PART 2: How Muslim Views promotes misogyny and a regressive politics on gender

Astride my article published in the July 2019 of Muslim Views (SEE PART 1), Mahmood Sanglay wrote a riposte (copied below and probably best to read it first). Aside from his personal attack on me, Sanglay exposes himself even further as being in cahoots with the Gatesville Mosque committee. Even evidently factual errors don’t earn his apology or correction. One only wonders what the editor of this paper really does to uphold its standards, however low they may be. I would imagine the role of an editor to be more than a mere collator or articles or engaged in lay-out.

Here is my response to Sanglay, which the editor, Farid Sayed, refused to publish. My correspondence with the editor is copied below – much of  which is not worth a read because it is the usual patronizing bullshit, such as ‘I will discuss it with my team”.


How Mahmood Sanglay and Muslim Views massacre the truth, defend sexual predators, and promote misogyny in the Muslim community

Muslim View’s (MV) veneer of objectivity is against challenged in transposing a disingenuous and obfuscatory editorial response next to my article, that was a rejoinder to a published article by Mahmood Sanglay. My direct WhatsApp response to the writer was: “I wonder what is more irredeemably foolish; your initial article or your puerile response”. This was provoked by the venomous introduction to the article that sets the tone for what follows: “Anything can be called veneer when you do a superficial critique and spew rhetoric instead of substance”. So obviously Sanglay doesn’t take criticism well, even if my article was based on a factual response to his original piece which was riddled with flawed logic. This missive is not to prove any point, but to ensure that an honest record is available to the public and posterity.

  1. The venom aside, Sanglay begins with a patently illogical statement, and then regresses therefrom. His excuse for lack of coverage of the Nouman Ali Khan (NAK) issue in the Ramadan edition, when this subject exercised the minds and emotions of the community is: ‘MV is a monthly publication and print news coverage in the age of social media may have been superfluous …”. No rational explanation follows this bizarre assertion, but it could well serve as an argument for MV’s irrelevance. However, it also contrasts with the editor’s proffered reason for delayed publication to my colleague, which is that Sanglay wanted time to interview more people in order to write the article. For the record Sanglay interviewed two people for the article and NAK refused an interview; all the other quotes were culled from internet sources.
  2. The next level of cringe-worthiness is where Sanglay gets a simple fact concerning the number of signatories to the letter to Gatesville Mosque spectacularly wrong, which he claims he gleaned from social media. The number at the time of him writing the story was three times what he quotes and did not subsequently increase as he claims. Fact-checking is a basic duty of a journalist and all it required was a simple phone call to confirm. He simply got it wrong and the editor should humbly acknowledge it rather than permit a silly excuse.
  3. Sanglay then attempts to underplay his relationship with the Academia Library, which saw fit to host NAK and created a conflict for him, as merely a ‘volunteer’. The Library’s information brochure describes him as one of its founders and as an “advisor to the Library on policy and operational issues”. Given his controversial history, one would be concerned if NAK’s invitation to the Library did not involve a policy discussion.
  4. His tepid attempt at providing an explanation as to why he reserves the highest appellation ‘respected scholar’ only for one of NAK’s supporters and not his critics, is pure bluster. And his rationale for using the term ‘activists’ to describe the others remains unconvincing. In the public mind ‘respected scholar’ and ‘activists’ conjures widely differing perceptions, particular when counterposed and which Sanglay deliberately plays into.
  5. Sanglay compounds his conceptual confusion by misrepresenting what I wrote. Or it could be his inability to understand the conceptual differences. I essentially stated that the term ‘progressive neo-liberalism’, which he uses in the article, is a contradiction of terms and that the #MeToo movement is a radical project. Neo-liberalism is never progressive is my simple point. He traverses an alternate ‘straw-woman’ trajectory by invoking ‘neo-liberal feminism’, and ‘liberal feminism’ with the claim that this form of feminism can play into the agenda of neoliberalism. I have no disagreement with that but that was not my point. Thus, he evades my argument by culling an irrelevant quote from the internet. Sanglay would have understood better if he had attempted a closer reading of my article.
  6. Despite his protestations my argument is sustained: which is that he centres perpetrators of ‘gender-based-violence’ in his article and not victims. He hasn’t proven otherwise. His entire article uses NAK as the subject, attempting to exonerate him from his exploitation of vulnerable women. Nowhere do the women become the main subject of his arguments nor viewing the narrative from their vantage point. The evidence is not ‘thin’, it is writ large in his article.
  7. Related to that Sanglay again misrepresents in characteristically sloppy fashion: “Women’s voices are absent in the article says Manjra”. What I did say was that ‘women’s voices are largely absent from Sanglay’s article”. He quotes from the internet, a single woman from the organisation “In Shaykh’s Clothing” but does not interview a single South African woman where this debate is alive and who form the bulk of the signatories to the letter. So again, my argument is sustained that ‘woman’s voices are largely absent in his article’. Our signatories include women who daily deal with women victims of gender-based-violence (GBV), who are most certainly worthy of providing perspective if only Sanglay saw it fit to interview them.
  8. His argument about formal process is simply silly. When a constituted body of people come together to engage a subject of common concern, listen to evidence from the accused and accusers given voluntarily, document the evidence, interrogate the evidence, provide a finding and a ‘sanction’, this in most definitions would constitute a formal process. Except for Sanglay, since it does not fit his narrative or his fossilized thinking. This could be called an inquiry, a mediation, a hearing; whatever it is called, it constitutes a formal process. Even if Sanglay does not want to define it as a ‘formal’ process, the absence of a universally accepted process (and there never will be one) should not stymie investigations into sexual abuse. Any process with integrity should be welcomed.
  9. Sanglay is perhaps unaware of the current debates and various approaches to investigate GBV, largely thrust to the fore by the #MeToo movement. Most seek safe spaces for women to recount their experiences and provide evidence thereby not subjecting them to compounded trauma through public spectacle. There is broad consensus among progressive movements regarding mechanisms to investigate sexual violence, which is what NAK is accused of. “Spiritual abuse”, a term Sanglay prefers is nebulous which detracts from and seeks to undermine the seriousness of GBV.

Here again Sanglay demonstrates his conceptual fragility, where he creates a Manichean dichotomy between a ‘victim-centred approach’ and that of an ‘evidence-based and due process approach’ – in essence arguing that a ‘victim-centred approach’ is devoid of due process or evidence. This is untrue. Of course, there may be disagreements on concepts such as ‘reverse onus’, but that should not detract from its tremendous value in seeking justice for abused women. Sanglay should acknowledge his ignorance in this respect and engage with experts in this field who will edify and sensitise him to issues around GBV and mechanisms to deal with them. I personally was edified by direct engagement with experts in cases involving organisations I was associated with.

10. Close to his nadir, Sanglay makes the bizarre statement that I should engage those anonymous sources within ‘the collective’ whom he quotes. There are two problems: an anonymous source is … well anonymous. And secondly there is no collective, just a list of signatories who align themselves to the broad statement. But this is a deflection from what I wrote concerning him quoting anonymous sources and not the main drivers of the petition.

11. He hits the bottom when he states there was no need to interview those who initiated the petition because all is made plain in the statement. Now it is strange for a journalist not to wish to get a deeper understanding of the issues, all of which cannot be captured in a statement. Or to interrogate the assertions in a statement. Or to understand the motivations that lie behind the action. Or to challenge the assumptions made in the statement. One can only wonder how he arrived at this position – perhaps it threatened his predetermined narrative.

12. Sanglay then betrays his agenda and strange logic when he accuses me of belligerence, in contrast to his positive characterization of the Musjdul Quds committee ‘who express an interest in supporting victims of spiritual abuse”. One can only wonder how Sanglay is privy to these views of the mosque committee which incidentally he doesn’t quote in his article. But Sanglay seems oblivious to any sense of irony in supporting a mosque committee that deliberately hosts a sexual predator while proclaiming support for ‘victims of spiritual abuse’. Most importantly however, and something Sanglay ignores is that what he terms my ‘belligerence’ was informed by three factors: the first is that the mosque committee acted in bad faith in their engagement with us. Secondly, I have documented correspondence from them spurning any efforts at engagement. Thirdly, during this time they used the pulpit to attack us with no right of reply. So perhaps Sanglay should be more circumspect before pronouncing judgement, particularly when he is ignorant of context or which could have been provided to him if he engaged us.

Finally, Sanglay can spare me his patronizing sermon which he dispenses in his conclusion. He should rather spend his energy improving his honesty, integrity and journalistic skills. That would serve him, the paper and the community much better.

Shuaib Manjra

Cape Town

02 July 2019



From: Manjra, Shuaib
Sent: Tuesday, July 2, 2019 3:58 PM
To: ‘Farid Sayed’ <>
Cc: Toyer Nakidien <>
Subject: NAK Musilm Views 2.docx

Dear Farid

Salaam Alaykum

Herewith my response to Sanglay’s piece in the MV. I believe that it is necessary to provide an honest perspective.

You may be disinclined to publish, as you may want to kill this story further. However I feel that this topic is critical for the community and to keep the discussion alive.

I wonder if Sanglay had interviewed the mosque committee whether they would invite NAK again. I would be surprised if they did, since he left few friends when he left our shores. The mosque committee decided to cut all ties with him at their indaba – so I am reliably informed by a number of sources. Of course that bears no relevance to our primary concerns, but is important supporting information.



On 10 Jul 2019, at 7:05 AM, Manjra, Shuaib wrote:

Salaam Alaykum Farid

I trust you are well.

