Between a span of fifteen years – 1992 to 2006, two major events characterised sparks of hope giving way to a mood of despair amongst Muslims.

The earlier event witnessed Algerian voters being denied a government they had elected by overwhelming numbers.

The second event saw a repetition of this terrible experience in Palestine’s OccupiedTerritories when Israel and her western allies prevented the electoral’s choice Hamas from assuming governance.

Though fifteen years apart and despite being separated between the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, it did persuade sceptics that the West will not countenance political space for any formation of the Islamic Movement.

And more currently, notwithstanding hopes and expectations inspired by an unprecedented wave of massive protests that dethroned Egypt’s powerful military dictator Hosni Mubarak, these were firmly shattered on the eve of Ramadaan 2013.

How? Algeria repeated in Egypt, that’s how!

People’s choice overthrown in a classical military coup d’etat, President and elected leaders abducted, detained without charge and worse, a total blackout of info on their fate.

But though the method is known and defined as a coup, the all important question that concerns us is why?

While our South African setting may appear to be far removed, it really is not if we consider the much travelled Cape to Cairo route.

Being African in addition to sharing a common faith, it is entirely appropriate and necessary to understand that the collective experience of Algeria, Palestine and Egypt does encapsulate unique challenges facing Muslims.

Political space for what is commonly referred to as “political Islam” does not exist and if claimed as the successful ’79 Islamic Revolution of Iran has, it will face sanctions, threats of war and annihilation.

As we in South Africa emerge from Ramadaan, hopefully sufficiently rejuvenated with vigour and commitment to embrace gruelling new and festering old challenges, let’s be mindful of an underlying subtext that may lurk behind a variety of euphemisms.

Perhaps the most insidious and damaging to the unity of the Ummah, remains the destructive legacy of colonialism: divide & rule.

Of course tactics have undergone dramatic change such as methods and means, but strategic imperial goals remain fixed.

Language invokes vocabulary which implies that “Moderate Islam” is an option former colonial masters are prepared to “tolerate” and embrace rather than “extremism” equated to what increasingly is being referred to in a derogative term: “Islamism”.

Such offensive definitions seek to pigeon-hole Muslims and is largely the result of racist profiling that perpetuates stereotyping of “Good and Bad” Muslims.

Indeed our own prejudice may facilitate this division and the danger inherent in sectarian conflict is evident in many regions, particularly Syria.

It consumes vital energy and resources and by pitting believers against each other, detracts from retaining a sustained campaign to consolidate and further advance gains made against injustice and oppression.

Islamophobia comes in many guises and from various quarters. Academia and “Think-Tanks” allied to Israel account as a major source in this. No surprise therefore to learn that the Netanyahu regime is as pleased as the Saudi monarchy at the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood from power in Egypt.

This thus warns us of the danger lurking in sectarian divides. Its a menace that has no place in South Africa and unless we remain vigilant, it will creep in under a variety of “religious interpretations” to tear us apart.

Islam in South Africa has made its presence felt in ways that have earned the wrath of white-supremacist racists; withstood banishment of leaders; and in alliance with the liberation movement, overcame apartheid.

However, the global challenge of apartheid that is symbolised in Algeria, Palestine and Egypt, remains.

And the battle for space whether political or ideological by those dehumanised as “Islamists” remains an ordeal.

Eid celebrations will therefore be amiss if scant or zero consideration is given to forces bent on derailing the remarkable progress Muslims in SA have made in not only initiating but also leading various campaigns to confront human rights abuses from Myanmar to Kashmir and from Syria to Palestine.

It’s a legacy rooted in the historical make-up of indentured labour and exiled slaves to resist and overcome oppression against all odds.

EID 2013 must thus reignite values of compassion and solidarity to ensure that neither divisive bickering, nor the lure of freebies will impede efforts to continue striving for social justice.

Iqbal Jassat

Exec: Media Review Network

Johannesburg

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.