20 March 2017
On Tuesday, 21 March, South Africans, government agencies and community organizations will be
celebrating National Human Rights Day. The day serves as a reminder to us as a nation of our past
history and raises awareness of the factors which led to the abuse and oppression of the majority of
people in our country.
In 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly by a vote
of 48 in favour and 8 abstentions. This was done in order to protect the human rights of global citizens.
Of the 8 countries that abstained, South Africa under the infamous National Party abstained as well in
order to protect its Apartheid policies that violated a number of articles in the declaration. It is within
this context in 1948 that the world witnessed the natural response to oppression when freedom fighters
stood up and resisted the human rights abuse of a racist and oppressive regime.
On a global scale, human rights violations occur as a symptom of unbridled desire for superior power by
one nation over other states, nations, races, religious and ethnic groups. This is achieved through the
control and theft of global resources and occupation of land, the manipulation of trade relations,
destructive military attacks, the exploitation of labour etc. As a result of these repressive actions, the
victims suffer extreme forms of abuse, murder and the violation of their basic human rights.
Despite the new dispensation and democracy, South Africa continues to experience the effects of an
apartheid system which afforded the wealthy members of society all the privileges needed for their
wellbeing. The economic divide which remains intact until this day continues to separate the rich and
poor with the gap widening. As a result of the high values designed to protect all citizens found within
the Bill of Rights, it appears that the rights of only the have’s in society are secured and fails the
economically deprived and vulnerable members of society.
Therefore, the struggle for the liberation of South Africans from oppression, racism, economic
exploitation, poverty, lack of education, and human rights violations remain paramount and relevant 20
years after the transition from an apartheid state to a democracy. The political revolution in South
Africa resulted in the change of faces in government but with no effective economic revolution that
would afford the indigenous people of the land, benefit from the vast natural resources. That is the real
remedy to uproot the foundation of apartheid and bring about equality, freedom and justice. The divide
between the rich (i.e. white race and a sprinkle of select few token members of the black race) and poor
(i.e. mostly black) continues to grow.
We have to question ourselves as to what happened to African values. Did it end when western
(individualistic) beliefs replaced African (collective) culture in the hearts of even the most ardent
stalwarts of the freedom struggle who opened the door for others to follow? Did the greed for power
even overtake those who fought and were prepared to die fighting against the injustice that brought
about the suffering of the African people?
These questions should not only be considered in the South African context, as human rights violations
spike during wars, occupation, colonialism, unbridled capitalism and greed for power and natural
resources. So at the core of the worst case of human rights violations is a human being driven by a
desire to satisfy his/ her individual needs and wants at the expense of another human being, race,
nation or religion. Within this context, what would ensure that the high standing values found in the Bill
of Rights of the South African Constitution serves the people?
It is these anti Human Rights values which promotes the Islamophobic acts experienced in the Western
Cape against Mosques (Masajid) and the Muslim call to prayer (Adhan) at the beginning of 2017. The
killings of Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Somali traders in certain communities is ongoing. We say “NO to
As we ask these questions, we remain acutely conscious of what it means to be a proudly African
Muslim, a people who, when looking in the rearview mirror, see their forefathers and spiritual leaders
give mankind the best examples to live by and a strong belief that God Almighty shows mercy to the one
who has mercy for his fellow human being. We have a proud legacy which will allow us to expand and
enrich our present and future realities. Our success lies in our adherence to our history and identity,
and as the offspring of great men and women who taught true greatness, moral excellence, selflessness,
collective social-upliftment, commitment to justice, and the striving for the good of all men.
And so, as South African’s stood proudly together in their thousands pledging unity against oppression
and protesting against an UNJUST Apartheid system, we remind ourselves that the external struggle for
liberation has been fought but the demon within ourselves that demands individual power of “I AM” is
growing stronger as we lose sight of the noble values of “WE ARE”.
Thus, in this spirit of Human Rights Day and Ubuntu, The MJC (SA) will partner the Ahmed Kathrada
Foundation and the Western Cape chapter of the Anti-Racism Network South Africa and the Institute for
Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) for a discussion on identity discrimination and being victims of racism.
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) said: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his
brother (in humanity) what he loves for himself.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]
Issued By: Shaykh Isgaak Taliep (MJC Secretary General)