I have not received an acknowledgement of receipt, nor an indication whether the attached piece, sent to you over a week ago, will be considered for publication in the next edition of the Muslim Views.

Of course it is your prerogative to publish or not, but I expect some acknowledgement or receipt and/or whether it will be published.

I am not attempting to pressure you, but I will publish elsewhere, but felt honour-bound  to  give you the first right of refusal.

The NAK articles on my Blog has attracted nearly 6000 visitors/readers – from around the world.

I am also curious that your latest edition is still not uploaded on your website – either as the full paper or the individual articles.

Take care



From: Farid Sayed <>
Sent: Wednesday, July 10, 2019 12:38 PM
To: Manjra, Shuaib
Cc: Mogamat Toyer Nakidien <>
Subject: Re: NAK Musilm Views 2.docx

Assalaamu alaykum Shuaib

I am well, Alhamdulillah, and hope you too are well.

My apologies for not responding earlier. We, the editorial team, did discuss your response to Mahmood Sangaly and I was asked to convey the team’s decision.

We have decided to close correspondence related to the Nouman Ali Khan visit. So you may certainly go ahead and publish on your Blog.

Thanks for alerting me to the absence of the latest edition from our website. The PDF was supposed to have been loaded last; I will follow with the person assisting me.

I am actually fighting hard to dedicate more time to the website but at this stage, with a limited staff complement, it is a bit tough. But I am working on it!

All the best,



16 July 2019

Salaam Farid

I apologise for the belated response, as I was again travelling overseas for cricket matters and returned yesterday.

I note your response and must admit my disappointment. While I respect your prerogative as editor to choose what to publish and what not to publish, I believe nonetheless that good faith must always prevail.

I will give you just one example of bad faith, which can empirically be demonstrated – not a matter of perspective or opinion. Mahmood got the number of signatories to the Gatesville letter spectacularly wrong. All it required of him a your ‘senior journalist’ or you as editor, is to admit the error, apologise for it and then state why you got it so wrong. All there was, was a miserably lame excuse with no correction or apology. It  is a simply example, but a generalisable demonstration of bad faith. And a silly stubbornness not to concede an inch.

I see the PDF was loaded which I required for my future postings on this matter.




16 July 2019

Salaam Shuaib

Thank you for your email and have noted your concerns.

I will discuss the matter with my team.

Was salaam




ANYTHING can be called veneer when you do a superficial critique and spew rhetoric instead of substance. This is why Dr Shuaib Manjra’s rhetoric fails to prove bias.

Muslim Views is a monthly publication and print news coverage in the age of social media would have been superfluous in the May/ Ramadaan edition. That is why we opted for analysis after Khan’s visit. It was simply a practical decision. And our coverage in the June/ Eid-ul-Fitr edition shows we did not ignore the issue, as Manjra alleges.

The editorial offers context for coverage of an unusual story of allegations of spiritual abuse against an individual. Manjra labels contextualisation as apology. With clever-looking rhetoric any kind of labelling is possible. Placement and space allocation of the two articles was not only subject to editorial discretion. It was also a function of planning and editorial deadlines. In the interests of fairness and balance Professor Shaikh’s piece was accommodated even though it was submitted after deadline and exceeded the word count initially agreed upon.

The 29 signatories of the letter to Masjidul Quds appeared on a social media post at the time of writing the story, although this number may have increased subsequently.

My association with Academia Library as volunteer is a fact. That I played no role in Khan’s participation in the library’s programme is also a fact. Both these facts are irrelevant to the story and therefore their disclosure is not required. However, rhetoric enables Manjra to manipulate two facts and deploy the aphorism ‘skin in the game’ to arrive at a dubious conclusion.

The term ‘activists’ is used as a collective for all the signatories of diverse backgrounds. What they share in common is their support for the social call to action in the letter they signed, hence they are activists. The members of the two panels are referred to as ‘leading Muslims’ and details of their respective titles and professional credentials are provided. This reflects a record of fact as well as respect for the panellists and their competency. Yet Manjra argues I reserve ‘respected scholar’ for Dr Nadwi. More thin rhetoric.

The term progressive neoliberalism is not a false construct as stated by Manjra. Like neoliberal feminism it is addressed as a subject in academic papers by leading critical theorists, feminists, political and social scientists and philosophers. The academic Nancy Fraser and others argue that ‘liberal feminism supplies a progressive sheen for neoliberalism’.

Manjra alleges that I centre the perpetrators of gender-based violence (GBV). His evidence for the allegation remains, at best thin rhetoric, at worst none. Muslim Views is not a platform for perpetrators of GBV.

Manjra argues that I confuse mediation, adjudication, arbitration and the levels of evidence required for these processes as opposed to that for civil and for criminal cases. He claims he read the article closely, yet he misses the key point: there is no clarity on what process the panels adopted, hence the series of questions posed to them, which they chose not to answer.

This points to the fundamental problem of two apparently contending approaches to the issue: that of a victim-centred approach as opposed to that of an evidence-based and due process approach. Manjra’s allegation that I confuse the processes is wrong because there is at present no broad consensus on process for dealing with spiritual abuse by Muslim leaders.

Above all, the panel of six concedes that there is a vacuum of adequate mechanisms of accountability for Muslims in public service. Manjra is disingenuous in attributing the confusion to me instead of the absence of adequate mechanisms of accountability.

About withholding the identity of the victims: there are perfectly legitimate reasons why this is done in the case of Khan. There may also be instances where greater scrutiny is required to ensure that the protection of anonymity accorded to victims is not abused. Hence the question is relevant. Offence is not intended. Nor should it be contrived, as Manjra does.

Manjra insists the two panels engaged in formal processes and made formal findings. Not so. The panel explicitly states it addressed the accusers and the accused. Then the panel confirms the allegations are true. Nowhere in that statement is there any reference to a formal process or a formal finding, not even to any report. No matter how much Manjra chooses to ignore this, he cannot conjure a formal process out of a statement that does not admit to one.

Manjra’s problems with the anonymous signatories, who have reservations with the process, are his own. He should address it inside that collective and not with Muslim Views. Those who initiated the petition against Khan made plain their case in the petition, hence there was no need to interview them. Manjra’s question about my attempt to delegitmise the petition betrays his insecurity that he needs to deal with.

Women’s voices are absent in the article says Manjra. The panel of six consists of four women, each one of whom was directly approached for comment. They all declined. The co-founder of In Shaykh’s Clothing is a professional woman. She is named and quoted in the article.

It is telling that Manjra completely ignores the position of this project launched specifically to address spiritual abuse in the Muslim world. In Shaykh’s Clothing says the Khan case was ‘grossly mishandled’, yet Manjra fails to respond.

It is evident that Manjra’s belligerent rhetoric drives away parties, like the Masjidul Quds committee, who express an interest in supporting victims of spiritual abuse and who also feel strongly about holding Muslim leaders accountable. Besides signatories, there are others who disapprove of Manjra’s hostile and dogmatic style but are silenced by his labelling.

This is beyond the fiqh disagreement. It is about its spirit, particularly in an environment where we have common cause for two important reasons: firstly, to provide security and justice for victims of spiritual abuse; secondly, to root out this scourge by holding the perpetrators of spiritual abuse accountable. By labelling and alienating people who don’t agree with his approach, Manjra is responsible for undermining what ought to be a safe and open space for conversation about this very important topic.




Impunity and the Complicity of Silence

Jumu’ah talk at the Claremont Main Road Mosque 26th July 2019.

(disclaimer: when I use the masculine gender for ease, it also includes the feminine)


I want to begin by placing the human at the centre of my talk – how we have been honoured as the children of God. God not only says “we have certainly created man in the best of stature”, but also “We have certainly honoured the children of Adam.” Part of this honour is that we all carry within us the spirit of the Almighty. Allah says: “So when I have made him complete and breathed into him My Spirit”.

So, every human being (regardless of race, gender, creed, religious belief, etc)  is created in the best of form, and honoured with the essence of God. This forms part of our ontology (which speaks to the nature of our being). Our theology, and indeed secular frameworks such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights give effect to this ontology regarding the honour and dignity of every single human being.

I want to contrast this with another story; and that is the story of creation. When God announced to the angels assembled before him, that he was going to create and appoint a viceregent on earth, in the form of the human, they asked the most salient question: “will you place therein one who will work corruption therein, and shed blood, while we hymn Thy praise and call thee Holy?”

God replies: “Truly I know what you know not”. Now one could argue, considering the world in which we live that the Angels had a point. How they arrived at this conclusion is not known – and commentators have various theories, more specifically about other forms of life that preceded us.

The second interesting element to this story is that this mischief and bloodshed was not at that point of Satan’s making. Satan’s banishment and curse come only later in the story, when he refused to bow down before Adam – after the creation – saying “I am better than him” and was banished and then he vowed to mislead humankind till the end of time. (some commentators do argue that satan’s mischief predated the creation of Adam).

So, we have this being created by Allah in perfection, with honour, dignity and imbued with His spirit, and yet God knew that this being would create mischief and bloodshed.

But instructively God said to His angles: ‘I know what you know not”, which informs our teleology (which relates to the doctrine of design and the purpose we serve in the world) that God created us for a purpose. And that purpose is to serve as active participants in God’s mission on earth which is to serve as the counter-balance for good against evil.

Allah says in the Quran:

“Let there arise out of you a band of people enjoining what is right and forbidding evil, such are the successful one”.

Such groups consistently arose within the traditions of the historical prophets.

Furthermore, we are invoked to side with the oppressed: “and what is the matte with you that you fight not in the cause of God and for the oppressed among men, women and children who say O Lord take us out of this city of oppressive people and appoint from Yourself a protector and appoint for us from yourself a helper”.

