XENOPHOBIA IN SOUTH AFRICA: UNDERSTANDING THE HUMANITARIAN ATTITUDE AND ROLE OF ISLAM AND MUSLIMS IN THE RECENT XENOPHOBIC

ATTACKS ON ‘FOREIGNERS’1
Y Mataar (HSRC)
Abstract South Africa is a constitutional democracy that strives to protect “everyone” with regard to “equality and human dignity” including minorities, namely religious minorities such as Muslims, and even ‘foreigners’2 via the Constitution.3 In spite of the existence of strong and all-encompassing antidiscrimination legislation, intolerance, and bigotry towards ‘foreigners’ from Somalia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Malawi in particular, proceed unabated. Consequently, community hostility festered, especially in poorer urban communities and eventually erupted into deadly violence. As a minority religion, Islam and its adherents, Muslims ought to relate to the plight of other minorities such as ‘foreigners’. Key words: xenophobia/racism, foreigner/non-national, discourse analysis, human rights, Bill of Rights, human dignity, equality

1. INTRODUCTION The role of religion within a constitutional democracy such as South Africa cannot be denied given the fact that about 80% of the South African population is affiliated to a reli1

This study is based on a paper that I delivered at the “International Conference on Religion and Xenophobia: Islamic and Christian Perspectives”, from 17-19 November 2008, at the University of Cape Town. 2 It is acknowledged that this study is laden with power-related terms such as ‘foreign’ and ‘Black’, and that are socio-political constructions, but that these will be used solely for purposes of understanding the xenophobic attacks. 3 See S9 & S10 of the Constitution of the RSA, Act No 108 of 1996.

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gious group (Statistics SA 2004). This study is hence premised on the idea that conflict in the form of xenophobia or racism against the ‘Black’ foreigner could be mediated by constructions of religion, which either rely on negative or positive notions of otherness and difference that are embedded within religious discourse. Thus, the focus on Islam as “Black African Muslims show the fastest growth (in relation to ‘Coloured’ and ‘Indian’ Muslims)… (and) [i]t is expected that over the next two decades they will constitute the largest segment of the Muslim population” (Jeppie & Vahed 2005:280-281). Many Muslim organisations, such as the Muslim Judicial Council, made impassioned media calls in response to the spate of violence and in some instances criminality perpetrated against African ‘foreigners’ (Voice of the Cape 2008b). Additionally, the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa, in their ‘Summarised Jumu’ah Bayaan (Friday Sermon)’ stated: “As Muslims we also have an added responsibility of protecting the vulnerable who have become victims of these unfortunate circumstances. Contribute towards relief efforts initiated by different organizations involved in relief work” (Jamiatul Ulama SA 2008b). This study thus seeks to examine positive and negative Muslim attitudes as substantiated via their impassioned calls made in khutab (sermons) and the media, while considering the human rights notions of equality and human dignity that the Bill of Rights confers on everyone. Therefore, consideration would be accorded to the ways in which xenophobic/racist attitudes are constructed, and how the role of Muslims in the xenophobic violence of 2008 was shaped by Islamic as well as human rights discourse. The study additionally intends to analyse the humanitarian role Islam and Muslims could play, in preventing the recurrence of xenophobic violence, by perpetually highlighting the status of the ‘foreigner’ from

