ADDRESS BY YUSUF ABRAMJEE, SOCIAL COHESION ADVOCATE

NOTES: ADDRESS BY YUSUF ABRAMJEE, SOCIAL COHESION ADVOCATE

Muslim Judicial Council
72nd anniversary: Cape Town.
Friday 10 February 2017

Congratulations to the MJC – celebrating 72 years of serving the community. We salute the leadership of the council and we wish you well.

I want to focus on a few current issues:

It is disgraceful and hurtful to see Islamophobia on the rise – locally and internationally.

Hatred for Muslims from some quarters is on the increase and the time has come for citizens to stand up, promote religious tolerance and take a stand against those who are targeting Islam.

Islam is a religion of peace. Those who carry out violence, promote discord and hatred and kill the innocent in the name of our religion should be condemned and criticized at every corner. We need to ensure that we promote peace, love, reconciliation and compassion.

We as South African Muslims should celebrate the fact that we enjoy religious freedom. Our Constitution guarantees us that. Although we are a minority in this country, we are able to exercise our religious rights freely and openly and that is something to be proud of. It’s something to celebrate.

The recent attacks on three Mosques in the Western Cape is a disgrace. We strongly condemn the acts of those who want to sow division, promote religious intolerance and those who are out to destabilize our communities. We say: Shame on you. You will not succeed by throwing pigs heads and blood in our places of worship.

My message to the culprits is clear: You will not succeed in your evil quest of tarnishing our religion. We remain hopeful that the law will come down hard on you – sooner or later. You nameless and faceless individuals should need be arrested, convicted and punished. You will eventually be exposed.

It is concerning for us as Muslims to see an increase in objections to Mosques in many areas of South Africa. There seems to be a movement at work mobilizing to try to stop the building of Muslim places of worship. We have seen it in areas like Valhalla in Pretoria, Sandton and Buccleau and now Atholl in northern Johannesburg.

The objectors use traffic and noise levels as a disguise to oppose the erection of Mosques. These same objectors will not make a noise when bottle stores, casinos and prostitution dens open right in their neighborhoods. But they mobilize when Muslims want to pray. This is a sad indictment on society. The time has come for all of us to show religious tolerance and to respect each other’s religions. We need Mosques, Churches, Temples and Synagogues side by side. We need to allow everyone the opportunity to pray and to exercise their religious freedoms. This will take us forward!

We need to respect all religions.

This week, I again saw a number of posts on social media in South Africa by individuals criticizing Muslims and Islam, insulting our beloved Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) and calling us, Muslims names.

I don’t want to repeat some of the things said…It is sickening and nauseating. Such foul, nasty and odious attacks on our religion must stop. Institutions such as the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), CRL Commission and the Equality Court must act decisively and with urgency and stop the hatred which which is being spitted out by some. They need to take stern action against those individuals who cause religious and cultural divisions. We need protection and we need it now.

Early last year, I reported a number of individuals, during the height of the Valhalla Mosque Row to the CRL Commission for their Islamophobic comments on social media. They linked us to ISIS, Al Queda and Boko Haram.

Many months later, I am still waiting for a ruling. I also reported a CRL Commissioner. We are still waiting for a ruling! The delays are unacceptable.

The CRL Rights Commission is a constitutional body established in terms of the South African Constitution of 1996. Its constitutional mandate is to strengthen our constitutional democracy. But we need this Commission to act decisively to promote our religious, cultural and linguistic rights. We need them to be effective and I repeat: protect us. That’s what our Constitution dictates.

Social cohesion needs to be promoted at every turn. It is the responsibly to of every citizen to do their bit. The time has come for all of us to promote the philosophy of active citizenry. This means we have to all stand up for our rights and roll up our sleeves.

Recently, a young Cape Town woman was turned down from joining the South Africa Navy because she wears a Hijab. This is not right. It’s unacceptable. Individuals who want to exercise their religious obligations should be accommodated.

I remain hopeful that the Navy will review its decision and allow Muslims women such as Taskeen Ebrahim to wear her Hijab with pride. I know the MJC has taken up her plight and I hope we will succeed.