We are those helpers and protectors appointed by God.

We have a duty to act. In fact we have an imperative to act.

We need to act whether we strong or weak, large in numbers or small in numbers, economically weak or strong. For God says in the story of David and Goliath: “but those who were certain that they would meet Allah said; how many a small company has overcome a large company by Allah’s permission. And Allah is with the patient”.

Oftentimes we fail to act because we think our position or job is at risk, our friendships are at risk, we will offend certain people, our investment is at risk, our safety or security is at risk. Or we believe we do not have the time or the skills to do anything. To quote Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.

The Prophets of the Hebrew Bible remind us of the moral state of a people; “few are guilty, but all are responsible”. The Quran reflects a similar sentiment when it says: “O humankind be aware and avoid a temptation to oppress which will afflict not only those who oppress among you, but all of you”.

I begin with this introductory framework because the world is increasingly being characterized by acts of impunity with no attendant consequences. And the question is what role can we play. Because such impunity is only possible with our complicity of silence. We often say the world or the community is silent – but we are the communities that form the world.

I want to take a few examples to illustrate my point about impunity. Not the grand stories that dominate the headlines, but the slightly smaller ones.

The first case is the dastardly, brutal and cruel murder of Jamal Kashoggi by the Saudi regime. Make not mistake Kashoggi was a Saudi nationalist, who worked in the Royal Court, and advised the Saudi state in the past. More recently however he happened to mildly criticise the current regime for some of their actions. For this they lured him to their embassy in Turkey, brought in hitmen to murder him, forensic experts to dismember his body and probably submerged his remain in acid and allowed it to disintegrate. At least some of this is recorded by Turkish surveillance equipment. The consequences for the Saudi regime have been minimal. There was no outrage, with the exception of the Washington Post (for who he was a correspondent), Al Jazeera, and the Turkish government where Kashoggi was based and where the murder occurred. In fact, arms sales to Saudi Arabia increased after the incident. Just this week Donald Trump vetoed a US Congress resolution to ban arm sales to Saudi Arabia (not related to Kashoggi’s murder, but because of the Saudi war crimes in Yemen). The western world and the Muslim world remained silent, as did most of the Muslim publics.

This impunity was allowed to pass because of the complicity of our silence.

Staying with Saudi Arabia: in April 2019, Saudi Arabia executed 37 people for terrorism offences, including at least one minor. Their offence was peaceful protest. Characteristically Saudi Arabia labelled it as terrorism. Most of them were Shia, who are an oppressed minority in the Kingdom. Saudi courts are basically kangaroo courts. This was, some sources claim a “trial balloon” to gauge the strength of international condemnation -which as expected was muted and gave the Saudi’s the green light to proceed with their barbarity. Isolated voices such Human Rights Watch described the punishment as “grotesque” while Amnesty International called it “a chilling demonstration of the Saudi Arabian authorities callous disregard for human life”.

This impunity was allowed to pass because of the complicity of our silence.

Currently, it has been widely reported that three prominent Saudi Arabian scholars are to be executed as soon as the court pronounces sentence on them in a case where the prosecutors have asked for the death penalty. These scholars are being held on multiple charges of “terrorism” – a term abused and serves as a cover for all kinds of tyranny. Its definition has become so expansive that it includes affiliation or sympathy to the Muslim Brotherhood. None of these scholars have been engaged in any acts of violence and are being persecuted for expressing their opinions and possible political affiliations. They were simply and peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, a right enshrined in the UDHR, and a fundamental right in most countries.

The three are Sheikh Salman al-Awdah, Awad al-Qarni and Ali al-Omari. Sheikh Salman al Awdah is the most prominent of the three and has been described as a ‘reformist scholar”, whose support Mohamed bin Salman frequently sought to further his career. His crimes are threefold – calling for reform in Saudi Arabia, refusing to condemn Qatar when requested to by the regime, and refusing to label the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists. Instead he called for unity with Qatar. Sheikh Salman will appear in a Saudi court this Sunday on 37 spurious charges for which a death penalty is being sought, in a court that meets none of the criteria for being independent.

The United Ulema Council of SA (UUCSA) released on an open letter addressing this matter. While commendable, its obsequiousness is still cringeworthy:

“We have been receiving unsubstantiated reports of the imminent execution of Shaykh Salman al-Ouda, Shaykh Awad al-Qarni and Dr Ali al-Omari via various media platforms. If these reports are false meant only to defame the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it will be prudent for the authorities to issue a statement aimed at clarifying the matter. If however there is any truth in the reports, we appeal to the authorities to display clemency based on the Prophetic tradition that states: “Avoid applying punishments as long as you are able to find an excuse to avert them,” (Sunan Ibn Majah)

 It is no secret that the Muslim world is going through exceptionally turbulent times; it is difficult enough to talk about the problems we face as an ummah, let alone find solutions for them. The clarion call to leadership in the Muslim world is to manage their differences through dialogue and tolerance, since violence only begets violence.

 It will indeed be catastrophic if reputed Islamic scholars who enjoy international recognition and who are regarded as beacons of guidance and proponents of tolerance and moderation are executed in the name of anti- terrorism for expressing scholarly views. Such dastardly action will only serve to marginalize the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from the global ummah and prove to be counter- productive for its long term stability.

 Our appeal to you is apolitical and is motivated by the prophetic tradition that says: “Religion is naseehah. The people said: “To whom?” The Prophet said: “To Allah and to His Book, and to His messenger, and to the leaders of the Muslims and to the common folk of the Muslims.” [Muslim]

We trust that you accept this ‘naseeha’ in the spirit that it was intended and that you will withdraw the execution order (if such an order has actually been issued) and that you will summarily release scholars who are incarcerated for simply articulating judicious and scholarly views regarding the political climate in the Kingdom.”


Moving to Egypt, we note the murder of President Mohammed Morsi by the Egyptian regime of General Sisi. The tacit acceptance of the coup, the intolerable imprisonment of Morsi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the execution of leaders gave licence to Sisi’s impunity and the death of Morsi. Morsi was refused medical attention in prison, held in solitary confinement and even when he collapsed in court he was again refused medical care. The world remained silent.

Again this impunity was allowed to pass because of the complicity of our silence.

The third case is one of historic magnitude taking place in Xinjiang, China, where according to estimates more than 1 million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims are being held in concentration camps where they are being forced to learn Chinese and abandon their own languages and religious practices in what has been termed cultural genocide. The children of those detained have been sent to separate camps to be indoctrinated. And the rest of the some 13 million Muslims in the region are subjected to intrusive monitoring by more than 1 million agents, as well as ubiquitous high-tech surveillance systems. These camps have been described as the most significant concentration camps since WW2. Beijing’s actions against the Uighur ethnic group and other Muslim minorities lead 22 mainly western ambassadors to ask China to desist from these actions and allow international observers into these camps. Not one of these signatories was from a Muslim majority country. What followed was most surprising. Not a complicity of silence, but of active support for the Chinese actions by 37 countries signing a letter supporting China’s human rights record – and tacitly support the Chinse actions against its Muslim population. These countries included ALGERIA, BAHRAIN, COMOROS, EGYPT, KUWAIT, OMAN, PAKISTAN, QATAR, SAUDI ARABIA, SUDAN, SYRIA and the UAE. Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia abstained from any action or condemnation.

Again, this impunity is allowed to pass because of complicity of our silence or our complicity by collaboration.

The last case I want to highlight is one closer to home and has been the topic of a previous khutbah at this mosque by Minhaj Jeenah. In Ramadaan of this year, the Gatesville Mosque decided to invite a preacher accused of sexual predatory behaviour against female students. The claims of these women were verified and confirmed by a panel of scholars assigned to adjudicate them. The mosque remained adamant in standing by the invitation and refused any engagement to discuss the matter – contained in a letter by the Mosque Chairman Sattar Parker. However, one was not surprised by the Gatesville Mosques conduct. What was most surprising was the complicity of silence in the community regarding their action. The MJC was contacted and remained silent. A journalist from the VOC contacted me for specific questions to ask Nouman Ali Khan, which I provided to him. Instead of these questions he provided a platform for a fawning interview. Radio 786 similarly ignored the story. Muslim Views ignored the story when it mattered – in the Ramadan issue – and then covered it in the Eid issue, when NAK had left the country. Muslim Views essentially defended Khan by not only misrepresenting the case of Khan’s detractors but engaged in victim blaming. Muslims Views essentially bared their regressive (gender) politics. The editor refused to publish my last submission stating that they want to close the matter, despite Mahmood Sanglay (the main write of the Muslim Views articles) launching a personal attack on me.

Again, we encourage impunity with the complicity of silence or collaboration.        

These acts of impunity will not be possible if there was an outrage – even if we are designated what has assumed a derogatory meaning: social justice warriors. We have a imperative to act in every case and regardless of the perpetrators.

In conclusion my message is:

  1. We have a moral, ethical and religious responsibility to act when a wrong is committed.
  2. We need to act regardless of how strong or weak we are, in numbers or resources.
  3. We can act simply by using traditional or social media, by attending meetings, by organising, or holding our own government to account on these matters.
  4. We need to act in whatever little way we can in keeping with the exhortation of the Prophet:

“It is narrated by Abu Said al Khudri that the Prophet said: when you see a wrong change it with your hands, if you cannot do that then speak out against it; and if you cannot even do that then protest against it in your heart – that being the weakest from of faith”.

May the Almighty guide and protect us, may he make us the helpers and protectors of the oppressed, and may we be instruments in the establishment of justice and mercy.

