MJC meets Hamas in Damascus
Posted on Voice of the Cape FM Website: 2009-03-30 15:54:03
A meeting on Sunday in Damascus with the leadership of Hamas by the president of the United Ulema Council of South Africa (Uucsa) and the president of the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) was as much on behalf of South African Muslims as it was on behalf of the wider South African society which has diligently supported the Palestinian course. So said MJC president, Maulana Igsaan Hendricks, a day after the meeting with Hamas leaders including Khaled Meshaal.
The South African delegation which includes Uucsa president Sheik Ebrahim Gabriels and MJC 2nd deputy president Sheik Igsaan Taliep travelled to Damascus for the meeting after the conclusion of an international conference in Beirut, Lebanon last week under the auspices of the Al Quds Foundation, which looked at internatioanl assistance in the reconstruction of Gaza after the 23 day war which ended in January.
“As we know, there are many political obstacles at present in getting aid to Gaza, but since we are deeply involved with charitable organizations lending assistance to Palestine on a continuous basis, what came through in the conference was a sense of planning on what is required for Gaza for the next five years. Everyone believes that we would do well if we work under a unified structure that would eliminate duplication and prevent money being wasted unnecessarily in that way,” Hendricks explained.
The conference also spelt out the areas of priority for the reconstruction of Gaza to the charities who attended. This includes the reconstruction of homes destroyed in the war. “At this moment no building material are allowed into Gaza. We also have to consider the results of the most recent negotiations so that we can be ready to put in place all the plans deliberated on at these conferences (as soon as circumstances allow).”
Hendricks said the Beirut conference continued the one that began in Cape Town last month, hosted by the MJC. “Many of the participants that were in Cape Town, participated in Beirut too. This is an indication of the commitment of people that these conferences. It is not just about talk, but a serious commitment of continuous support which will continue almost on a monthly basis to make sure everyone is on board on a broad plan required for Gaza.”
Two days after the conference, Hendricks said, the SA delegation headed for Damascus to meet with the senior leadership of Hamas. “We felt that it was necessary to meet the leadership of Hamas to express a message of solidarity on behalf of the SA Muslim and the larger SA community. There is a deep sense of appreciation for the support they are receiving from South Africa. They speak with great admiration of the meeting they had a few months ago with President Kgalema Motlanthe and other officials a few months ago. They continue to look at South Africa as a very important country that offers ongoing support for the Palestinian people.”
He added that the delegation also represented the ongoing support that South African Muslim give to the Palestinian cause. “I must say that the Palestinian organisations and leadership has great admiration for the type of commitment that is coming particularly from the Muslim community in South Africa.”
Asked about the expected criticism from some quarters about this meeting with Hamas, Hendricks said: “The SA community needs to be very careful on such criticism. Today we have people who rule SA who were regarded as the terrorists of yesterday. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher regarded former SA president Nelson Mandela as a terrorist and there are many more examples.
“So we are ready to take the responsibility for this meeting for we do not believe that Hamas is a terrorist organisation. We believe them to be a legitimate organisation that was democratically elected by the people. But we were not the only international delegation to meet with Hamas. Delegations – including from Europe – are standing line to do so. So people are not all subscribing to the idea of Hamas as a terror organisation.”
According to Hendricks, the Hamas leadership explained to the SA delegation the “enormous number of challenges” they are confronted with. “They take extreme pride in their ability to resist these challenges, that they have positioned themselves to work through it. All they are calling on the international community to understand is that they have a legitimately position. One needs to recognise that the process taking place at present in Cairo is one that Hamas is extremely occupied with and we hope that it come to some good.”
One of the biggest challenges Hamas faces is how they are viewed by the international community, many of whom have followed the US line not to negotiate with them as they are deemed to be extremist, as opposed to Mahmood Abbas more “moderate” group. Another challenges was the internal Palestinian differences, as well as the challenge posed by a lack of cohesive support from the Arab world.
“But they have conveyed to us that they were confident. The recent war on the people of Gaza was one that came to bear after many attempts and which Hamas was able to withstand. Therefore it is an important message to the world that Hamas is an organisation to be taken seriously since they were democratically chosen by the Palestinian people to lead them.”
In the SA society, we need to do a bit more and it is not difficult to call on the SA community for we should not forget our own struggle. Bombs are not falling right now, but we need to keep the struggle alive. We must realise that one does not just show sympathy when bombs are falling.”
As a case in point, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Occupied Palestine, Sheik Raed Salah on Sunday addressed the international community on Al Jazeera where he made an appeal to understand the danger that particularly the Palestinian community in the occupied territories now face under the new government. In terms of the Lieberman attitude, Palestinians living under Israeli rule would be expelled if they do not if they are not loyal citizens. “The challenges around the city of Jerusalem are enormous and we need to discuss this in more detail with our people, as well as the forced expulsion of people,” Hendricks said. VOC
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