such as Gauteng and the Western Cape. 5 For articles and media reports on xenophobia in Southern Africa see Southern African Migration Project (2008). The definition could incorporate ensuing aggression by a community against foreigners or non-nationals such as migrants. as depicted in sermons or talks and media reports or texts that would constitute the principal objects for a discourse analysis. AND RELIGION THROUGH THEORY AND CONTEXT The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines xenophobia as collective “fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners or of what is strange or foreign” (Mish 1997). It also indicates that xenophobic people would fear or hate all foreigners. For the purposes of this study then xenophobia will interchangeably be used with racism in its broadest meaning. RACISM.Xenophobia the perspective that everyone is a member of “bani Adam” (“children of Adam”)4. since it is their strangeness that makes them intolerable. since it is driven by the same factors that 4 The related Qur’anic verse enunciates: “And indeed We have honoured the children of Adam…” (Q 17:70). ANALYSING XENOPHOBIA. For media releases specific to South Africa see Xenophobia in South Africa (2008). Here the majority of the xenophobic incidents reported by the media were perpetrated against ‘Black’ foreigners from other African countries. studies investigating the experiences of ‘Black’ non-nationals in South Africa have found that they experience racialised bigotry with ‘Black’ South African men being the most hostile (Morris 1998:116-136). including the wave of violence in May 2008. the incidents involving xenophobic attacks in South Africa. immigrants.336 Theologia Viatorum 33/2 (2009) . suggests that particular groups of non-nationals are targeted and as such “xenophobia is racialised” (Warner & Finchilescu 2003:36).5 Furthermore. refugees and asylum seekers. In spite of this. 2. Especially within some of the areas affected by the violence. .

Discourse about minorities such as non-nationals (in racism or religion) could represent these others in a negative manner and. reducible to a common negative”. The former. is used in a more generic sense to signify a type of discourse. intolerance. van Dijk. in general. namely religious or racist discourse. and violence (Sunday Tribune 2008a & 2008b). who is a scholar in the fields of text linguistics. in prejudice. namely discourse in religion or racism. whereas the latter. with designating the positive role of religion Islam exalts human dignity and equality.Xenophobia in SA: The Role of Islam and Muslims 337 eventually result. both the teachings of the Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad detest attitudes of racism. and even “legitimately expendable” (Muller 1999:71). in particular” (Van Dijk 2002:146). bias. as in the case of racism. less deserving of right or humanity. and any act of inhumanity towards the other (Hammed 2008:223). and. “religious or cultural arguments” could be understood as portraying “foreigners as being inferior. discrimination. is “understood to mean only a specific communicative event. stereotyping. lead to the reproduction of negative stereotypes. and critical discourse analysis. and a written or oral form of verbal interaction or language use. therefore. discourse analysis. It . In this regard it would be essential to deploy and include the theorist. therefore. In highlighting the negative role of religion and the attitude of its adherents toward the other or non-national. On the other hand. where he focuses particularly on the study of the discursive reproduction of racism. Consequently. The term religious or racist discourse is somewhat different to discourse in religion or racism. discrimination. Muller (1999:71) from the University of Stellenbosch observes that “religion and culture are strategies of meaning and practice rather than timeless and fixed substances”. Religious and cultural discourse could play a pivotal role in driving xenophobia or/and racism.

338 Theologia Viatorum 33/2 (2009) . including South Africa. discourse analysis would be a valuable tool for exploring people’s perceptions. xenophobia. and analysing texts and practices for their social and political significances.Xenophobia could also “contribute both to interactional and to cognitive forms of problematization. Racial Discrimination. In 2001. and related intolerance in consultation with national human rights institutions and civil society organisations. that is. After a protracted consultative process 6 Discourse analysis entails reading. through text and talk” (Van Dijk 2002:146). but is “acquired and learned. . intolerance and any act of inhumanity towards the foreigner does not develop spontaneously in an interaction based on difference (between a national and non-national). opinions. and structures that produce and maintain discourses. Here it should be noted that prejudice. South Africa hosted the United Nations World Conference against Racism. Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (World Conference against Racism 2001). or xenophobia in a South African context. attitudes. It also provides a way to manifest the rules. since it “allows us to make explicit the inferences about” otherwise inaccessible especially negative attitudes “of majority group members (or locals) about minorities (or foreigners) from the properties of their text and talk” (Van Dijk 1993:94). Moreover. undertook to implement in their respective countries. marginalization and exclusion” (Van Dijk 2000:88). As religious sermons and media reports will be analysed in this study discourse analysis6 will hence be deployed as a theoretical tool. racism. allowing us to challenge prevailing practices and knowledge about specific issues or events (Fairclough 2003). One of the principal obligations in the programme was for each country to develop a National Action Plan (NAP) to combat racism. discrimination. The outcome of the conference was a programme of action that every participating country. and meanings regarding religion. and this usually happens through communication.