I thank you.


Shuaib Manjra

Cape Town

26 July 2019


Muslim Views and the case of NAK: a curious form of ‘journalism’

Ignoring the NAK issue in its Ramadan issue, Muslim Views published this curious piece by its senior journalist Mahmood Sanglay  in its Eid issue. Relegated after this piece is the one by Professor Sadiyya Shaikh, and prefacing both is a curious editorial.

Click to access MV-June-2019.pdf

This is my response to the Muslim Views coverage of the issue (unabridged version):

When the veneer of objectivity actually masks bias: a response to Mahmood Sanglay.

The Eid edition of Muslim Views (MV) carried two articles on the Nouman Ali Khan (NAK) issue – one by your senior journalist and the other by UCT’s Professor Sadiyya Shaikh. Mahmood Sanglay’s piece elicited diverse reactions amongst people I interacted with– some found it offensive and others called it balanced. To understand this better I engaged in a closer reading of the article and found just poor journalism. Not because the bias in the article slants against my opinion, but because it does so under the guise of neutrality and balance. Now context is important, and timing is everything: MV ignored this burning issue in its Ramadan edition when this debate was fiercely raging in the community and which would have enabled readers to make an informed choice regarding NAK’s visit. Furthermore, the current issue forewords the two articles with an editorial which appears as a virtual apology for highlighting this issue of public interest. Sanglay’s piece could be construed as a second editorial and given pride of place and space in the paper, with Shaikh’s article relegated in space and place to page 6. Placement is just one example of demonstrable bias; others include language, space granted to specific views, silencing and highlighting, and the general tenor of arguments.

A simple deconstruction of Sanglay’s piece reveals a consistent bias beyond an extremely thin veneer of balance. Here I attempt to reveal a sampling of fundamental errors and bias in his article


  1. The first elementary error is indisputable: nearly three times the number signed the letter to the Gatesville Mosque committee than the 29 that Sanglay claims!
  2. Importantly Sanglay does not disclose his ‘skin in the game’: The Academia Library, to which he is closely associated, opted to platform NAK during Ramadan despite the serious charges against him.
  3. Those who signed the letter are described in the article as ‘activists’, and those who sat on the two panels arbitrating the case are granted various appellations. But he reserves the term ‘respected scholar’ only for Akram Nadvi who is a NAK defender. For the record the letter is signed by a wide range of people including highly ‘respected scholars’ in various fields, as are those who served on the panels that found NAK’s behavior unethical and immoral.
  4. In a conceptual train-smash the article quotes an anonymous source who alludes to the #MeToo movement as a ‘progressive neo-liberal” project. There are two false constructs here: ‘progressive’ and ‘neo-liberal’ are diametrically opposed notions; furthermore, neo-liberalism is primarily an economic project. Defining it as liberalism may be more apt, but still conceptually wrong. The #MeToo movement is actually a radical project that seeks to upend toxic masculinity, gender-based violence (GBV) and centers victims, and not perpetrators as Sanglay does.
  5. It is common practice for Inquiries to take various guises and vary with respect to the required level of evidence (contrast the various Commissions currently underway in SA): For example, the level of evidence required in conciliation, mediation, adjudication or arbitration processes is very different from a civil case (based on balance of probability) compared to a criminal case which requires proof beyond reasonable doubt. Cross-examining witnesses or protecting their identities is based on individual circumstance. Some even posit the notion of ‘’reverse-onus’ in cases of GBV. Sanglay confuses these processes, levels of evidence required, and the fact that ethical, moral or spiritual violations may differ from criminal acts. In most cases abused women find little relief though a judicial process, and thus seek alternate remedies. His article is replete with such confusion.
  6. Anybody who is mildly informed about gender-based violence, and sexual harassment would take offence at Sanglay’s question: “why (is) the identity of the accusers being withheld”. There are obvious reasons which I will not seek to edify him about here.
  7. When one strips the article of all its distortions, it Is apparent that the author conveniently ignores a simple and critically important fact: there were only two formal processes instituted, which had access to all the evidence, interviewed the protagonists in the case, evaluated the evidence, ruled on the evidence, provided findings, and importantly provided a resolution to the problem. All the others he quotes base their opinion on pure speculation. Both the panels were constituted by ‘respected scholars’ and community leaders, and both found against NAK.
  8. Yet Sanglay continuously makes the odd claim that there was no formal finding against NAK. The second panel’s process, conclusion and public statement indicates a formal finding. This is not ‘trial by media or in the court of public opinion’ as he portrays it, but based on a formal process by independent adjudicators. Sanglay’s use of particular language is telling.
  9. In ruminating about questions he would ask NAK should he have acceded to an interview, Sanglay again out does himself in disingenuity: would NAK agree to appear in front of an ‘independent Islamic tribunal that will conduct a fair hearing in a dignified manner without the theatrics witnessed thus far’? This is clearly Sanglay’s value judgement against the previous panels which were indeed independent, dignified and fair, without any theatrics. They only reluctantly went public when NAK attacked them and refused to abide by their findings when they ruled against him. Sanglay strangely refuses to analyse further NAK’s reluctance to be interviewed.
  10. The ‘no-comment’ from the panel is understandable. Their opening statement is pertinent:

“We have refrained from making any public statement until now because we refused to act on the basis of ambiguous accusations and second-hand information. As a group we have taken our time to speak, all together or in smaller designated groups, with Brother Nouman, with a number of the women involved, and with numerous respected scholars and imams who have at various times tried to counsel Br. Nouman.”

This indicates that they reluctantly issued this public statement, and by further engagements around this issue would play into exactly what Sanglay accused them of: theatrics. What is important to note is that nobody has authority over NAK (unlike in an employment context) and thus any process cannot be coercive and must be voluntary, which explains the approach adopted by the two panels.

11. Akram Nadwi, amongst others is quoted as claiming that the evidence against NAK is ‘flimsy and unspecific’. Even without having access to the panels’ evidence but gleaning from the media articles and social media posts, these allegations are anything but ‘flimsy and unspecific’. Interesting NAK has never addressed the specific allegations, save in generalities. More interesting is Sanglay’s silence in this respect in his keen attempt to exonerate NAK.

12. The findings were taken so seriously by the North American Muslim leadership that where in the past NAK was a headline speaker at most national conferences, he is now not platformed. A significant fact ignored entirely in the article.

13. One only wonders why anonymous people who signed the petition and then are critical of it, are quoted in the article but not those who initiated it an are committed to its substance. There was ample opportunity to do so and could potentially have avoided its many false constructs. Is this an attempt to delegitimize the petition? For the record the petition was signed voluntary by all individuals without a hint of coercion. If these individuals have the courage of their conviction and disagree with the content, they would have their names removed. Furthermore, the signatories invited the Gatesville Mosque to engage in a conversation, which they sadly spurned. This was a missed opportunity by the Mosque, and not the ‘activists’.

14. Let me add that most of the signatories of the petition to Gatesville Mosque are pluralists with a deep understanding of the fiqh of disagreement. If we thought this matter was about ‘respectful disagreement’ (to quote Sanglay) we would have acted appropriately. For us this represented a fundamental violation of the principles of our faith and thus we acted accordingly. Gender-based violence is a scourge in any community and not be mistaken with ‘respectful disagreement’.

15. Lastly and most tellingly, but not surprisingly, women’s voices are largely absent from this article.

In short, Sanglay’s article rather than being an honest and unbiased reflection on the issue, is anything but. Sadly, it is dissipatory and attempts to snuff a grave issue where injustice has been committed, and I sincerely hope that your readers are not taken by his tomfoolery.

Not claiming to be a journalist but am told that there is as simple rule for practitioners of this fine art: if one person tells you it’s raining outside, and another tells you it isn’t, your job isn’t simply to report both. Your job is to go outside and verify the truth. Sanglay would do well to learn this salutary lesson.


Shuaib Manjra

Cape Town

South Africa

June 2019



PART 3: The Nouman Ali Khan (NAK) saga: Countering the disinformation, misinformation, disingenuity and lies

With a vicious cycle of propaganda being purveyed in the NAK saga, the need to respond is compelling. Even if it seems repetitive, the facts must be stated, and restated if necessary. Either because people just don’t get it and wonder what the hullabaloo is all about. Or simply because there is a lack of integrity by some in our community in dealing with a clear-cut matter of sexual abuse – which is not taken seriously enough. Gatesville Mosque have engaged in all kinds of lies and obfuscation to bamboozle those who are unfamiliar with the details of this matter. (see previous posts). I wonder if they would treat racism or other forms of abuse in a similar fashion. Or even those engaged in fraudulent behavior in their business dealings.

But first let me get some acknowledgements out of the way.

The first is that Gatesville Mosque has stopped deleting my posts from their Facebook page. Credit to them, though they have not re-instated the previously deleted ones.

The second is that “Yahya Murad’, who wrote in defence of Gatesville Mosque’s decision to invite NAK, and whose missive was widely distributed by the Imam of the Mosque and its committee members, has been outed as a fraud. This after years of his fitnah (mischief) on various sites. When outed his first action was to block those who exposed him; then he scrubbed his profile of false, incriminating information;  and then finally deleted both his accounts from Facebook. This is not the end of the matter though. But its an indication of the way that Gatesville Mosque verifies its information.

