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Dropping the Q bomb

Ejaz Khan

16 May 2013 02:07 (South Africa)

“They” said that al-Qaeda was going to bomb the World Cup stadia in 2010. The only bomb that fell was Lionel Messi’s failure to score a single goal in the entire tournament. The closest thing to “terrorism” was Nigel De Jong’s karate kick on Xabi Alonso in the World Cup final, and all that he got was a yellow card. Now “they” say al-Qaeda has training camps in the country.

Let’s go back a bit. We all remember those shocking headlines many years back claiming that al-Qaeda had landed and are operating in South Africa. Bombs went off, and we all expected this new, phantom al-Qaeda (Mzansi branch) would claim responsibility. Back then, if you had asked me about the Boeremag, I’d have thought you were referring to a glossy Farmers’ Weekly. Yet the reality played out, Boeremag arrests and subsequent trial, and well, those experts hoping to pin blame on (this so-called-yet-to-be-found/tried) al-Qaeda Msanzi, were left red-faced and exposed. A feature that would be a recurring theme in the coming years, as attempt upon attempt would fail to garner the panic effect: Run for your lives, Muslims want to destroy the world, via South Africa…


It is with great disappointment that once again the fear mongers have left their caves. They do so every few years –Hoosen Solomons and Co attempt to disrupt the equilibrium, fail dismally, and return to their caves forced to tear down the “Mission Accomplished” banner they borrowed from George Bush. They are not easily deterred and seem almost galvanised by failure. They are driven by trial and error, hoping that one day it would stick. Thankfully, it never does.

This latest installment of “Terrorism Search SA” sees the country’s Muslim population being placed under the spotlight and scrutinised, once again. The Dockrat family were the target in the first part of De Wet Potgieter’s latest series (and probably the second) and even though they have released a response poking clear holes in De Wet’s piece, the damage that this report could’ve caused to the family might not be undone so easily. People who know the Dockrats personally have come out in defence of them publicly, and what we are hearing is chalk and cheese compared to the picture being portrayed of them. “Humble”, “generous” are some of the many praises that you will hear. Another analyst has further stated that this article has once again intended to set up the Muslim Bogeyman – a mythical creature that is able to send an entire country into a frenzied state of panic or fear. There is no such creature, and if it did exist, it would probably be playing golf with the Unicorns and Tooth Fairy by now. Oh wait, reference to Golf, which is played on golf estates. My bad.

It is, as one analyst said, a battle of ideas. When stories like this hit the mainstream media, Muslims have the disadvantage of not being able to counter these claims on the same platforms that it lands on, as and when it happens. While we do have far-reaching media like Radio Islam and others at our disposal, it must be taken into account that we are preaching to the converted. Our listeners know all too well the storyline playing out. As “Islamophobia” spreads globally, we are, as always, the “usual suspects”.

When a Christian or someone from another religious denomination is implicated in bombings the individual is taken to task, but if a Muslim is blamed, Islam is put on trial. You just have to look at the way the media dealt with Anders Breivik and the Norway attacks, or Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma Bombing. Their religion never precedes their names in news stories. Ever. But if they were Muslim… Yep, you know the drill.

But why am I even talking about attacks, in South Africa? Have there been any? Oh wait, there have. Ironically, Muslims have been the victims of these attacks. Pigs’ heads laid at mosque entrances, mosques bombed in Soweto and even Vryheid, xenophobic attacks on shopkeepers (a lot of the migrant community are Muslim).

But that’s another issue altogether. De Wet Potgieter’s article speaks of the Malawis and Pakistanis frequenting the mentioned mosque. Err… So what? They are carrying out their religious obligations i.e. praying, then go home to their families. Remember, it is government’s decision to allow them into the country, not the local Muslim community, right? Many you speak to on the street say that the article picking on the Pakistani and Malawian communities in itself is xenophobic. One said that it is articles like these that prompt xenophobic attacks in the first place.

It is important to note, that every mosque has a wide spectrum of nationalities and that points towards the cosmopolitan appeal of Islam – people from all walks of life coming together to pray under one roof, one banner of peace and respect for all. Islam, you see, appeals to all races.

So why now, this renewed attempt at kick-starting a war on Muslims, or war on Islam in South Africa? We don’t really know, but here in South Africa, Muslims have been going about their lives as they always have – minding their own business, taking care of their families, looking after each other. Terrorism? “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

If you have freedom of religion, are able to put up mosque’s and schools, hospitals, and clinics to better the communities you live in, basically improving the lives of all, then why would you want to attack the very country in which you have invested your time, money and lives towards? It doesn’t make sense at all.