‘Coloured’. Subsequently. is purely for purposes of highlighting the effects of racial division. and ‘White’ are problematic constructions even within a post-Apartheid South Africa. intolerance and bigotry towards ‘Black’7 foreigners continued (Parliament of the RSA 2008). Leonard Ramatlakane. The religious sector was foremost in rendering humanitarian aid to those affected by the xenophobic mayhem in 2008. which eventually erupted into deadly violence where thousands of non-nationals were displaced and ‘Black’ nationals killed about 60 foreigners. refugees. and here the religious communities not only contributed “food and clothes”. The former Western Cape Minister of Community Safety. Many Muslims. despite the uneasiness. along with other religious groupings. made fervent humanitarian calls via sermons and the media in response to the outbreak of xenophobic/racist violence and in some instances criminality perpetrated against ‘Black’ non-nationals. an action that is indicative of “anti-Black racism” (Parliament of the RSA 2008). appropriately said (Voice of the Cape 2008a): 7 Racial categories such as ‘Black’. (See sermons and media reports below). and asylum seekers. . but also provided government with advice “on how to deal with some of the problems we faced as a country during that trying time” (SA Government Information 2008). ‘Indian’. migrants. while Muslim relief organisations provided massive and extensive relief aid to the destitute. Their use. community hostility worsened. RSA 2003).Xenophobia in SA: The Role of Islam and Muslims 339 South Africa officially launched its National Forum against Racism (NFAR) in 2003 (Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. especially in poorer urban communities. They availed their mosques as temporary shelters and offered charitable assistance for the displaced immigrants. Despite the prevalence of the NFAR as well as anti-discrimination legislation.

at times. 9 See 2008 invitation from the Committee for Theological Dialogue to the “International Conference on Religion and Xenophobia: Islamic and Christian Perspectives”. which was the first in SA dealing with this important theme on religion and xenophobia. for you were 8 See the 2008 invitation from the Director-General of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to the workshop on “Racism in Religious & Faith Based Groups Sector”. Firstly. A few pertinent religious based initiatives toward “finding a lasting solution” subsequently proceeded. and assign responsibility for eradication. the NGOs and local community policing forums that have pledged their support… in finding a lasting solution that would bring peace and stability in our communities.340 Theologia Viatorum 33/2 (2009) .Xenophobia I also commend and compliment the civil society formations.8 Secondly. the Committee for Theological Dialogue (CTD) convened the “International Conference on Religion and Xenophobia: Islamic and Christian Perspectives” from 17-19 November 2008 at the University of Cape Town. the conference. to identify racism and its manifestations. the religious groupings. Additionally. develop eradication strategies. sought “to illuminate (positive) Christian and Islamic theological resources for healing and transformation”. on 5 June 2008. the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJCD) hosted a workshop on “Racism in Religious & Faith Based Groups Sector”. The conference organisers claimed at the time that they “recognize (the negative attitudes) that.10 Third. . religious actors have not lived up to the higher teachings of their traditions and have thus been complicit in Xenophobia”9 or racism. 10 See 2008 invitation from the Committee for Theological Dialogue to the “International Conference on Religion and Xenophobia: Islamic and Christian Perspectives”. in Pretoria. Theologia Viatorum: Journal of Theology and Religion in Africa at the University of Limpopo will publish a special edition entitled “You shall love him as yourself.

