8 December 2023

By Nabeelah Shaikh

Former South African politician and diplomat Ebrahim Rasool launched his new book in Durban last week entitled ‘Living Where We Don’t Make the Rules: A guide for Muslim minorities’.

The launch of the book, hosted by the Islamic Forum, is a guide that includes the lived experience of those living as minorities, but also the scholarship of those who apply the synthesis of Islam’s timeless values, norms and principles.

Rasool edited the book from the premise that today 90% of countries worldwide have significant minorities that constitute at least ten percent of their populations. 

It highlights that one in four Muslims live in minority situations in almost every part of the world.

Rasool is a diplomat who served as the South African Ambassador to the United States from 2010 to 2015. He was a member of the National Assembly from 2009 to 2010 and the fifth Premier of the Western Cape from 2004 to 2008.

“Twenty five percent of the Ummah live in the context of being a minority. This is 25% of 1.7 billion. That means that a significant number of Muslims, live in the title of the book, where they don’t make the rules. You don’t make the rules about who you coexist with. Because the reason for your comfortable coexistence is the trade-off you make for someone else’s coexistence,” said Rasool at the launch.

The book touches on how some have assimilated and forfeited their practices and identities in order to “belong” while others have isolated themselves with others who share their language, national origin, culture or religion.

It highlights how there are also Muslims who have been able to manage both their Islamic identity and other elements of identity that come with their new places of residence.

It provides leadership that can guide everyday life; manage our faith, direct partnerships with fellow citizens and campaigns for inclusivity.

“And so, we do make some of the rules. But we cannot make all the rules because some of that is just inherited. I lived with the discomfort of being a Premier in the premier wine producing province. Just because I’m Muslim and the Premier, it doesn’t mean I declare war on an industry. Or if I’m the MEC when the termination of pregnancies is legalized. That’s the very idea of what we need to export,” said Rasool.

He said if we don’t get that right, then 25% of the Ummah live as perpetual hamlets. 

“To say or not to say, to be or not to be, to belong or not to belong. To participate or not to participate and we never lay down rules. And we never place ourselves in position to crawl our way to rule making,” said Rasool.

At the launch, he touched on South Africa’s ability to coexist, and how other countries have expressed that South Africa has a model they would want to follow.

A Cape Town book launch will be held on Saturday, 8 October, hosted by the World For All Foundation, in partnership with the Cape Muslim and Slave Heritage Museum, Awqaf SA and publisher, Clarita Books.

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