In an alert issued on Saturday, the US government said that it had received information that terrorist groups were planning attacks within South Africa in the near future, specifically targeting American citizens and against the backdrop of ISIS calling for Muslims globally to carry out terrorist attacks during the holy month of Ramadhaan. This statement was published widely in South African national media, and the widespread sentiments of panic and uncertainty have begun to infiltrate many minds. However, once we look beyond the inflammatory diction often employed by the US, as well as the exaggerated hype and dramatization coupled with it, the underlying Islamophobic currents as well as the obviously calculated ploy by the US to spread its tentacles within South African society becomes quickly apparent.
There are a number of things wrong with this statement issued by the US which South African media has scrambled to latch onto. First, every rendition of the statement that I have come across is a string of heavily loaded words, carefully crafted to make the average reader believe beyond a doubt that their imminent safety could be at risk. However, not one of these claims has been justified with credible evidence or proof. This is an extremely dangerous situation to find ourselves in, and we have to look not far into the past of the US to see why. With the emergence of revolutionary documents such as the WikiLeaks files and CIA Torture Report, we have become awakened to the exact extent the US is willing to go to and blatantly lie for their political and economic gains. To stir up mass hysteria and justify their actions, lying is a trend for the US. Let us look at some of the preposterous lies that were used to invade Iraq and completely destroy that country. Ranging from the constant stream of assertions that Iraq was involved in 9/11, which was so successful that at one stage opinion polls showed that two-thirds of Americans believed the hand of Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks, when in actual fact none of the hijackers were even Iraqi! Then there are the preposterously ignorant lies such as Saddam Hussein had the wherewithal to develop smallpox, which was alleged by then Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and later refuted by a lack of evidence by the UN within a month. And then we have the biggest lie which was used to sell invading a sovereign state in the name of democracy; that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction. Both Tony Blair and George Bush proclaimed that two trailers found in Iraq were mobile biological laboratories- it’s now almost certain that the vehicles were for the production of hydrogen for weather balloons, just as the Iraqis claimed – and that they were exported by Britain. Moving closer to home, similar allegations of imminent terrorist attacks have been made both in 2009 and in September last year by the US government. Both times the allegations turned out to be completely false, and I can see why spokesperson of the Department of International Relations Clayson Monyela tweeted yesterday (with a clear hint of sarcasm), “The last advisory by the USA Embassy to US citizens in SA warning of an “imminent attack” proved to be a false alarm. I see there’s another one.” With a history of complete, unashamedly and many times bordering on absurd allegations, the US government most certainly doesn’t have credibility on it’s side when making such assertions.
In a country like South Africa, where the Muslim community plays a pivotal role in the social, economic, political and humanitarian spheres, there can be no gain in vilifying an entire community based on unsubstantiated claims and poor sources. Leaving such irresponsible claims and perpetual false allegations unchallenged might very easily result in us living in a state of heightened tensions, such as that experienced post-9/11 in many Western countries. We enjoy religious freedom and awareness in South Africa that remains very nearly unmatched globally, and we completely and unapologetically refute these repeated attempts by the US to sow disarray and fear within our country and communities. Although such reprehensible alarms turned out to be false in the past, and will undoubtedly reap the same result this year as there has been no solid evidence till date of an ISIS presence within SA borders, we remind the SA government that these tactics employed by the US instils an inherent fear factor and undermines our economy, especially with regards to tourism. This latest stunt by the US is deplorable and is unashamedly viewed as an attack on SA sovereignty.
History repeats itself. Countries who are known to outrageously lie and make false claims for their personal benefit will repeatedly do so; such as the US. The Muslims in this country have a longstanding commitment and established relationship to the growth and betterment of South Africa. With no history of any inclination towards violent terrorism and absolutely no proof to back such claims provided, one can only deduce that this is another lie by the US. Let us not fall prey to the trend of Islamophobia currently consuming the world.
Written by: Dr Aayesha J Soni, Vice Chairperson of the Media Review Network
Follow Aayesha: @AayeshaJ