The so-called “Muslim Ban” by US President Donald Trump continues to draw attention and anger across the world. Trump, who clearly dislikes Mexicans and Muslims, is playing right into the hands of extremists. He is sadly giving them reason to continue carrying out acts of evil. We need bridges, not walls. We need love, not hate. Refugees seek refugee and shelter, not resentment or stigma. Trump is clearly xenophobic and we as South African Muslims join the world chorus to call on him to stop his madness. There is no place on our world for division and racism.

Let’s all continue to do our bit to make the world a better place. Let’s join hands and unite. Let’s work together to promote peace, goodwill and social cohesion. Let’s help those in need.

We have to unite. Our religious leaders must lead the way to fight social ills. Drugs, for example, are killing our people. Let’s use our podiums to inform and educate our congregations.

Crime is on the increase. It’s time for all of us to work together and reclaim our streets from the gangsters.

We need organizations like the MJC to use their wisdom to guide the jammatul Muslimeen on practical ways of applying what the former President of the MJC calls the “fiqh of citizenship.”

This is a powerful concept of teaching Muslims how to be responsible pro-active citizens. It instills social activism from an informed perspective. It promotes a Muslim citizenry aware of the power of influence and not just the influence of power. It helps in developing a caring, engaged Muslim citizenry using excellence to serve all of mankind. That is the practice of the seerah of our beloved Prophet (PBUH). That is the practice to profile our identity in a multi faith society. A practice to model the values of the Deen. A practice to advance our freedom in a culture fair way. It is time to “politicise our spirituality and spiritualise our politics” in a pro-active way.

Let’s promote intra-Muslim solidarity and economic development and support and empower our community with the life skills to walk with self assuredness as Muslims underpinned by humility.

Let me conclude by saying: All Muslims are not terrorists and extremists. We promote peace and we will continue to do so.

End

With kind regards

Yusuf Abramjee
Cell 082 4414 203
Twitter: @abramjee

MESSAGE BY THE MINISTER OF ARTS AND CULTURE, MINISTER NATHI MTHETHWA, AT THE CAPE TOWN LAUNCH OF THE BOOK

MESSAGE BY THE MINISTER OF ARTS AND CULTURE, MINISTER NATHI MTHETHWA,
AT THE CAPE TOWN LAUNCH OF THE BOOK,
#HAJJ 2016,
CENTRE FOR THE BOOK,
CAPE TOWN, 6 NOVEMBER 2016

It was twenty years ago, in 1996 that the Constitution of a democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa was born, having been promulgated by President Nelson Mandela.

Our Constitution was granted approval by the Constitutional Court on 4 December 1996 and signed into law on 18 December 1996.

Our Constitution is still today widely regarded as the most progressive Constitution in the world.

Section 6 of the Constitution states that everyone has the right to participate in the cultural life of his or her choice – though no one may do so in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of Rights.

Of significance to the gathering here today is also our Bill of Rights, which ensures cultural diversity; and the first section of our Bill of Rights reads as follows:

We, the people of South Africa,
Recognise the injustices of our past;
Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;
Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and
Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.

It is in this context that I believe that today we celebrate the launch of a book that provides insights into the lives, the desires, dreams and journeys taken by the Muslim people of South Africa and Muslims around the world.

It is a book rich in colour and culture.

It is a book that tells a real story that is full of Ubuntu and the gift of giving and sharing with others.

It is a book about comradeship and friendship between different peoples.

It is a book that provides insight of the journey that every Muslim who can afford, will take at least once in his or her life.

It is a book of varied landscapes, from the Highveld of South Africa to the desert landscapes of Saudi Arabia.

It is a book about a pilgrimage to sacred spaces and to sites of great heritage and spiritual value.

Mostly it is a book that pays homage to the HAJJ and is peopled with faces, places, and all those who lent a helping hand to others, all who were not content only to be there for themselves but also for all others.

It is a journey from Africa to its sister continent of Asia, to that part of the world that indeed straddles Africa and Asia.

It is a route taken first thousands of years ago, before today’s air travel.

Some say it was the site of early human migration from Africa to the Arabian Peninsula and of movements too and fro at a time when climatic conditions were favourable and when the land was verdant before the Sahara became desert and before the Arabian Desert. Some say the Red Sea was shallow then enabling such crossings.