On the other hand, and sadly so, Gatesville Mosque continues their disinformation campaign. Shaykh Alexander, Imam of the Mosque delivered a lecture on Friday (26 April) justifying the mosque’s actions (I couldn’t upload that part of the lecture). Now Alexander is perhaps a competent imam, but he doesn’t even illuminate the fairly dim galaxy of those who inhabit our mimbars, let alone star among them. But to his credit he is a paid conduit to relay a particular message and does so with gusto, fervor, religious symbolism, false analogies and an appeal to the Muslim inner predilection to forgiveness. The tribal chiefs who control his mosque wouldn’t have it any other way as he bends over backwards to please them, or forwards in obsequious prostration.

Perhaps I should start at the end of Alexander’s lecture where he invokes the case where there were false accusations levelled against the Prophet’s beloved wife A’isha, which pained God’s messenger enormously. Of course, the innuendo was that the accusations against NAK are similarly false. Now this type of disingenuity can only come from true ignorance or groveling obeisance. Firstly, the accusations against NAK are not false, as he has acknowledged them. So, the fundamental assumptions of the comparison fail a simple test of logic. But when blinded by attempting to please your paymasters you fail to learn the other lessons of this story: when there was doubt the Prophet (s) stayed away from A’isha, who returned to her father Abu Bakr’s care, until the verses exonerating A’isha were revealed. Now I can state with a fair degree of certainty that Alexander didn’t receive any revelation, but the temporal facts against NAK hold true. Even if Alexander chooses not to believe the facts (however difficult that may be), he cannot ignore them. At a minimum there is sufficient doubt to employ the precautionary principle and desist from platforming him. Most egregious however is Alexander’s insinuation that NAK’s women accusers are making false allegations. Unfortunately, this is a sad tale of our history – not only the misogyny, but where clergy provide religious cover for their paymasters or those in power. Ironically Alexander’s talk was titled “The sad state of our ummah”.

Alexander outdoes even himself by beginning with a red-herring. He invokes a history of objections to particular speakers platformed in the Mosque on ‘theological’ grounds, including Sheikhs Ninowy and Menk. He further stated that they did not give in then, will not give in now, or ever. Besides the arrogance inherent in that statement, most of us who signed the original statement are pluralists; we are not into parochial theological disputes and factions. Our basis of judgement is the Maqasid of the Shariah and its ethical and moral foundations. Our objection against NAK is not based on theological or partisan grounds but on ethical and moral norms.

Alexander then reverts to the previously used bizarre defence, namely that NAK has not been found guilty in a court of law. This is common cause, so requires no comment, except to repeat that this is not our arbiter. Furthermore, if he cared to understand gender-based-violence (GBV) or sexual harassment he would know that vast majority of cases, for various reasons, are never reported let alone taken to court. There is an omerta of silence to protect the community. This also ensures that all the necessary information does not filter out for public consumption. Therefore, our task is to JOIN THE DOTS and work on probability. In NAKs case it is beyond probability. The history of the Catholic Church in covering up sexual abuse is a salutary lesson for all communities.

Alexander then wants to deny and discount the due process established by a group of respected scholars from the US who investigated and pronounced on NAKs misdemeanors. NAK participated in this process, as did the affected women. The charges are in the public domain and listed in my first post, as is the statement of the scholars who were part of the investigation. I will repeat one part of the outcome of this due process (my highlights):

“We have therefore come together out of profound concern for the well-being of the women with whom Br. Nouman Ali Khan has engaged in conduct unbecoming of any believer, much less someone who teaches about the Holy Qur’an. We have refrained from making any public statement until now because we refused to act on the basis of ambiguous accusations and second-hand information. As a group we have taken our time to speak, all together or in smaller designated groups, with Brother Nouman, with a number of the women involved, and with numerous respected scholars and imams who have at various times tried to counsel Br. Nouman. It is with heavy hearts that we confirm that Br. Nouman has committed significant violations of trust, spiritual abuse and unethical behavior. We advise our brother to ask forgiveness from those he has hurt, to face the consequences of his actions, and to take a break from public life in order to get counselling and engage in acts of expiation. We advise members of the community to refrain from speculating about and attacking those in the process of seeking justice.”


This statement, which is as clear and unambiguous as one would expect,  also debunks Alexander’s statement that there was no Shar’i violation.

Finally and in desperation Alexander then invokes the notion of forgiveness, claims NAK has sought forgiveness, and asks who are we not to forgive. This is another false claim. Where exactly did NAK ask for forgiveness? Did he ask for forgiveness from his victims? Importantly, what specifically is he asking forgiveness for? In doing this Alexander unwittingly debunks his own narrative which is that NAK wasn’t involved in any misdemeanors involving spritual and/or sexual abuse. What then would he be asking forgiveness for? Any notion of forgiveness is based on recognition, acknowledgement, redress, and a commitment to desist from similar actions in future. All he has acknowledged are his faults – in a general, nebulous, non-committal, get-out-of-jail act – that does not address his victims or his violation of their rights.

Now let me clearly and openly state that I have nothing personal against NAK. On the contrary I have learnt enormously from his lectures. And I am really sad that his actions, and those of Tariq Ramadan, have robbed our community of credible leaders and teachers we so sorely lack. But there is always scope for redemption, which is virtually an article of our faith. All that is expected of NAK is to submit himself to the recommendations of the scholars, who pronounced after due process and weighing all the evidence. After his rehabilitation he would be free to engage in his public activities. That is not much of an ask – but arrogance and financial interests probably trump the need for deep and serious introspection.

I have no doubt that Gatesville Mosque did seek counsel from senior scholars in extending this invitation to NAK or after the invitation was extended. One of these I am told is Mufti Menk. I am not sure what his exact advice was. Perhaps the Gatesville Mosque committee can take its congregants and the broader community into confidence and name these scholars and share their advice or written opinions. This would edify the community and allow us to interrogate their legal, moral and ethical reasoning. It would then serve as a learning for the community. It will also allow us to determine how many women scholars were consulted, what the credibility of these scholars is, what evidence they relied on, whether they knew the details of the case, and what these scholars’ knowledge of GBV encompassed. One wonders whether Gatesville Mosque engaged any of the scholars involved in the investigation itself or experts in GBV.

Without this, all the Gatesville Mosque committee is doing is providing a sop and attempting to justify a decision made without due consideration, or self-serving in their quest for hosting ‘international celebrities’. And their unfortunate, guileless imam acts as a conduit to sell this to the publics. We as a community should demand more respect and greater accountability.


Freedom: what does it mean today

Jumu’ah Talk at the Claremont Main Road Mosque

26 April 2019


Tomorrow we as South African commemorate Freedom Day to mark our achievement of formal political equality on the 27th April 1994 – exactly 25 years ago.

For those of you listening carefully, I didn’t use the word “Freedom”. Because some may ask what freedom do we celebrate when half of our country lives in poverty and over a quarter of our population is unemployed; whilst a few revel in economic advancement given to them by the new dispensation. Some through hard work and entrepreneurship, and others through nefarious means or patronage.

Advocate Tembeka Ngcukatoibi puts 1994 in context when he said recently “perhaps the main success of 1994 is not freedom, but the possibility of it”.

I want to interrogate the notion of Freedoms and what it means in today’s world. I want to view it through different lenses.

There are many stories of freedom in the Quran reflecting various circumstances: the liberation of Bani Israa’il from Pharoah, the freedom of Yusuf from the well and his elevation to high political office; the story of Prophet Ebrahim and his freedom from the fire, as he sought freedom for this people from idolatory. The Prophet’s migration to Madina and his capture of Makkah was also a quest for freedom.

The meaning of Freedom is contested. If you are a socialist – freedom will mean one thing; if you are a capitalist, it will mean something else; if you are liberal it will have specific meaning; if you are libertarian it will mean something entirely different. If you Muslim it may have an entirely different paradigm. So, we have definitions and notions of freedoms.

My concept of Freedom is based on the simple, but profound Quranic injunction: “we have honored the children of Adam”. Flowing from this fountainhead, I would define freedom as a society that allows and encourages every individual to attain their maximum potential. It stands for securing for everyone an equal opportunity for life, liberty, and growth; and the pursuit of success and happiness. This means a society free from want, and a truly equal opportunity society – that encourages talent but has a safety net for those in need.

It means that inherited privilege is not simply reproduced, but that inherited disadvantage is mitigated to give everyone an equal opportunity for success. An equal opportunity society is a myth without accounting for this because privilege and poverty are reproduced in a vicious cycle where the rich get wealthier and the poor get poorer.

It is important to remember that our Constitution is among the very few in the world that recognises socio-economic rights as a human right. These rights include the right to food, shelter, education and healthcare. Freedom Day should be a reminder for us to ensure the realisation of these rights enshrined in our Constitution.

I will leave you to judge whether our society is truly free 25 years after we attained our political freedom.


I would argue that every political or philosophical movement that arose in history, did so under the banner of freedom.

I therefore want to interrogate the notion of freedom in a slightly different way today – and argue that we are becoming more constrained and less free. Even in the traditional liberal democracies, or especially so in such societies.

Let us go back in history and look the birth of Islam in 7th century Arabia. It was born out of a yearning for freedom. Freedom from tyranny, from superstition, from patriarchy, from slavery, from tribalism and from materialism and other gods,. Islam was a liberatory force. Over time this religion become fossilised and became tyrannical under oppressive political leadership and reactionary religious leadership. With many exceptions course.

This was the fate of all religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

The rebellion against this came in the form of secular humanism (which formalised in the early 19th century).

Secular human embraced reason and human logic as the supreme virtue and extolled a freedom from religious dogma, supernaturalism, superstition and a higher being. It posited humans as being good, ethical and moral purely through reason and logic and without religion or a god. In a sense science and empiricism became the new gods, as did philosophy to answer the greater questions of metaphysics.