Back to how we feel about this latest installment of attempts to unsettle everybody. We are indeed dismayed, but seeing as it is not the first time, and surely not the last, we are becoming worryingly accustomed to these sorts of things. The disappointment is numbed and replaced with a universally mumbled sigh of “here we go again”. And then we move on, like, totally.

Oh, and one more thing. If this Operation Kanu was halted at the beginning of 2010 and the World Cup took place in June-July 2010, that would mean that if there was any chance of danger that year, whoever was masterminding whatever would have free reign to carry out attacks, seeing as nobody was watching them anymore. And yet, lo and behold, “shock”, “awe” and “gasp” nothing happened. So, if the decision was made by government to halt Operation Kanu and nothing happened during the world’s biggest sporting spectacle, with all eyes on South Africa, VIPs for daaaays (30 days to be precise), then one would have to say that the decision made to halt the surveillance, in hindsight, was vindicated. It would seem that, just like this operation’s namesake, the lanky striker Kanu in his twilight days, it had no legs to stand on… didn’t hit the target as expected…was forced into retirement… Someone stop me now ‘cause I could go all day with this one.

Operation Waco carried on and resulted in the Boeremag arrests and trial and, to many, therein lies Mr Potgieter’s grievance. DM

PS: This article has zero sources and took a short while to write.

Ejaz Khan is an award-winning content producer at Radio Islam, avid Liverpool supporter, and sometimes tweets in his sleep. Interact with him on Twitter: @ejaz_k

Jamiatul Ulama SA statement:

Hideous Sensationalisation of Stale Tales

One story that has dominated the airwaves recently has been about the supposed Al Qaeda links in South Africa.

In a Daily Maverick’s lead story on Monday, De Wet Potgieter, suggests that the security services in South Africa have after many years of surveillance, abandoned the pursuit of Dockrats family in spite of indications of their links to supporting terror activities.

What we find curious is the fact that other than minor matters of details which are also largely irrelevant to suggesting any wrong-doing, the allegations are mainly recycled ones.

For over a decade, we have kept hearing these allegations from supposed ‘security think tanks’ and those believed to be international political ‘experts.’

Without much substance, false alarms have from time to time been raised claiming Muslim-originating terror threats, including ‘possible’ attacks on the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Yet, this country has not forgotten who have been the real perpetrators of domestic terrorist acts.

As an organisation that represents the Muslim community, we view any allegations of this nature in serious light. For this reason, we have at different points in the past, responded to these matters, assuring the nation that as leaders of the South African Muslim community, we would not condone any kind of terror activities.

It is our stance that where any kind of threats from terror shall exist, the Muslim community would not stand in the way of investigations and due process.

It also important to state that any kind of allegations that border on xenophobia and hate, place specific sections of the society at unnecessary risk and should be dealt with circumspectly.

On this score, it is of concern to us that these claims continue to be republished under different guises. In the process, more and more innocent people, by virtue of family association and nationality, are being frivolously mentioned, and without substance, indicted in the court of public opinion.

We decry reporting that compromises the integrity of innocent individuals and organisations and foments prejudice, Islamophobia, xenophobia and all forms of irrational hate.

Potgieter’s recent instalment on Al Qaeda makes us wonder the motive of such reports which we consider to be sensationalisation of stale tales, citing dubious sources without much interrogation of the facts and going into details that have nothing to do with any credible links to terrorism.

Our suspicion is that the selective peddling of raw and unsubstantiated intelligence reports is aimed at marginalisation of Muslims in the country. It is also telling to see the manner in which this matter has been entertained from within sections of the media community all the way up to parliament.

The zeal with which the Democratic Alliance in parliament has demanded answers from government on this matter has been remarkable. However, it contrasts starkly with the silence which greeted credible reports and coverage of activities of foreign intelligence services that illegally operated on South African soil, harassing individuals at a key port of entry, just a few years ago.

Such uneven and inconsistent reaction to security threats augments our view of a hideous agenda against Muslims who are part and parcel of the South African society.

As a seasoned reporter Potgieter is meant to be, regardless of his checkered background, he should have known that arbitrary listing of individuals and organisations on ‘banned’ or ‘watch’ lists which has been championed by the USA with the support of the UK does not form evidence of wrongdoing. On dozens of occasions it has been shown to be erroneous. A USA-compiled list of supposed terrorists or their supporters is not canonical gospel and does not in any way constitute proof.

In our view, the insinuation that a case against the Dockrats has been abandoned due to some obscure reason lacks merit. We are confident that relevant security agencies of the country have the capacity to deal with terror threats, real and potential, that the republic is exposed to, from time to time.

When we consider the gravity of the matter, we believe that the Daily Maverick could have applied more scrutiny to Potgieter’s report which is flawed even from a factual point of view. For instance, what has Pakistanis and Malawians frequenting a certain mosque have to do with Al Qaeda or terrorism?

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