21 July 2024

By Al-Qalam Reporter

The murder of a Muslim woman in Durban, allegedly because she supported Palestine, has once again raised concerns about growing Islamophobia in South Africa and the trends across the world, says Faisal Suleman, head of the South African Muslim Network (SAMNET).

“We have repeatedly warned that without a coordinated and proactive program, we risk a violent incident. Unfortunately, the tragic murder and stabbings of a family in Durban in the last few days have shown the consequences of such a critical risk being overlooked. 

This must be a wakeup call for the South African Muslim Community and its leadership, ” said Suleman.

He urges the community to report Islamophobia, no matter how small.

“As recently as the 9th of February 2024, SAMNET shared a post highlighting the urgent need to report, record and respond to Islamophobia. We have been calling for support for a Hate Crimes Register similar to that in the UK, US and other countries,” he said. 

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He said SAMNET has made input and engaged with the Hate Crimes Working Group and Legislation. “We were recently interviewed as part of an International Research Project on Hate Crimes in South Africa. We have and still are dealing with incidents of Employees, Scholars and Institutional Prejudice and Hate from policemen and pharmacists to nurses and SGBs. We often address these outside the public view to allow all parties to resolve without the risk of external groups escalating and in the interest of change,” he said. 

He said fighting Islamophobia was not just about courts and rights. It is often about building relationships and exposing people to those they don’t know.

“From Mosque Open Days to participation in SGBs, police forums, sports/environmental clubs, and professional bodies, we need to be present and visible. We also need to train our youth to deal with prejudice, be it racial, against women, minorities, or religion, in a proactive way without being apologetic.

“We need to engage our police, legislators, educators, and academics to develop a rapid response to such instances and not an uncoordinated adhoc reaction that start afresh each time. How do we do this? Let’s start by committing to address the issue. There is a need for SA Muslims to inculcate a culture of reporting incidents of Islamophobia. It is time to build an Islamophobia Hate Crimes Register,” he said. 

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Incidents of Islamophobic hate crimes of the violent type almost never happen suddenly or in isolation. 

Suleman said while there are Muslims who equally need to address hate and prejudice by a small group within the fate, the issue of hate against, especially our youth and women, must be prioritised. 

“Whether it is a jibe, comment, regulation or workplace/school uniform policy against a headscarf or a beard, or somone with a position of authority excluding a Muslim from a job, place of entertainment, sport, award, we need to record it, measure and respond,” he added.

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