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Why the murder of British MP Sir David Amess will have political resonance throughout Africa


Born in Johannesburg in 1941, Paul Trewhela worked in underground journalism with Ruth First and edited the underground journal of MK, ‘Freedom Fighter’, during the Rivonia Trial. He was a political prisoner in Pretoria and the Johannesburg Fort as a member of the Communist Party in 1964-1967, separating from the SACP while in prison. In exile in Britain, he was co-editor with the late Baruch Hirson of ‘Searchlight South Africa’, banned in South Africa.

The murder of British MP Sir David Amess in an English coastal resort is also an African issue. Have no doubt, the Ali Harbi Ali case will have a jihad-type political resonance throughout east, central, west and southern Africa. For South Africa, it is an issue for its next-door neighbour.

The word “harbi” is an Arabic word meaning “military”.

Ali Harbi Ali, a young British Muslim man from an elite Somali political family, was charged in London last week with having carried out a murder on 15 October. He is charged with having made a journey of 241km from his home in London in order to stab to death a devout Christian white British MP, Sir David Amess, while the MP was listening to the needs of his constituents in a Christian church. Harbi Ali sat waiting patiently for the police to arrest him.

In so far as a largely Somali-based Muslim jihad has extended south into Kenya and now further down to Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique, this murder of an elderly MP in an English coastal resort is also an African issue. Have no doubt, the Harbi Ali case will have a jihad-type political resonance throughout east, central, west and southern Africa. For South Africa, it is an issue for its next-door neighbour.

Given his Somali heritage, it is not possible to separate the trial of Harbi Ali from the history of East Africa, just as this history cannot be separated from Islam. The reality is that the slave hunt by Arab Muslims for black Africans began in Mozambique only 300 years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and at least 700 years before the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in the Western Cape.

Mozambique received its name from the East African Arab slave trade, when Mussa bin Bique based himself on the island of Mozambique more than 500 years ago, well before the Christian Portuguese colonised the island and the region, with their own Atlantic slave trade to follow. The Wikipedia entry for Mussa Bin Bique reads as follows:

Mussa Bin Bique (Arabic: موسى بن بيك‎), other names Musa Al Big or Mossa Al Bique or Mussa Ben Mbiki or Mussa Ibn Malik, was ruler of the Island of Mozambique and wealthy merchant, before the Portuguese overtook the island in 1544.”

Islam in Mozambique has a history that goes back to at least the tenth century. The records show that the region was known and well frequented by Muslim travellers and traders. Mussa Bin Bique was considered to be a sheikh, i.e. a person with authority in Islamic knowledge. The name of the island, and subsequently the entire African nation of Mozambique, was derived from his name. With Islam came literacy in the fields of poetry, history, commercial transactions, and other literary genres. By the middle of the fifteenth century, permanent and flourishing commercial and religious sultanates had been established along the coast and some had penetrated up the Zambezi.

As colonial history is erased from many landmarks and regional names, there is a university in Maputo bearing the name of Mozambique’s ruler Mussa Bin Bique called Mussa Bin Bique University, established in 1998.

For nearly everyone in South Africa, this is a subject that has been totally excluded from the teaching of history in schools. Across the continent, it was a subject entirely censored from the politics of national liberation as well as of Pan-Africanism, not least in Mozambique itself, where the overwhelming majority of people do not know the historic meaning of their country’s name. The name of the slave trader Mussa bin Bique is even in the name of Mozambique’s governing political party of the past 46 years, Frelimo, short for Frente de Libertação de Moçambique, the Portuguese for “Liberation Front of Mozambique”, as well as of Renamo, Frelimo’s antagonist in the country’s previous civil wars.

In the same way, this is an Africa-wide subject that is excluded from the one-dimensional discourse of Black Lives Matter, just as in this October’s Black History Month in the United Kingdom – the month of the murder of an MP in a church. It is one of the most crucial issues for black people globally in the 21st century.

Watch this case. Follow the news. Read the history. DM


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  • Stephen T says:

    The similarities between colonialism and Islamism are numerous indeed, including the raisons d’être of each. This should imply that all who so vociferously vilify colonialism, real or perceived, should feel the same way about Islamism and hence oppose it with similar sentiment. But I doubt this will be the case in the coming years primarily because of two related reasons.

    Firstly the current fashionable struggle against colonialism is very much a case of fighting against dead men. This is not a courageous act. It is not “stunning and brave”. At best it is a delusional attempt to feel a sense of purpose in life(while contributing minimal effort), and at worst is a puerile attempt to seek in-group approval (while contributing minimal effort). Either way it is deliberately oblivious to the collateral damage, injury, and expense that it causes along the way. It may be summed up in one word: delinquency. Opposing Islamism will require opposing people that are very much alive although arguably just as deluded. I have zero confidence that the anti-colonial radicals possess the courage or the sense of responsibility required to engage in such a struggle.

    • Stephen T says:

      Secondly the raison d’être of today’s Marxists is clearly to profit at the expense of their own ignorant followers, just as it was for Karl Marx himself. BLM is a prime example of this where its leaders somehow become very rich very quickly and start to behave in the manner of the capitalists they so vehemently claim to be opposed to. One can only conclude that Marxist movements do not engage in struggles they do not already have a way to profit from. How ironically capitalistic of them… A struggle against Islamism will be costly, time-consuming, and require sacrifices. Marxist movements are all fundamentally based on cowardice and so will not possess the fortitude to match any of these conditions. I expect them, as always, only to ride the coat-tails of someone else’s struggle and thereby profit through minimal effort while ignoring all the collateral damage.

      Islamism has only one goal guiding its path: subjugation by force. The terrorists of southern Africa, both past and present, should be able to recognise this motivation because they themselves possess it too. For that matter, where in world history have Marxist movements NOT devolved in subjugation by force? There are patterns in history that we would do well to learn from.

      Islamism seeks to erase your cultural identity, liberate you from your civic freedoms, and impose a modus vivendi on you for the sake of some delusional divine decree. In other words, it is just like Marxism but without the cowardice.

  • Abel Appel says:

    Very interesting bit of history. The derivation of the name of Mozambique is truly amazing. What is not in doubt is the slave trade which was started by the Arabs and perpetuated by the European colonial powers. it comes as no surprise that the North African states regards themselves as Arabs rather than African. Their racism and human-trafficking seem to continue unabated.

  • Pierre Malan says:

    Very interesting article, with the linkage between Africa and the murder of a UK politician.

    Ilha da Mozambique was occupied by the Portuguese very early in the 1500’s, before 1507, if I recall they started the fort of Sao Sebastiao in 1507 and built the Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte in 1522.

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