As a reaction to gross iniquities arose socialism and communism which promised freedom from want and an egalitarian society. Both these, or variations or dysmorphic version of them, have been overthrown as they themselves became corrupted. Or survived in different forms – most successfully as social democracies.

A reaction to secular humanism came in the form of post-modernism which developed in the mid- to late 20th century mainly in Europe and encompassed a wide variety of approaches that essentially challenged notions of power embedded in society. It challenged the universalist notions of objective reality, morality, truth, human nature and meta-narratives. Post modernism based itself on the contingent realities, socially conditioned nature of knowledge, embedded power, values and hierarchies in systems of knowledge and control, specific cultural discourses, moral relativism and pluralism. There was also a sense of irreverence.

So while secular humanism claimed to free us from obedience or servitude to a higher Being and posited rationality at the center of human existence, post-modernism debunked this. Post modernism exposed the fallibility of rationality, its false constructions of moral truth; its epistemic inheritance; its construction and imposition of a ‘universal’ value system and systems of power and hierarchy; and its linkages with particular political, cultural and historical discourses and hierarchies.

Without going into a critique of post-modernism I simply want to make the point that all these philosophical traditions from religion to post-modernism were predicated on notions of freedom and liberation.


The newest technological and philosophical revolution that now confronts us also claims to be a liberatory force.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR – a termed coined by Klaus Schwab of the WEF), which builds on the digital revolution of the 3IR , represents new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies and even the human body. The 4IR is marked by emerging technological breakthroughs in a number of fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, stem-cell therapy, gene technology and autonomous vehicles. The fundamental basis for 4IR lies in advances in communication and connectivity rather than technology. Beyond that it forms the basis of an integration of information technology and biotechnology to reconfigure human experiences.

In fact, some designate the 4IR as the next greatest step in the evolution of humankind, as it signifies a qualitative transformation of society. In a sense it is man becoming God – as posited by those from novelist Dan Brown’s in his novel Origin, to Yuval Noah Harari in his various works. In the book Origin a supercomputer called the ‘e-wave’ allows the chief scientist Kirch to mimic the creation of the universe (called the Miller-Urey experiment). Using algorithms he predicts that in fifty years, in a continuation of the evolutionary process, humanity and technology will merge. That we will cease to be the humans we are today.

Thus the 4IR may usher in independent creation, genetic modification, artificial intelligence – all which required God or human intervention in the past.

It may perhaps bring huge advantages in human experiences, but accompanied by large moral, ethical and philosophical questions about freedom and other issues.

The 4IR may certainly bring freedoms – freedom of expression, the democratization of media space because of social media, it may free humankind of some diseases, and mundane tasks.

However, it will also mean that traditional jobs will be no more. AirBnB, Uber, Amazon are cases in point. 4D printing will destroy artisanal jobs. It will hugely benefit the rich and educated, and leave the poor and poorly educated behind.

BUT this new world will challenge what we define as FREEDOM.

We have already entered a new world of technology, meta-data, surveillance and risk-free wars (through the use of armed drones, wars can be wages without risk to citizens).

  • It is a world where, for those of us who use smart phones and apps such as Google maps, Garmin and Waze every movement of ours not only direct us but is stored and predicts our future movements. It recognizes our home destination and our workplaces.
  • Face-recognition technologies track our every movements and places us in different spaces.
  • Our music preferences are tracked by Spotify.
  • When we search on Google all our searches are stored, creating a profile of ourselves.
  • When we use Twitter, FB, or Instagram our conversations are analysed for key words, which are stored. They determine our social, entertainment and even our political positions.
  • Many of these apps tap into our contacts on our phone to better understand our networks. And it uses FB, twitter and Instagram to further understand our networks, family, friends, acquittances and those with whom we share beliefs, values and ideology.
  • When we shop on Amazon or Takealot – our shopping preferences are stored and when we use News24 or other news sites – the things we have been searching for eerily appears on the screen.
  • When we pay with our credit cards or on our accounts at shops or use loyalty cards, every store knows our peculiar shopping habits and movements.
  • Many of these apps I have mention cross-platform – meaning they talk to each other, and some of them link into our email accounts like gmail.

All of this data adds up to mega-data which are used to create algorithms – which creates a profile of every one of us – where others begin to know us better than we know ourselves.

These algorithms don’t only define us but will be able to influence and determine our actions and behaviors. They will compromise our freedom in ways unfathomable to us – by determining our choices and decision making.

These new forms of targeted marketing will make traditional marketing and propaganda look crude.

In the past we were governed by authority – largely religious authority. Then society moved towards the individual as the maker of choice in what is called secular humanism. Now we are manipulated into choices by exploitation of our data, and consequently our feelings, to determine what our aspirations are, what we think, what we buy, etc. We are now governed by an authority not of our choosing. We merely have an illusion of freedom of choice, and other freedoms.


Let me give some examples of what I mean:

Example 1

Many of use already know about Trumps victory and the alleged Russian meddling in the elections.

Let us take the case of Cambridge Analytica (CA), which will concretely demonstrate what I said earlier.

CA was a British political consulting firm which combined data mining, data analysis, data brokerage, with strategic communication during electoral processes, military disinformation campaigns, social media branding, and to study and manipulate public opinion and political will.

CA’s data analysis methods were to a large degree based on the academic work from Cambridge University on a profiling system using general online data, Facebook-likes, smartphone data, consumer behaviours, internet activity and other public and private sources. They also used a mobile app that tracked physical movements and contacts and, invaded personal data.

They showed that with a limited number of “likes” on FB, people can be analysed better than they can by their friends or relatives, and that individual psychological targeting is a powerful tool to influence people.

The CEO Alexander Nix said in 2016: “today in the United States we have somewhere close to four or five thousand data points on every individual … So we model the personality of every adult across the United States, some 230 million people”.

The company used “data enhancement and audience segmentation techniques” providing “psychographic analysis” for a “deeper knowledge of the target audience”. The company uses what it calls “behavioral microtargeting” that can predict “needs” of subjects and how these needs may change over time. Services then can be individually targeted for the benefit of its clients from the political arena, governments, and companies, providing “a better and more actionable view of their key audiences.” According a commentator CA can tell things about an individual he might not even know about himself.

CA claims to have been involved in 200 elections across the world.

Not only did CA collect data, analyse data, segment this data, and devise strategies to influence everything from voting behaviour, views on various issues and on consumer behavior – they did so without our consent or knowledge.

Example 2:

Let me take a simple example of reading a book. In the past our book choices were determined by friends or those in authority. Now with algorithms, when you go to Amazon or other websites, they will proffer you books based on your previous reading. So you will be inclined to particular books offered.

If you read this book on a kindle or other device, it will track your reading patterns, how fast you read, where you pause, what you highlight. And store this information.

With face recognition technology this device will determine how you react to a book – when you laugh, cry, smile, smirk or show anger. That information will also be stored.

Now link this device to your smart-watch and this device will measure your heart-rate, sweat rates and physiological parameters while reading different sections of a book.

This data will be collated to determine your reading preferences and a whole lot more about you. This will influence not only future books sold to you or the way authors will write in future, but will paint a larger profile picture of an individual.

So for the first time in human history not only do you read a book, but the book also reads you!

The content of material also determines our positions and I quote Mortimer Adler:

“The packaging of intellectual positions and views is one of the most active enterprises of some of the best minds of our day. The view of television, the listener to radio, the reader of magazines, is presented with whole complex of elements – all the way from ingenious rhetoric to carefully selected data and statistics – to make it easy for him to “make up his own mind’ with the minimum of difficulty and effort. But the packaging is done so effectively that the viewer, listener, or reader does not make up his own mind at all. Instead, he inserts a packaged opinion into his mind, somewhat like inserting a cassette into a cassette player. He then pushes a button and ‘plays back’ the opinion whenever it seems appropriate to do so. He has performed acceptably without having had to think”.

Example 3

Much of what is done is done in the name of a new alluring religion called consumerism. Noah Yuval Harari describes this in his book Sapiens:

“The capitalist and consumerist ethics are two sides of the same coin, a merger of two commandments. The supreme commandment of the rich is ‘Invest!’ The supreme commandment of the rest of us is ‘Buy!’ The capitalist–consumerist ethic is revolutionary in another respect. Most previous ethical systems presented people with a tough deal. They were promised paradise, but only if they cultivated compassion and tolerance, overcame craving and anger, and restrained their selfish interests. This was too tough for most. The history of ethics is a sad tale of wonderful ideals that nobody can live up to. Most Christians did not imitate Christ, most Buddhists failed to follow Buddha, and most Confucians would have caused Confucius a temper tantrum. In contrast, most people today successfully live up to the capitalist–consumerist ideal. The new ethic promises paradise on condition that the rich remain greedy and spend their time making more money and that the masses give free reign to their cravings and passions and buy more and more. This is the first religion in history whose followers actually do what they are asked to do. How though do we know that we’ll really get paradise in return? We’ve seen it on television.”

What I have attempted today, is to paint a broad picture of notions of freedom, than just in a political sense. Our greatest dangers, particularly in liberal democracies come from elsewhere. In totalitarian regimes, the lack of freedom is recognized. In liberal democracies the illusion of freedom is more dangerous sometimes than the lack of freedom.

The question is how this determines our ethics and how do we claim back our destiny. I don’t have the answers and for that you will have to wait for another talk.

With our national and provincial elections around the corner, I will end with the sage words of Raymond Suttner: “even though elections, with all people entitled to vote for the first time was a massive victory, freedom is never finally realized … it needs to be seen as a concept with an indefinite scope and meaning”.