overt and subtle. permeating all interactions” with non-nationals. the Constitution’s preamble unequivocally states that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it” without any reference to place of birth or citizenship status. religion. place of residence. One of the main humanitarian provisions in the Constitution of South Africa revolves around the aspiration towards equality. 14 Section 9 of the Bill of Rights stipulates that all people are equal and 11 .12 These attitudes have persisted despite SA possessing one of the world’s most inclusive and progressive constitutions.11 3. Even undocumented migrants are incorporated within “all” or “everyone” as they are protected under the right to equality14 and See call for submissions of articles (August 2008) by the editor of Theologia Viatorum: Journal of Theology and Religion in Africa to be published as “The Theological and Ethical Considerations of Combating Xenophobia in (South) Africa Today”. UNDERSTANDING THE HUMANITARIAN ATTITUDE OF ISLAM AND MUSLIMS IN THE XENOPHOBIC ATTACKS ON FOREIGNERS Jonathan Crush (2008:39) from the Southern African Migration Project (SAMP) asserts that “South Africa has become and remains a deeply xenophobic society. See the definition of United Nations Human Rights (2009). sex. human dignity and the advancement of human rights for everyone. language. 12 For a “chronology that looks back at the problem of xenophobia since South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994” see Williams’ (2008) “Xenophobic attacks in South Africa: Not a completely new phenomenon” 13 “Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings. colour. or any other status. In addition.” where xenophobic attitudes are “widespread and pervasive. national or ethnic origin. whatever our nationality.13 Chapter 2 contains a Bill of Rights that outlines the various human rights that all the people in South Africa ought to enjoy. as the first volume of 2009. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination”.Xenophobia in SA: The Role of Islam and Muslims 341 aliens in the land of Egypt – The Theological and Ethical Considerations of Combating Xenophobia in (South) Africa Today”.

In Gauteng. entitlements and obligations as provided in the Bill of Rights apply to “all” or “everyone”. 16 The Bill of Rights limits the freedom of trade. He also published another khutbah on World Refugee Day entitled “The Continuing Challenge of Xenophobia” that he delivered at Claremont Main Road Mosque. which he delivered at the Claremont Main Road Mosque in the Muslim Views (Omar 2008:28). In the Western Cape. received permits to work. 15 Section 10 of the Bill of Rights states that “everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected”. on the mosque’s website (Claremont Main Road must be treated equally. together with many others. Imam A Rashied Omar published his khutbah or sermon entitled “Ta’aruf: Islam beyond Xenophobia”. all the rights. published the Summarised Jumu’ah Bayaan (Friday Sermon): Xenophobia in their online newsletter (Jamiatul Ulama SA 2008b). study and open small businesses if he so wished from the SA government.342 Theologia Viatorum 33/2 (2009) . confirmed in the media that he.Xenophobia human dignity. the Jamiatul Ulama (Council of Muslim Theologians) South Africa. He. therefore. a non-national from Somalia based in the Western Cape. The humanitarian attitude of Muslims toward non-nationals. . can be gleaned from some of the Friday sermons delivered during and around the period that the violence occurred.16 Bashir Mohamed Abidi.15 Regarding the rights of foreigners or nonnationals. the province most affected by the violence. although there are legal avenues for non-nationals to be able to work legally in the country. with few exceptions. as manifested through the human rights notions of human dignity and equality to “all” or “everyone”. Not many khutab focusing on xenophobia were made available in published format. affirmed: “We have rights like everybody and no one will take it from us” (Voice of the Cape 2008e). occupation and profession to citizens. The right to vote and to stand for public office in elections is limited to citizens.

Imam Omar.Xenophobia in SA: The Role of Islam and Muslims 343 Mosque 2008). In their newsletter update they maintained that they provided meals to more than 5000 foreigners affected by xenophobic 17 The Gauteng-based relief organisation Gift of the Givers (Waqf alWaqifin) has spent more than R4 million on the xenophobic crisis. in its weekly online newsletter. See Gift of the Givers Foundation (2008). expressed the function of the state in protecting the human dignity of all by urge(ing) authorities to urgently take necessary steps to address this matter which can prove to be another defining moment in the history of our young democracy and a culture of human rights. Thus. The Jamiatul Ulama SA (2008b). Noticeably. also made a general call for securing the human dignity of non-nationals by empathising with “the vast majority of South Africans who (were) responding to the plight of refugees and our fellow Africans with great compassion” (Omar 2008:20). All resources should be brought to bear to safeguard life and property for all. . in its Bayaan or Sermon. in his first khutbah. apart from making appeals to the human dignity of non-nationals coupled with the call to support the widespread relief aid. these appeals have primarily been expounded in the broader media. In appealing to the human dignity of foreigners the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa. they concentrated particularly on the enduring humanitarian role of Islam and Muslims. reiterated that “as Muslims we also have an added responsibility of protecting the vulnerable who have become victims of these unfortunate circumstances” and we should “[c]ontribute towards relief efforts initiated by different organisations17 involved in relief work” (Jamiatul Ulama SA 2008b). These sermons did not reflect much on the humanitarian attitude of Muslims toward the xenophobic attacks on ‘Black’ foreigners.