But what is important is the inextricable connections that we have between Africa and Asia as geographic and cultural spaces that have influenced the course of history over thousands of years.

What is important is also our own history of the earliest Muslims in South Africa especially in the Cape who did so much to fight against colonialism and to those who participated and gave their lives in the liberation struggle of the 20th century against oppression.

We pay homage to all those who contributed to the rich cultural fabric and social and economic life of South Africa and who asserted themselves even when forcibly removed from their own countries to be brought here through slavery.

This initiative of Yusuf Abramjee and the publisher offers fellow Muslims who may not yet have taken this journey a visual experience of what it is like for South Africans to go there as pilgrims.

And beyond this, the book celebrates our cultural diversity as South Africans, because such a text also reaches out to others to understand what it means to be Muslim, to be South African, to be African, all at the same time and also to be at one with the world and with one’s religious beliefs.

Therefore it is my view that the book belongs to all and has meaning across cultures, religions and can inspire people in this country to give more to others, to build a more inclusive society and to work towards an egalitarian world.

This approach could only have come from one such as Yusuf Abramjee who we in the Ministry and Department of Arts and Culture are pleased to have as a Social Cohesion Advocate, who has given freely of his time to help others and to build cohesion in our country.

We are pleased that this book is being donated to public libraries at no costs. This itself is done in the spirit of generosity and knowledge sharing.

Together inspired by this work of art, let us continue to strengthen this journey to a better life for all and a more peaceful and prosperous world.

I thank you

MINISTER NATHI MTHETHWA
NOVEMBER 201

ADDRESS BY HEAD OF CRIME LINE AND LEAD SA ACTIVIST, YUSUF ABRAMJEE DURING THE 2014 TOBACCO INSTITUTE OF SOUTH AFRICA (TISA) ANTI-ILLICIT TRADE (AIT) CONFERENCE

In preparation for this conference, I came across the shocking statistic that the illicit cigarette trade costs the South African government around R5-billion a year in lost revenue.

It certainly supports the fact that the tobacco industry is not under threat by anti-tobacco lobby groups, but rather the illicit trade of tobacco.

I do not profess to be an expert on the illicit trade of tobacco, but the problem of transnational and organised crime is a constant thorn in the side of organisations that seek to combat crime.

We recently hosted the Crime Stoppers International Conference here in Cape Town, and there was not a category of crime that didn’t have tentacles reaching out to other parts of the world or didn’t have an element of highly organised networks of criminals.

As for the crime itself, it is rarely uncomplicated.

It often marries itself with a variety of other serious criminal activities.

From a media perspective, you don’t often hear much about the illicit trade of tobacco.

Or rather any significant arrests of syndicates or the destruction of cigarettes seized during special operations.

Why?

The level of corruption and bribery seems to be a constant theme where the illicit trade of tobacco is concerned.

Authorities and more worryingly, state security agencies, have been implicated in accepting bribes from syndicates operating in South Africa.

There is no doubt that our country has a major problem with crime.

This is further exacerbated by corruption.

For most of you here the statistics, trends and challenges of the illicit tobacco trade is not news.

However, for the majority of South Africans the illicit tobacco trade does not attract shock, horror or outrage.

On par with copyright theft, people generally don’t regard it is a “serious” crime and believe that it is only a crime on those who are already making disgusting amounts of money.

Even rhino poaching is often regarded as a “white issue”, not realising the far-reaching implications.

On the surface it doesn’t seem like it is impacting the man on the street or affecting his pocket directly.

The story they don’t see is the widespread corruption of authorities.

It doesn’t reflect on the impact on our economy and its ability to invest money in service delivery and infrastructure.

It doesn’t show the trafficking of weapons, human beings, drugs or even murder.

It certainly doesn’t show the breakdown of our moral fabric as society.

When we allow it, we condone it.

Ladies and gentleman,

Perception is everything.

How do you change what people think about the illicit tobacco trade?

Keeping in mind the anti-tobacco lobbyists, an advertising ban and a thriving market that allows people to buy cigarettes on the cheap.

How do you begin to tackle these challenges?

Let’s talk about demand.

Like most criminal industries, the popular solution is to cut down on demand.

