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The Jewish Report Editorial

SA Muslims and Jews must keep talking

  • GeoffEditorial
For the average Jewish South African, it’s hard visualising the cruelties he is told are being committed around the world these days by people saying they are doing it for Islam, compared with his daily experiences here, including friendly encounters with most Muslim South Africans.
by GEOFF SIFRIN | Sep 10, 2014

We are blessed to live in a society with so much positivity in our inter-group relations - derived partly from our victory against the ethnic animosity of apartheid - compared to what we hear from Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere.

Worldwide, however, we live in an ugly era which seems to be tipping ever closer to explosion. How else can one see it, looking at Syria, ISIS, Al-Qaida, Boko Haram, Sudan and other examples where ethnically and religiously-based savagery seems to be taking over and major world powers are gearing up to take action - or at least talking about it?

Images of the recent ISIS beheading of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff are emblematic, as well as the fact that Sotloff’s American/Israeli and Jewish identity could only be revealed after his death - this information was hidden by Western media in an attempt to save his life following his capture.

Political Islam is seen by many people as the driving force. But as Elhanan Miller, The Times of Israel diplomatic correspondent said at Limmud recently, ISIS and Al-Qaida are not truly political Islam, but are really driven by an extreme view of good versus evil. They don’t recognise state borders, their methods are unspeakably violent and their views are anti-establishment rather than political.

ISIS members are uncompromising adherents of Sunni Islam and sharia law and will use deadly violence on Shia Muslims, Christians, Yazidis or others who don’t follow their strain of religion.

The execution of journalists, taking and murdering of hostages, kidnapping of young girls, threats to sell them into slavery, and so on, are among their methods which have been broadcast to the world, including with the gruesome videos they have put out.

The more genuine form of political Islam today is characterised by the ideal that Muslims should be governed by Muslims and that “Islam is the solution” - Muhammad was both a political and religious leader; there is also often a love-hate relationship with the West, especially for Muslims who have lived or worked there, as well as a deep-seated sense of injustice. 

Muslim South Africans living in a democratic country - or Muslims elsewhere, for that matter - who don’t subscribe to the methods of ISIS or similar groups, are in a difficult situation when asked to condemn them.

It is not easy to denounce one’s co-religionists, especially given the perception that enemies of Islam abound and that this will give them ammunition. But it is essential that moderate Muslims defend the concept of Islam as a religion of peace. Therefore, an online petition by democratic South African Muslims - cited in a weekly SA paper recently - must be praised for denouncing “the murders, kidnapping and violence against innocent people, destruction of schools and sacred spaces and forced conversions” being carried out.

While we certainly are not short of our own challenges in South Africa, it’s hard imagining such things happening here. But we are vulnerable to infiltration of people and ideas from elsewhere.

Fortunately we have never had a major terrorist attack, although this country has been described as vulnerable because of its “porous” borders and the relatively easy forging of South African identity and travel documents.

We need to hold on as tightly as we can to the good-neighbourliness between South African Muslims and Jews. What can be done proactively? One example elsewhere is an annual gathering of Muslims and Jews in Vienna reported on page 2. SA Jewish organisations should do all they can to actively foster good relations with Muslim organisations, appealing to them as South Africans even when there is a reluctance from their side to openly associate with “Zionists”.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Gary Selikow 10 Sep
    I refuse to associate with anyone who does not recognize the right of Israel to exist. that is the bottom line for dialogue with anyone

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