they also claimed that “[t]he community outpouring of goodwill in providing for the basic needs of these people has been phenomenal. We have therefore instructed all mosques to open its doors to any immigrant that may need assistance and we encourage the entire Muslim community to open up their homes to give sup- . with some areas having collected enough to provide for the suffering of weeks” (Jamiatul Ulama SA 2008c).344 Theologia Viatorum 33/2 (2009) . The Deputy President of the Muslim Judicial Council. In this regard there have been instances where Muslims have shown displeasure and irritation toward ‘Black’ foreigners in particular. Furthermore. various Muslim organisations ratified the positive humanitarian attitude of Muslims and endeavored to protect the human dignity of those non-nationals affected by the xenophobic violence through humanitarian aid. Shaykh Achmat Sedick. who frequent local masajid or mosques and are referred to as “those people (who) make the place stink”. thereby trampling on the human dignity of the ‘Black’ foreigners. albeit the fact that these are places of worship for all (Jeenah 2008). Even though Muslims in Gauteng displayed positive attitudes toward non-nationals they were also complicit in exhibiting negative attitudes. since “foreigners have lived side-by-side with South Africans in Alexandra (and) (i)t has been mutual coexistence that goes back many years” (Jamiatul Ulama SA 2008a). In the Western Cape. Besides securing the human dignity of non-nationals through welfare aid the Jamiatul Ulama also highlighted the provision of equality.Xenophobia violence on the East Rand. corroborated this undertaking when he stated (Voice of the Cape 2008c): We need to restore the dignity of these people as their pride has been trampled upon. while other ways of alleviating the humanitarian crisis were being investigated together with civil society organisations and government (Jamiatul Ulama SA 2008b).

We found last night that because most of the volunteers were non-Muslims. 4. but we have had to say no to them because most refugees (in the Du Noon area) are Somalis who will only accept halaal food. the Foundation was desperately searching for volunteers to assist in cooking. the Somalis were reluctant to take the aid.Xenophobia in SA: The Role of Islam and Muslims 345 port to those in need…and look at the humanitarian aspect of the situation. Alia Lambada. evidently noted at the inception of the violence in the Western Cape that (Voice of the Cape 2008c): many organizations have been willing to provide food. in the Western Cape there was a glaring distinction between the positive relief aid donated and negative voluntary or welfare assistance that Muslims provided to the ‘Black’ non-nationals. food distribution and transportation to help more than 10 000 displaced foreigners daily (Mustadafin Foundation 2008). The PRO of the Mustadafin (social-welfare) Foundation. They want to see Muslims handing it out which is why we need more hands to help as volunteers to hand out the food. who preferred using the term “xeno-afro-phobia”. Hence Muslims in the Western Cape infrequently displayed the attitude of reluctance to interact with ‘Black’ non-nations through their unwillingness to personally assist African foreigners. While Muslims were very generous in terms of donating food. UNDERSTANDING THE ENDURING HUMANITARIAN ROLE OF ISLAM AND MUSLIMS IN PREVENTING XENOPHOBIC ATTACKS ON FOREIGNERS No doubt the humanitarian role of religious communities is somewhat informed by their attitude towards non-nationals. Visibly. since the related violence/hatred was targeted against ‘Black’/African foreigners solely (Voice of the Cape 2008d). In 1998 the Community Agency for Social Enquiry (CASE) .