How do you influence a consumer to buy a pack of legal cigarettes at around R35 instead of an illegal pack at R10 or less?

Trawling through the internet, compelling information on the illicit trade is scarce and largely available from British American Tobacco (BAT).

Let me show you two BAT examples:

tobacco-2

The first offers an emotive dramatization of how illegal cigarettes are used to find other criminal enterprises – in this case the human trafficking for sex trade.

The second is more educational, seeking to illustrate the cost, the health implications, and the loss to economies and so on.

If I didn’t go looking for it, I wouldn’t have known.

Now let’s look at a WildAid commercial that is currently targeting China in a bid to stem demand.

Rh

It has all the makings of a compelling public service message – a local celebrity, drama, facts and a compelling call to action.

Yes, anti-rhino poaching is a far better sell than the illegal trade of cigarettes.But as BAT has shown you have all the ingredients to show that consumers should not regard it as a, and I quote, “victimless crime”.

How these messages are disseminated to consumers is the next challenge.

When you cut away all traditional forms of advertising, you need to make the news, take advantage of digital and engage with grassroots on a regular basis.

The seizure of illegal cigarettes should be followed up by swift destruction, quantifying what the cache would have “cost” if it hit the streets.

Make it personal.

Use digital repetitively to remind people of the real cost of the illegal trade of cigarettes.

Don’t leave room for people to overshadow these messages with anti-tobacco rhetoric.

You need to know who you are talking to.

What does the average illegal cigarette consumer look like?

How do you reach them?

Where do they get their information from?

More importantly, how can you influence their choice between legal and illegal cigarettes?

Ladies and gentleman,

I can’t stress enough how important education is.

Through my work with Crime Line, we have pretty much seen and heard it all.

The consensus is that people are sick of crime.

But they are also selective about what crimes they are sick of.

These are naturally crimes that affect these individuals directly.

Scaremongering is a futile tactic, instead, allowing people to take the facts and reach a decision about how it affects their lives can have a far more sustainable impact.

We need to give people the power to stand up for themselves.

There needs to be a clear call to action.

There needs to be regular feedback and tangible results.

The vision of Crime Line has always been to give people an alternative and independent avenue to report illegal activity anonymously.

Two partnerships come to mind that were initially met with resistance – the one I have mentioned, copyright theft and the other is electricity theft.

Together with Operation Khanyisa and the South African Federation Against Copyright Theft (SAFACT) we continued to push, educate and give feedback.

It is starting to pay dividends.

It shows in the number of tip-offs we receive and where we usually got negative feedback, people are joining the discussions more.

This is the movement that is happening in South Africa at the moment.

More and more people are taking responsibility.

We’ve recently seen two consumers take to outdoor advertising to make their sentiments known about poor service delivery.

We should learn from this.

Don’t take consumers for granted. They are not stupid.

Be honest, concise, brief, determined and driven towards a common purpose.

Ladies and gentleman,

As an industry you have the responsibility to put pressure on government to take the illicit trade of tobacco seriously.

The fact that our authorities and state security agencies are so corruptible is not just bad news for you, but for all of us.

Arrests and seizures mean absolutely nothing if there are no real consequences. Again, I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard in the news about someone being convicted for this specific crime.

I also ask myself, when last did I hear about illegal cigarettes being destroyed? Alcohol – yes. Dagga – yes. What happens to these seizures?

Our government has gone to great lengths to legislate around smoking and to some extent even the illicit trade.

However, it’s easier to sell illegal cigarettes in broad daylight than it is to smoke a cigarette in certain public spaces.

This is why your community needs to be whistleblowers.

In the case of SAFACT, they work closely with the police to clamp down on informal traders selling fake DVDs and CDs.

Acting on tip-offs to Crime Line and Crime Stop they carry out operations several times a week.

They also report back on arrests, seizures, destructions and more importantly, convictions.

The public loves to hear about convictions.

It means that someone was caught, charged, prosecuted and punished.

This is the ultimate follow-through.

Ladies and gentleman,

Over the next two days, I’m sure you will learn everything about the illicit trade to take home to your respective organisations.

I hope that you will take this knowledge and apply it with renewed vigour towards sending a clear message to the entire supply chain – we are coming for you and we will find you.

I thank you.