South Africa woke up on Monday to a Daily Maverick piece about the first Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) recruit from South Africa. We don’t want to believe that a South African would be duped into joining an illegitimate organisation that stages violent land-grabs but hey, stranger things have happened. South African Jews have gone to Israel to fight for Zionism and ex-South African soldiers from the bad old days have functioned as very effective mercenaries on the continent.
Just the other day, defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said mercenaries were training Nigeria’s army against Boko Haram. These private armies have also worked in Afghanistan and Iraq as black and white guns for hire. So is it possible that a local Muslim has joined Isil? Sure. There are stupid people everywhere. But will there be a mass exodus to Iraq and Syria? Hell no. Here’s why:
Europeans may look down on anyone dressed in headscarf or loosely resembling a Muslim, but on our beaches we have people in burkas and bikinis bathing and drowning alongside one another. It’s a religious free-for-all. Raging inequality may result in a race war in our country one day, but a religious war? Unlikely. Our folks are mostly super-tolerant of others’ beliefs; thank God for our racial issues! Our daily life is an example of how religious difference can co-exist and even thrive in a secular democracy. Like most rational, honest people, Muslims in South Africa know that Isil is an abomination. Either way, Muslims here are not targeted or marginalised for their religion, and so few feel the need to join a holy war in Syria and Iraq. Even if global injustices may play on their minds, the English Premier League is closer to their reality. Besides, Muslims in South Africa have space for only one conflict, and that is Palestine. Which brings us to…
The Boycott Woolworths campaign
Although South African Muslims often say they “bleed for Palestine”, their recent strategies suggest the hurt has all been in vain. Palestine has been under occupation for the past 60 years and the best thing the community (under the non-religious BDS-SA movement) could come up with to show its support: “Boycott Woolworths”. Never mind the obvious blind spot – that Woolies is a middle-class brand appealing to middle-class whims — bougie Muslims actually think boycotting a pre-packed avo and prawn salad is an act of revolution. So, no, South African Muslims are not known for taking up guns and going to the front line. They boycott Woolies. Also, worth noting, the last time South Africans saw a radical Muslim, he was sent to jail with Nelson Mandela. Since then we’ve had Schabir Sheik.
Then there’s that other little detail: many Muslims in the country still don’t believe that Isil is an actual organisation with independent ambitions and not a proxy for Mossad or the CIA to make Muslims look demented. This more than anything else is why most won’t be leaving Mayfair for Mosul anytime soon. For many, Isil is part of the endless ridicule of Muslims; it is an Islamaphobe’s wet dream and, therefore, surely, cannot be real.
– Featured images: Images posted to social media by Abu Hurayra, purported an Isil fighter from South Africa. Via The Daily Maverick.