Amid a stirring debate among SA Muslims about their role within a democracy and political engagement as the country approaches the 2009 national election, the office of the Presidency announced on that the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC)’s senior members are to pay a courtesy call on President Kgalema Motlanthe on at Tuynhuis. However, the delegation excludes MJC president, Maulana Igsaan Hendricks, who is presently in Yemen.

On Tuesday (18/11) evening, the ulema body said agreement had been reached between the parties not to involve the media in such meetings pre-emptively. The courtesy call is similar to various meetings the ulema body held with former President Thabo Mbeki and President Nelson Mandela. According to MJC president Maulana Igsaan Hendricks, during an earlier meeting this year with Mbeki it was decided that such meetings between the religious community and the presidency had to be held on a regular basis. It is not clear at this stage what is to be discussed at the meeting.

Earlier this year, after the ulema body raised concern about the dismissal of Western Cape premier, Ebrahim Rasool – who now serves as advisor to Mothlanthe – the MJC joined other ulema bodies under the umbrella of the United Ulema Council of South Africa to meet with the ANC’s senior leadership, led by secretary general, Gwede Mantashe. During the meeting the ulema were reassured that their concerns were being taken seriously by the party. Rasool’s new appointment went a long way to appease the Muslim community, although VOC polls indicate that Muslims were still deciding where their vote would go to in 2009.

In recent months, sources tell VOC that the MJC had met twice with the ANC national leadership, twice with the new ANC provincial leadership led by Mcebisi Skwatcha as well as with the leadership of the breakaway Shikota group. This came after the ulema body criticised the ruling party for the manner in which its internal strife was causing confusion among the South African public.

Meanwhile, as the debate continues to rage about whether or not the ulema should lead political engagement for Muslims, 45.1% of those polled by VOC last month felt that the ulema bodies should lead Muslims in all matters in relation to government. 30.5% felt that while the ulema should represent Muslims, they needed to remain unaligned to anyone. However, 20.7% felt that the ulema should only act on religious matters while 3.7% did not believe they should be involved in political matters at all.

Last week during the International Peace University of SA (IPSA)’s third seminar on Islam and Politics, Maulana Prof Farid Essack summarised the seminar by saying that there was an exciting shift in the discourse within the Muslim community on Islam and politics which is shaping the way in which Muslims relate to democracy in this country. 66% of those polled online on Tuesday by VOC agreed with Essack that political engagement by the ulema was determined by a few power brokers in the MJC and such political positioning was not necessarily founded on theology. However 22% disagreed while 11% felt that such political engagement was led by a few power brokers, but this was led by theology.

On a related note, in another poll conducted last week, 48.5% of VOC onliners said they would prefer Motlanthe to stay on as SA president after the 2009 elections. 40% said they would prefer someone else while only 4.7% wanted Zuma as president and 6.6% did not care. This came after ANC president Jacob Zuma told the media that Motlanthe cannot stay on after 2009 as president. He made it clear that there was an ANC resolution, made at the party's Polokoane conference, that the president of the ANC will also be president of the country.

Source: Voice Of the Cape 

MRN

Author: MRN Network

The aspiration of the Media Review Network is to dispel the myths and stereotypes about Islam and Muslims and to foster bridges of understanding among the diverse people of our country. The Media Review Network believes that Muslim perspectives on issues impacting on South Africans are a prerequisite to a better appreciation of Islam.