We pray that the Almighty guide and protect us and our children and shields us from the dangers we recognize, and those we don’t. Surah Naas could not be more apt as we seek protection from the known and unknown evils; from the whisperings and the shouts; from among the jinn and men.

Shuaib Manjra

PS.  I am grateful to Maroot Reynolds for sending me this excerpt, after listening to my talk, and which eloquently crystallizes what I was attempting to convey in my talk,  by contrasting Orwell and Huxley:


We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.

But we had forgotten that alongside ORWELL’s dark vision, there was another — slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s BRAVE NEW WORLD3. Contrary to common belief, even among the educated, HUXLEY4 and ORWELL5 did not prophesy the same thing. ORWELL warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in HUXLEY’s vision no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What ORWELL feared were those who would ban books. What HUXLEY feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. ORWELL feared those who would deprive us of information. HUXLEY feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. ORWELL feared that the truth would be concealed from us. HUXLEY feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. ORWELL feared we would become a captive culture. HUXLEY feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As HUXLEY remarked in BRAVE NEW WORLD REVISITED6, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions”. In 19847, HUXLEY added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In BRAVE NEW WORLD, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure.

In short, ORWELL feared what we hate will ruin us. HUXLEY feared what we love will ruin us. This book is about the possibility that HUXLEY, not ORWELL, was right.

[William Heinemann, London, 1986 (Foreword)]


PART 2: So what has Nouman Ali Khan (NAK) done that demands our outrage? A response to his defenders.

Islam frowns upon publicizing the sins of others; in fact, it encourages us to conceal their sins. Except of course in the case of ‘those who have been wronged’ (or to protect those who have been wronged). Such sensitive matters must typically be handled discretely and sensitively to protect all involved. Undoubtedly the idea of innocent until proven guilty is enshrined in Islamic law.

So when a properly constituted committee of scholars is tasked to investigate a sensitive matter, and they do so in privacy whilst safeguarding the identities of all, and gather all the evidence they can from all the protagonists including a confession from the perpetrator, and have documentary evidence of many of the allegations, then we have a responsibility to take their findings seriously. When several other scholars, not part of this group, confirm the findings as they have been previously involved in counselling the perpetrator, then the allegations have even greater credence. This overrides the perpetrator’s outrage that these mediators were self-appointed simply because the verdict doesn’t suit him, or compromises his faith-based business interests.

The burden then lies upon us as a community to trust the findings of scholars entrusted with the task and respect the confidentiality of the details of the charges. We should not engage in voyeurism. Of course some may hide behind this confidentiality to defend the perpetrator. Our task remains to simply protect the vulnerable from predatory behavior unveiled in these investigations. As leaders and custodians of our institutions we have a duty of care.

But as importantly we need to ensure that those we platform in our institutions are beyond reproach and display high ethical and moral standards that set an example to the rest of our community, particularly our youth. If there is any doubt, we should use the precautionary principle and desist from platforming such individuals.

Several us have written to the Gatesville Mosque questioning their wisdom in inviting NAK to their mosque for Ramadan (10). To say the least, we have been stonewalled in an arrogant defence of their invitation. But they have gone further: The Imam and members of the Gatesville mosque committee have distributed a defence of NAK by a troll who calls himself ‘Yahya Murad’. ‘Murad’, admits to false statements in his article, yet these individuals have seen it fit to distribute it. Despite “Murad’s” defence of NAK, or rather attack on those objecting to NAK’s presence, he admits that NAK’s behavior was “unethical”. Despite his denial of being a NAK acolyte it is interesting that he is one of the first to post a defence of NAK on the latter’s Facebook page in September 2017 (11).

NAK’s defenders have grounded their arguments along predictable lines:

  1. The accusations against him are unsubstantiated (that they remain allegations).
  2. He has committed no crime (in the secular legal sense).
  3. He has committed no violations of the Shariah (Islamic law).
  4. That none of Khan’s actions constitutes sexual harassment.

So let’s break down the accusations against him (admittedly some of them overlap), confirmed by a panel that investigated the claims, interviewed the women and NAK, and viewed documentary evidence including text messages, photographs, emails, bank transfers, and other materials that support the victims claims (2, 5). “Murad” acknowledges most of the claims but characterizes them merely as ‘unethical’. These claims involve at least six women who accuse NAK of improper conduct:

  1. One of these was in a two-year secret marriage to him. As Khan’s secretary he ‘legally’ ‘married’ her in secret, promising her a public ceremony when his divorce was final. When the secretary learned of other women in his life and confronted him, Khan agreed to announce their union to a wider circle in Dallas. Two days after fulfilling his secretary’s dream of going public, he dumped her. Khan boasted of leaving the woman “on the floor howling like a child.”
  2. In an electronic chat communication (made public) he told a woman, not married to him and who he employed from the UK: “I want to be your sugar daddy” and the asks her lie to protect their relationship. The entire trail of his correspondence with this woman is available (3) (warning: doesn’t make for pretty reading)
  3. He sent women shirtless selfies of himself saying “I want to work out with you” and other sexually suggestive messages.
  4. He used his prestige to groom female fans for secret sham marriages, essentially sexual relationships that have no legal standing and only dubious religious cover.
  5. He lied and manipulated women as he courts them for undercover unions (marriages). Some culminated in sex; others did not. This while he was legally married to his wife.
  6. He urged these women to lie to one another when he is found out and when he tires of them, he divorces them.
  7. There is documentary evidence that he paid $7000 hush money to a woman he pursued for her silence.
  8. When NAK was confronted about these affair’s he lied and threatened lawsuits against those making the charges.
  9. Khan openly bragged in text messages about giving hush money to a jilted woman and revealing plans to dump a secret wife just as soon as he’d scrubbed incriminating information from her cell phone.
  10. Khan convinced his wife to stop divorce proceedings and once she signed, he began moving assets around without her knowledge in order to reduce his divorce settlement to her.
  11. He threatened his long-time friend and partner in Bayyinah Institute with a lawsuit when he expressed discomfort with NAK’s unethical behaviour. Imam Omar Suleiman wrote an article about this before NAKs story publicly broke (1).


Now whichever way you look at it, these charges must make one uncomfortable to say the least, and cannot be ignored, minimised or willed away. Of course they are far more egregious.

The first defence is false because all the allegations have been substantiated. The Group that investigated him produced a detailed report listing his misdemeanors. This has not been made public, but some media have reported on it (I don’t know how they accessed the report). They attempted to maintain a sense of dignity and decorum by maintaining confidentiality. The group did however make their conclusions and recommendations public after NAK attacked the Group and disregarded its recommendations. There is not one claimant, but at least six. Not only has the Group corroborated these charges, but also a number of other scholars who were aware of his behavior and attempted to counsel him.

On the second point of defence, it is true that he has committed no crime in terms of US law. But that would be a low bar for arbitering what is right and wrong. Although some countries do consider sexual harassment a criminal office.

The third line of defence which is that he has committed no violations of the Shariah is a stretch. He has violated both the letter, and ethical and moral spirit of the Shariah. One of the Shurut (conditions) of marriage in Islam is the presence of witnesses. This signals that there can be no secret marriages since one of the custom of marriages is a public announcement. In some schools of fiqh, mut’ah (temporary) marriages are permissible and this doesn’t necessitate all the conditions of a traditional marriage. I’m not sure whether NAK, ‘Murad’ or his other defenders support this provision. But trudging through his messages reflects clear violations of the Shariah – his lewd messages, communications and contact with sexual connotations with women outside of marriage, asking females he has been pursuing to lie in order to conceal their relationship, his despicable treatment of his secretary who he divorced after two years of marriage, hush money, and his treatment of his wife (inconsistent with the Quranic injunction during divorce to Ihsan). His entire behavior violates the shariah. How anyone can argue otherwise is befuddling.

NAKs behavior (his text messages provide a glimpse of this)  falls squarely within any acceptable definition of grooming, predatory behavior and sexual harassment. He clearly used this power, position and financial means not only to woo women, abuse them, but also to silence them. He patently violated their rights. The evidence broken down demonstrates all of these. Some of these are illegal in some countries but others are at a minimum serious ethical and moral violations. They go contrary to the norms set in the example of our beloved Prophet and the righteous inheritors of his tradition. ‘Consenting adults’ serves as a smokescreen for predatory behavior in a relationship of tremendous power imbalance, moreso when the women involved feel abused.

Those platformed at any mosque are not required to be free from sin, misdemeanors, and transgressions. But there should certain minimum norms governing who we platform. If the #MeToo movement has not sensitized the Gatesville Mosque committee to gender-based violence, then they clearly live in a parallel universe. And contrary to Murad’s claim nowhere did NAK apologise for his behavior. His Facebook post is rather a rationalization of his behavior, and an attack on his detractors.

Whichever angle you view this, Gatesville Mosque have spectacularly miscalculated in inviting NAK in an affront to women and the Muslim community. They had ample opportunity to do the right thing and they failed. In writing to me stating that they do not want a protracted engagement on this matter and then continuing to spread messages in defence of NAK containing patent falsehoods, they have again showed bad faith. Furthermore, despite their claim to have an ‘open door policy’, they have again demonstrated their closed minds by actively censoring posts on their Facebook page critical of NAK’s visit while permitting and promoting Murad’s tepid defence. Do they fear the truth or are they trying to ‘hide the truth with falsehoods’? And do they require the likes of Murad to provide a veneer of defence for NAK’s predatory behavior? In this they have stooped to levels lower than initially imagined.








Part 1: Gatesville Mosque: don’t platform sexual predators!

