have prompted two senior Durban advocates – one a Muslim and the other a Hindu – to publish a widely distributed WhatsApp message urging local Muslims and Hindus not to fall for poison-pen posts on social media that are designed (by hate mongers) to divide and draw battle lines between our close-knit communities. The letter read: “Dear members of the Hindu and Muslim communities. We, Vimal Thakersee and Mahomed Saleem Khan, advocates of the High Court of South Africa and a Hindu and Muslim, respectively, hereby strongly denounce all forms of religious intolerance. Religious intolerance is anathemic for the tenets of Hinduism and Islam and it is grossly undemocratic. “There has been an international outcry against the passage of a law in India that is criticised as discriminating against Muslims. There is a complaint that in Pakistan there is a State orientated drive to convert Hindus to Muslims. Locally, misguided mavericks from both of these communities are subversively influencing the emergence of battle lines between such communities who have to date co- existed peacefully. We, in our personal capacities and in our representative capacities of all like-minded people condemn the support for all forms of discriminatory practices based on religion, race, colour and creed, especially religious intolerance, wherever they exist. “We invite Muslims and Hindus to denounce the discriminatory practices in India that have occasioned much protest and likewise to denounce any State orientated or other acts of religious intolerance in Pakistan. Let us firmly educate the perpetrators of religious intolerance internationally and let us not be authors of disunity, hatred and the consequential erosion of harmony and peaceful co-existence between the Muslim and Hindu communities in South Africa.” Violations The South Africa Muslim Network (SAMNET) plans to meet soon to address this burning issue, and find ways to restore the warm relations that has drawn a wedge between local communities over widespread human rights violations in India that has pitted the fascist-driven ruling BJP party against Muslims, Dalits and other minorities who fear being stripped of their citizenship rights following the passing of the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA). Head of SAMNET, Dr Faizel Suleman, has urged all South Africans to join hands and speak out against the CAA law in India that discriminates against Muslims in violation of human rights, and also to speak out against the occupation of Jammu and Kashmir and more recently the revocation of the special status that was granted to that region. “It is important that we make the correct differentiation. In the same way that there is a difference between Judaism and Zionism, we need to differentiate between Hinduism and the Hindutva, the rightwing RSS ideology. There is a broad differentiation of being Anti-Hindu and being ‘anti’ what the BJP is doing in India. Similarly we need to ensure that this is not turned into a India-Pakistan issue, although many of the RSS supporters would like to frame what the RSS is doing into a Pakistan issue – similar to how Zionists like to frame opposition to Zionism as anti-semitism,” he explained. On the question of recent online tensions between local Muslim and Hindus, Suleman attributed the inflammatory stirrings to possible recent Indian migrants to South Africa who are promoting the RSS ideology. “This could have serious implications for Hindu-Muslim relations in SA.” Suleman further pointed out that both communities need to be cautious NOT to import the tensions in India into South Africa and urged communities to build on the good relations that Muslim and Hindus always enjoyed in South Africa and “to live in peace and harmony.” He added: “Just as the Muslim community opposes any rise in the ISIS ideology or mentality in SA – and has been vocal about it – similarly we should guard against any other ideology preaching hatred, violence and bigotry that is taking root in South Africa.”

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