By SIRAJ WAHAB | ARAB NEWS
Published: Nov 13, 2010 23:51 Updated: Nov 14, 2010 21:23
MINA: Israel Ponty Moletsane truly is on the journey of a lifetime this year. The 29-year-old South African radio producer converted from Christianity to Islam last year, and now he has traveled to the holy land to perform the Haj.
Moletsane said he learned about his new faith while working at the Channel Islam International radio station in Johannesburg over the last five years. He said many puzzling questions he had about religion were answered after reading the Holy Qur’an.
“I was a Catholic, but as I grew up I became a type of born-again Christian,” Moletsane told Arab News. “I learned everything one step at a time. I was doing the comparison all the time. This is when I realized the contradictions in our holy book. That prompted me to learn more about the Holy Qur’an and Islam. I decided to accept Islam, but I did not have the courage to make my decision public.”
The change came last year when Channel Islam International sent scholar-broadcaster Maulana Moosa Akoodie to report from the Haj.
“My colleagues in the studios in Johannesburg and I were putting him on air,” Moletsane said. “When he was about to go on air from the plains of Arafat, I asked him to pray for me. I thought it would be a personal thing.
Maulana Akoodie, however, mentioned my name in his prayer that was being broadcast live. Hundreds of English-speaking listeners were tuned in. I was moved by the gesture, and suddenly I found all the courage in the world to go public with what I had already believed in my heart. An hour or so later I recited the ‘shahada’ live on air.
At the other end in Arafat, Maulana Akoodie was listening via telephone. We were then deluged with congratulatory calls. Among them was a call from Yaqoob Vahed of Al-Imdaad Foundation. He instantly announced that he would sponsor my Haj trip next year. That is how I am here. I am chronicling my journey through my audio dispatches and Facebook for Channel Islam International.”
For the new convert, the trip to the holy places has been almost magical. “The highlight of my whole journey was the first look at the Holy Kaaba. It is toward the Kaaba that the world’s Muslims turn toward in prayer,” Moletsane said. “When I saw the Holy Kaaba I could feel the presence of Allah. It was an indescribable feeling.”
Moletsane said his visit has been full of pleasant surprises that have reinforced his decision to convert.
“I came here on Oct. 18, and I landed in Madinah. It is a beautiful, very peaceful city. I was impressed by the side-by-side living of the entire community. One day I lost my phone. I forgot it at a counter in one of the shops. I went there the following day, and I found it exactly where I had left it. It had run out of battery. The shop owner said he couldn’t call anybody because the cell phone was off. He was more than happy to see the phone returned to its rightful owner,” Moletsane said.
“You don’t find such stuff happening in South Africa. Our government is fighting to curb the menace of crime. Also last week when I was separated from my colleague and had no phone on me, there was this group that spoke no English that offered me a phone to contact my colleague. This shows the spirit of brotherhood that pervades here during the Haj.”
He said there are many South Africans, including his parents, who only have mistaken perceptions about Islam.
“They don’t know much about Islam,” Moletsane said. “I am from a small town in one of the South Provinces of Free State. There people don’t know much about Islam. I don’t blame them. Nobody told them about Islam. They think this is an Indian culture.”
He shared many of those misgivings with other uninformed South Africans at one time. “I had all the negative images about them,” Moletsane said of Muslims. “I believed everything that the media said about them. I hated Muslims like many other people — the kind of stuff that you can expect from born-again Christians. I linked Muslims with terrorism. It was all due to media manipulation. Like other South African Christians, I would think that this religion was only for Indians and that it is not for us Africans and that it is not for black people. Having come into the fold of Islam, I discovered that was not the case.”
Channel Islam International presenter and talk show host Ebrahim Moosa said Moletsane’s story is being followed widely in many nations where the radio station is popular.
For Moletsane, his time in Saudi Arabia continues to be a source of wonder. “This is not an ordinary structure,” he said while talking about the Holy Kaaba. “It was built by Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him). This is out of this world. I was very emotional when I cast my glance at the Kaaba, and I remembered all those who had asked me to pray for them. Tears rolled down my eyes, but I didn’t make any effort to stop them. May Allah accept my Haj, and may He protect all those who helped me in my journey of discovery of the true religion.”
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