One story that has dominated the airwaves recently has been about the supposed al-Qaeda links in South Africa. In the 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 the Dockrat 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 detail, 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 as these claims are being 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.
De Wet Potgieter’s recent installment 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 questioning 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 should have known that arbitrary listing of individuals and organisations on “banned” or “watch” lists which has been championed by the US, with the support of the UK, does not form evidence of wrongdoing. On dozens of occasions it has been shown to be erroneous. A US-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? DM
Moulana Bham is the secretary general of the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa and the Imam of one of the largest Muslim congregations in Gauteng at Hamidia Mosque in Newtown. Twitter: @EbrahimBham