acknowledged that “the legacy of apartheid has been particularly difficult to overcome in the church as people are drawn together not necessarily because they want to be together. ‘Blacks’ have remained “on the margins of Muslim community life” (Sitoto 2002:44). The masjid (mosque) could. Even though Apartheid has been abolished separate worship along racial lines remains the norm in South Africa. While mosques could play a positive role or pivotal function in promoting the status. presents a serious threat to South Africa’s democracy (Sangonet 2008). The former president of the South African Council of Churches (SACC).Xenophobia conducted a survey of human rights and established that negative attitudes towards foreigners may be part of a bigger problem of human rights awareness where knowledge of the Bill of Rights was very low18 (Pigou.346 Theologia Viatorum 33/2 (2009) . for instance with ‘Coloured’. The SAHRC disclosed that the country failed to deal with the problem of race at the inception of democracy in 1994 (Sangonet 2008). A significant area for consideration with regard to the enduring role of religion and Islam is the harmonious integration of non-nationals into the Muslim community via the notion of common religious expression. Greenstein & Valji 1998. either negatively contribute towards social isolation. ‘Indian’ and ‘Black’ Muslims/mosques. . Crush 2000:111-112). and rights of foreigners the apartheid legacy of divided religious worship remains and impacts on non-nationals. Recently the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) revealed that the xenophobic attacks of May on non-nationals. but out of necessity” (BBC World Service 2001). racism and xenophobia or positively utilise religion/Islam as an opportunity for 18 “Over half of those surveyed (56%) thought that the rights guaranteed by the constitution were only for South Africans” (Crush 2000:111). value. therefore. Muslims and to a certain degree mosques in post-apartheid South Africa are still divided along racial lines. Bishop Mvume Dandala.

In this regard the published sermons that were delivered around the period of the xenophobic attacks are replete with humanitarian/harmonising aspects of equality and human dignity in relation to the ‘Black’ foreigner. “extending a helping hand to a ‘foreigner’ is extending your hand to your own family member” (Jamiatul Ulama SA 2008b). as cited in the verses of the Qur’an and the sayings of the Prophet. Humanity is hence one society bound by a common origin and includes a host of differences within its oneness and consequently. these were merely deployed to extrapolate the notion of “equality” of “all people”. One is only a pious believer or miserable sinner. a hadith (saying of the Prophet) was also cited.Xenophobia in SA: The Role of Islam and Muslims 347 cultural sharing and integration particularly through accentuating the humanitarian/harmonising principles of equality and human dignity. namely “Humanity is the family of God. ‘Coloured’ and ‘Indian’ Muslims of contemporary South Africa. and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another…” (Q49:13). These substantiations of the equality of “all people” were furthermore entrenched with another hadith. However. the khutbah or sermon did not illustrate how these were applicable to the lived realities of ‘Black’. Although. In addition to the aforementioned ayah. . In Summarised Jumu’ah Bayaan: Xenophobia. numerous examples were forwarded with regard to the textual status of the foreigner. the best human being is kind to His (God’s) family” (as reported in Mishkat). Similar textual examples were also included. which explicated the egalitarian relationship between non-Muslims and Muslim non-nationals. namely “…Let people stop boasting about their ancestors. the notion of equality between locals and non-nationals or “all” people was established via the ayah (Qur’anic verse): “O people! Verily We created you from a male and a female. All people are children of Adam. and Adam came from dust” (as narrated in Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi).

since these form part of “everyone’s” inherent dignity that must be “respected and protected” (see note 15). and the self and. Though the Islamic discourse as delineated above is rooted in human rights notions. therefore. but for a different purpose. Imam Omar does not illustrate how these could be integrated into a contemporary South African human rights . Here he summoned the same ayah or verse (Q. namely highlighting the notion of human dignity (and not equality) by “embracing the stranger as an extension of yourself” (Omar 2008:27).Xenophobia The first sermon of Imam Omar focused mainly on the notion of human dignity as ascertained in the ethical African principle of ubuntu (I am because you are) and Qur’anic concept of ta‘aruf (getting to know the other). since an “Arab has no merit over non-Arab” or national has no superiority over non-national and hence “all people are equal” (see note 14). develop an understanding of God. Once again he was not explicit about correspondingly including Muslims within nurturing the ethic of ta‘aruf. In this regard he counseled “all” South Africans “to nurture our future generations with this ethic of ubuntu” (Omar 2008:27).49:13) as above. The former was underscored in reference to “…the difference of your language and colours…” (Q. that is striving to know the other or non-nationals.348 Theologia Viatorum 33/2 (2009) . In the second khutbah or sermon of Imam Omar the notions of human dignity and equality were concurrently extrapolated from the textual sources and emphasised (Claremont Main Road Mosque 2008). He further contextualised the ethical concepts amidst the xenophobic attacks and stipulated that “South Africans have not yet fully imbibed the great African ethic of ubuntu” (Omar 2008:27) and similarly or implicitly that Muslims have not completely internalised the great Qur’anic concept of ta‘aruf.30:22). While the latter was highlighted in the famous khutbah al-wada‘ (farewell/final sermon) of the Prophet Muhammad.

