“Africa is the new Syria.” Shannon Ebrahim sets the tone for her article with this exceptionally bold statement, and what follows is a string of audacious claims all knotted together, ultimately resulting in what is a very poor piece of journalism. In the current political climate, it has become abundantly clear that media plays a fundamental role in shaping public perceptions thus dictating what governments are allowed to get away with. The power of the media to inject fear into the public psyche is tremendous. I have therefore come to appreciate that the media has a mammoth responsibility in shaping current affairs, and with journalism of the quality of this piece my hope in justice dwindles.
Ebrahim makes a barrage of unfounded claims, from lambasting the youth of Roshnee for joining Isis and threatening their fathers, to quoting a “Gauteng government official” with no concrete evidence provided whatsoever. Misquoted secretary general of the Jamiatul Ulama, Moulana Ebrahim Bham, even gets thrown into the mix-with a quote that could very easily be from one of his weekly sermons encouraging people to be more socially aware- distorted to somehow justify why South African Muslim youth would be drawn into joining IS. Whilst reading the article it was very difficult to ascertain any remote link to accountable and intelligent reporting, leaving one begging for clarification.
Articles like this, whose only purpose serves to flame the fires of fear and hate amongst the masses, do much more harm, than good. In a country like South Africa, where the Muslim community plays a pivotal role in the social, economical, political and humanitarian spheres, there can be no gain in vilifying an entire community based on unsubstantiated claims and poor sources. Leaving such irresponsible journalism unchallenged might very easily result in us living in a state of heightened tensions, such as that experienced post-9/11. I am sure Ebrahim will agree that this is a very dangerous situation to open the door to, looking not too far back in our past to see the numerous human rights violations that occurred justified by the “War on Terror”. In its quest to eliminate terror, defined singularly by one religion, the US had led a global rampage that every democracy-loving individual should be ashamed of. The emergence of ground-breaking discoveries, such as the 6000 page Senate Intelligence Committee Report on CIA Torture have enlightened us to the exact extent of one of the greatest disgraces of our time. It contains admissions to torture, documented narratives where innocent individuals were detained without trial based solely on their religion, and instances where women and children were imprisoned without charge. This monster was allowed to be bred out of the womb of fear, just as pieces such as Ebrahims are setting the stage for.
Unsubstantiated assumptions and isolated quotes do not constitute truthful reporting and responsible journalism, and must be challenged in order to counter the growing worldwide trend of Islamophobia. Fear mongering will only result in the unnecessary vilification of entire communities, and it is our job to remain vigilant in the face of accusations that will affect a mass number of people.
Aayesha J Soni is a medical doctor, qualified from the University of the Witwatersrand. Her passion is combatting injustice globally, and her particular focus of challenging the growing trend of Islamophobia is done through her various written and oral critiques.