With the commencement of the Holy month of Ramadhaan officially underway, many South Africans from the Muslim community were taken aback by what they witnessed in a recent video, which has been doing the rounds on Social Media, relating to the arrest of 17 worshipers who breached the regulations of the Disaster Management Act.
Since announcing a National lockdown & state of emergency in the country, President Cyril Ramaphosa has been urging South Africans to stay home & adhere to the law concerning the practice of social distancing. President Cyril Ramaphosa put out the following video to wish Muslims well for the month of Ramadhaan, whilst reiterating the need for measures to safeguard the continent; which was met with great pride and elation by the Muslim community.
Upon seeing this video, many of us felt that the President was sincere in his intentions; without gravitating towards thoughts of this just being some publicity stunt.
Barely hours after the above video message was aired, an incident of the violation of rights & intolerance of religious diversity occurred. Police Officers outdid all the Presidents efforts with the manner in which they carried out their duties. Many of you have seen the video below (which is self-explanatory) exhibiting exactly what transpired on the day.
I feel that it would make no sense for me to regurgitate news reports, so let us look at how this matter was dealt with by the SAPS (South African Police Service).
- The police raided a congregation in a Masjid/Mosque after a tip-off from an anonymous person
- When they arrived at the Masjid/Mosque/place of worship, they entered the premises to find the worshipers in a kneeled/sitting position on the ground and began shouting; ordering the worshipers to lay down on the ground
- They vehemently uttered insulting, sacrilegious and disrespectful remarks whilst making their arrests, including statements about the Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon him)
- One policeman stated, “Do you think Muhammed is more important than the President?”
WHAT WAS JUSTIFIED?
- The arrest of the 17 worshipers found to have breached the lockdown regulations was surely justified – the Police officers merely carried out their duties by doing so
- The implementation of a lockdown in the first instance was indeed the best manner in which to contain a pandemic currently ravaging the globe (this even supported and advocated by the very person the officers chose to insult – the Prophet Muhammed [P.B.U.H]).
- A congregation of this nature, according to the law as it currently stands, is considered illegal & would warrant the arrest of individuals found to be in breach
WHAT WAS NOT JUSTIFIED?
- Firstly, The Policemen entered a place of worship forcefully; shouting at the top of their lungs, despite it being common knowledge that religious places require silence & respect
- They walked into the Mosque with their shoes on, parading around on the prayer mats as if it were their mothers’ lounge
- The Policemen demanded that the worshipers lay on the ground (as if they posed an immediate threat to the Police officer’s safety). It was clear that these were peaceful worshipers and that they could never be viewed as a threat. Rather, these worshipers were compliant & in all likelihood would have simply adhered to demands by the officers to facilitate their arrests
- The Policemen insulted the Prophet Muhammed (S.A.W. – Peace be upon him) by implying that the President of the Republic is superior to him. This is not a justified comparison at all – it should be duly noted that the legacy of the Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon him) has carried over more than 1400 years (and will for many years to come), and he is a figure respected and loved by billions. Many speeches, writings and legacies of presidents/other public figures are soon forgotten- They barely stand the test of time. It only lasts as long as they are in office and possibly a while after, but never influences the way of life of so many people around the world. The ignorant statements uttered by the Policemen were baseless, needless & nonsensical.
WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF FAILING TO ADDRESS INCIDENCES OF POLICE BRUTALITY OR VIOLATION OF RIGHTS BY LAW ENFORCEMENT?
South Africa could very well end up like other countries in the world where the police abide by their own rules & seldom pay for their actions. In the United States, for example, they have laws enacted to protect Police Officers even when they grossly overstep their authority; conferring power on themselves to do as they please.
America is the poster child for injustice, abuse and brutality by law enforcement. In a country that holds itself out to be one of the most civil and democratic nations, many minorities still suffer at the hands of the Police. If we think about the gross abuse of African-Americans over the decades by police officers, we will see the systematic ill-treatment, beating and even killing of so many innocent people in the name of “laying down the law”. From the Rodney King debacle in the ’90s to the most recently murdered, unarmed Pittsburgh teen, Oscar Grant – various reports(as well as videos) confirm that these are not isolated incidents. These atrocities have been going on for a very long time.
Many of these heinous crimes are caught on video and seems as though the officers are never taken to task. Numerous protests, Campaigns & approaches to courts by human rights groups have fallen on deaf ears as the government refuses to provide any relief or retribution. You would naturally think that having such solid evidence would necessitate the conviction of the violating Officers, but nothing materialises. They merely suspend an officer until “the heat dies down” – before you know it that very same, psychopath of a person is back on the force, doing what he/she has become so accustomed to doing. It may seem as if I’m drifting off-topic here but my angle is that injustices continue to take place and get progressively worse when we fail to bring transgressors to justice.
The religious freedom we have here in South Africa is amazing, with people being mostly tolerant. You’re able to practice your faith (whatever that may be) with great freedom. Islamophobia is a phenomenon which has taken over the world and propaganda led campaigns continue to run to put fear into the hearts of many around the world, with people having a false impression of what Islam is actually about.
The only cure for this is education – we need to learn about other religions, share views and be tolerant. We shouldn’t just believe what the news tells us. If we fail to address these isolated incidences and fail to hold law enforcement liable for their actions – there is no telling how far law enforcement may go. Just remember that this video is one incident that we actually got to witness. What about countless other arrests made without the cameras rolling?
SOME BRIEF, NOTEWORTHY POINTS OF PROPHET MUHAMMED (PEACE BE UPON HIM) IN TIMES OF PLAGUE/CRISIS
- The Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon him) has said something to the following effect, “to save one life is as if to have saved all of humanity, and to have killed one person without just cause is to have killed all of humanity”
- Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) has also advised people that in times of plague, they should not leave the place they are in & also should not enter a place where there is a plague.
What steps have been taken thus far?
- The Jamiatul Ulama of South Africa has sent an open letter to the President to raise concerns regarding the sacrilegious statements as well as the demeanor and conduct of the Police Officer’s
- The MLA (Muslim Lawyers association) are also attending to take the necessary steps to bring the officers to justice and to ensure that steps are taken against them
- A case has been open against the Police by an individual of prominence in the Muslim community
** DUE TO THE VARIETY OF ISSUES THAT HAVE SURFACED OF LATE AND FOR PURPOSES OF CONCENTRATING THIS POST, I HAVE NOT ADDRESSED OTHER VIOLATIONS IN THE COUNTRY THAT HAS BEEN GOING ON AT THE SAME TIME. I WOULD LIKE TO TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO CONDEMN THE BEHAVIOUR OF ETHEKWINI MUNICIPALITY OFFICERS WHO EVICTED RESIDENTS DURING THE LOCKDOWN (DESPITE THEM HAVING A COURT ORDER SAFEGUARDING THEM FROM EVICTION). I WILL ELUCIDATE AND DELVE FURTHER INTO THIS TOPIC IN A FUTURE POST INSHA’ALLAH**