there was a glaring distinction between the relief aid donated and the voluntary or welfare assistance that Muslims provided to foreigners. all rights.Xenophobia in SA: The Role of Islam and Muslims 349 culture and thereby confirm the enduring humanitarian role of Islam in preventing xenophobic attacks on foreigners. The published sermons that were delivered around the period of the xenophobic attacks were replete with humanitarian/harmonising principles of equality and human dignity in relation to the non-national. Even though Muslims in Gauteng displayed positive attitudes toward foreigners they also exhibited negative attitudes toward ‘Black’ non-nationals who frequent the local masajid or mosques and. trampled on the human dignity of Muslim ‘Black’ foreigners. When analysing the khutab or sermons it was found that they did not reflect much on the humanitarian attitude of Muslims toward the xenophobic attacks on ‘Black’ foreigners. These appeals were primarily expounded via the broader media. that proclaimed “[a] human rights approach to address xenophobia can curb violent attacks and reverse attitudes in South Africa” (Polity 2008). Consequently. and obligations as provided in the Bill of Rights of the South African Constitution apply to all or everyone. The magnitude and import of this observation is further vindicated via the declaration of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). In Gauteng numerous examples . on the other hand. CONCLUSION Regarding the rights of foreigners or non-nationals. In the Western Cape. apart from making appeals based on the human dignity of non-nationals coupled with the call to support the widespread relief aid. entitlements. 5. therefore. some Muslims in the Western Cape occasionally displayed the attitude of reluctance to interact with ‘Black’ non-nationals owing to their unwillingness to personally assist African foreigners. with few exceptions.

It was highlighted that “South Africans have not yet fully imbibed the great African ethic of ubuntu” and similarly or implicitly that Muslims have not completely internalised the great Qur’anic concept of ta‘aruf. and ‘Indian’ Muslims of contemporary South Africa. these on occasion are predisposed by the country’s deeply divided racial history. ‘Coloured’.shtml [Accessed 03 October 2008] Claremont Main Road Mosque 2008.za [Accessed 24 October 2008]. Bibliography BBC World Service 2001.350 Theologia Viatorum 33/2 (2009) . Khutab (Sermons). and by the realities of living and surviving in present-day South Africa. Muslims did not illustrate how these could be integrated into a contemporary South African human rights culture.co. In this regard bold religious leadership and a broad based human rights public education/awareness campaign in the masajid or mosques.bbc. However.cmrm. was rooted in human rights notions of human dignity and equality. and filled with humanitarian instructions to be compassionate and inclusive. as delineated in the khutab or sermons and media. http://www. http://www.uk/worldservice/people/highlights/010905_racism. . in the Western Cape the ethical concepts of ubuntu or I am because you are and ta‘aruf or getting to know the other were contextualised amidst the xenophobic attacks.co. 05 September 2001. The Continuing Challenge of Xenophobia. madaris or Islamic religious schools and media would do much to mitigate and even prevent or curtail xenophobic/racist attitudes (or reverse attitudinal dynamics) in the Muslim community.Xenophobia were forwarded with regard to the textual (namely Qur’anic or Hadith) status of the foreigner. Racism and Religion. 20 June 2008. it is also true that even though Islamic scriptural texts are suffused with directives against racism and xenophobia. Furthermore. but the related khutbah or sermon did not translate these into the lived realities of ‘Black’. Though the Islamic discourse.

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