15 April 2019

Mr Sataar Parker

The Chairman, Gatesville Mosque

Rylands, Cape Town

Dear Sataar

As Salaam u Alaykum

I trust you are well.

As you are aware I am a signatory to the letter (see below) sent to the Gatesville Mosque Committee concerning your decision to host Mr Nouman Ali Khan (NAK) over the month Ramadan. Over the years I have benefitted from his preaching but became distinctly uncomfortable when allegations about his personal behaviour, and to some extent his business dealings, came to the fore. As more details became public it was evident that he had serious charges to answer for. Many of these charges are already in the public domain and can be found in the links I have provided below. The article by the highly respect Sheikh Omar Sulaiman is most powerful, considering that he worked at Bayyinah Institute with NAK for many years. The body of evidence is sufficiently substantive to ensure that we stand up and take seriously. We cannot tolerate ‘religious authority’ to serve as a cover for damaged individuals who engage in predatory behaviour and target the vulnerable. We have seen this sad trend in all religious communities – and in most cases the victims have been failed by the systems of power embedded in such communities.

Thus, I read the statement from the Gatesville mosque with great dismay, as I found it self-serving, patronizing and disingenuous. It doesn’t bode well for our future, or your leadership if this statement is the best your mosque committee could muster. Personally, I am profoundly disappointed because I considered Gatesville Mosque embracing a progressive agenda. It is apparent now that an ego-driven celebrity culture trumps values and deeper commitments. For example, invoking a red-herring of Leila Khaled’s invitation to your mosque is no indication of a progressive agenda; in fact, I am certain she would not support your current endeavor. Trumpeting your invitation of a popular, iconic, female Palestinian resistance fighter to speak in your mosque, but doing little to progress gender sensitive issues, paradoxically denigrates women by instrumentalising them for your own agenda.

I think it important to begin by understanding gender-based violence (GBV) because it seems apparent that neither you, nor your committee has a grasp of this concept, despite its present currency, and while you proclaim abhorrence of any “form of violence or harassment against anyone – particularly women ….”. In truth nobody can argue against this concept because it is expected to parrot such commitments to parade progressiveness. The real test of commitment must be reflected in action – a commitment you proclaim is ‘a sacred trust upon Muslims’. The very fiber and ethos of the mosque must be based on uncompromising values based on intersectional justice – foremost amongst these is race and gender. Intersectionality means that you cannot root for Palestine and not for women’s rights. I am sorry but you have failed.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a broad term and a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality and continues to be one of the most notable human rights violations within all societies. It is equal to racism in its pervasiveness and impact. For far too long it was relegated to the margins of our consciousness because we felt more important causes required our attention, and/or because of our inherited patriarchy. In most cases men set the agenda. The #MeToo movement specifically, and the feminist movement generally, has significantly changed the landscape, educated and sensitized us about gender issues, and made us all more conscious of GBV, its nuanced definitions, and ways in which it manifests. It has contributed immensely towards creating an egalitarian society based on respect for all.

Gender-based violence does not merely reflect the extreme examples of physical violence or rape, but other forms of violence (in a broad sense) directed in the main against a person because of their gender. There is rape at one end of the spectrum and micro-aggressions at the other. Between those one is confronted by sexual harassment, stalking, or using one’s power to coerce women into relationships. What may often seem as consensual relationships, are more often based on coercion inherent in power imbalances (sometimes termed positionality). Such power imbalances are reflected in teacher-student, employer-employee, and leadership-subordinate relationships. Women suffer from these in different ways, including physical, sexual, psychological, social, professional or economic harm. That is why many universities proscribe or control relationships between lecturers and students. Many women remain silent about these violations because of the notion of honor that sometimes imprisons our mentality. Others have spoken out years after the event as they attempt to salvage the remains of their lives. These gendered acts of violence are a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women. This places upon us a duty of care to ensure this does not happen.

Your guest Mr Nouman Ali Khan (NAK) is guilty of numerous such violations, based on numerous reports but particularly a report compiled by amongst the most respected Muslim leaders in the United States (referred to hereafter as “the Group”). In addition to reading their full report (copied below), I implore you to research the prolific profiles of each one of this Group, who painstakingly and sensitively investigated the allegations, interviewed NAK, and many of the women involved. This part of their statement is revealing, while it remains sensitive to all by omitting personal details:

We have therefore come together out of profound concern for the well-being of the women with whom Br. Nouman Ali Khan has engaged in conduct unbecoming of any believer, much less someone who teaches about the Holy Qur’an. We have refrained from making any public statement until now because we refused to act on the basis of ambiguous accusations and second-hand information. As a group we have taken our time to speak, all together or in smaller designated groups, with Brother Nouman, with a number of the women involved, and with numerous respected scholars and imams who have at various times tried to counsel Br. Nouman. It is with heavy hearts that we confirm that Br. Nouman has committed significant violations of trust, spiritual abuse and unethical behavior. We advise our brother to ask forgiveness from those he has hurt, to face the consequences of his actions, and to take a break from public life in order to get counselling and engage in acts of expiation. We advise members of the community to refrain from speculating about and attacking those in the process of seeking justice.

It is instructive that while NAK initially agreed to the arbitration, participated therein, but then threatened these individuals when they announced their final decision against him. NAK clearly has a multi-million-dollar faith-based empire to protect. Faith after all is his vocation. To date there has been no acknowledgment by NAK regarding these transgressions, nor an apology. All he has done is cast his response in vague terms that do not directly address the transgressions, or provided religious cover for his actions. Or predictably he has cast himself as victim of a conspiracy. The Group recommended certain steps for his rehabilitation, but rather than embracing their nasihah (sincere advice) he began to denigrate and threaten this Group (see legal letters in articles below).

It is evident from your letter that you were aware of the charges against him, yet saw it fit to continue the invitation and platform him regardless. The precautionary principle in our fiqh (religious law) implores us to desist if there is doubt. This principle was sacrificed at the altar of your celebrity culture. In this you dishonour the sanctity of the mosque but also our sisters in faith and all women.

Our letter to you was intended to again alert you to these issues. It did so in an open and respectful way and we also offered to meet with you to discuss this matter. It seems that you didn’t feel the need to do so. I am also aware that other senior scholars discouraged you from inviting NAK, and you spurned their advice as well. An ‘open door policy’ that you proclaim cannot overcome a closed mind. Your response to us is a testament to that.

It would be useful to know who you consulted with regarding this invitation and how many women or women’s organizations were part of this consultative process. Perhaps you didn’t think they count.

On the other hand, your engagement with us reflected bad faith and lacked basic honesty, let alone Islamic etiquette. I was informed by at least three reliable sources closely connected to the Gatesville Mosque that the decision to invite NAK was NOT going to rescinded. Yet you led us to believe that the matter was under discussion and that you would revert to us in due course. Your calculation by invoking the absence of a committee member – in this day of instant communication – was nothing other than a delaying tactic.

Furthermore, prior to reverting to us a speaker in the Friday lecture at the Gatesville mosque caricatured the concerns against NAK as a ‘western media conspiracy’, those who call for accountability as ‘feminist sheep’, and the #MeToo movement as ‘problematic for all men’. Is this the level that your mosque has stooped too? A failure to distance yourselves from such statement confirms your support thereof. I fully appreciate that the mosque is an ‘open platform’ and does not necessarily endorse the content of the speaker’s lecture. But when such egregious allegations are made, it is the duty of the mosque to distance themselves from them particularly when there is a contentious agenda at play.

For the record there was no social media campaign against the Mosque as you claim. We were careful not to go public initially because we felt it only right to respectfully engage with your committee on the matter and attempt an amicable resolution. What did happen is that when the statement was drafted it was sent out to a closed group for endorsement. Some individual/s circulated it beyond the closed group (for further signatures). This was beyond our control and we attempted to curtail it once it was brought to our attention. So, your assertion that there was a social media campaign is patently incorrect.

Invoking Sheikh Mohamed Akram Nadvi’s opinion is a desperate attempt by you in your quest for confirmation bias. The latter has openly indicated his friendship with NAK, nor did Nadvi perform a detailed investigation like the Group did, so would not be familiar with all the facts. For you to give more weight to his statement than the Group is self-serving and disingenuous. But more disappointingly you deny the right of victims to be heard in a world where victim-centeredness is becoming the norm.

We no doubt believe that all humans are fallible. And that Allah is the God of mercy and forgiveness. But to invoke Allah’s grace there needs to be remorse, a public acknowledgement of wrong doing, and sincere repentance; not denial and arrogance.

Sure, people can learn from NAK’s immense knowledge without platforming him. But to platform him is to grant him a free pass for his violation of women and their rights. In doing so, Gatesville Mosque has become an accomplice. I have a simple test when facing a moral dilemma. How would I act if the victim was my child? I certainly know what I would do!

It would be salutary if every mosque and institution in our country has a policy on sexual harassment and guidelines on who we platform. In doing this we can re-centre ethics and morality in our decisions, not populism and egoism. But importantly, our mosques and Muslim leaders are entrusted with a duty of care. To care and protect the vulnerable from predators. To stand up for justice and truth. To stand up for the oppressed. On all these counts you have failed the community. And miserably so.

However, all is not lost, and you still have opportunity to correct this. I pray you would. And would appreciate your response soonest.

Was salaam,  In brotherly spirit

Shuaib Manjra



In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion, and sympathy are like one body. When one of the limbs hurts, the whole body reacts with wakefulness and fever”. (Muslim and Bukhari)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Islam: Greetings of peace and may the mercy and blessings of God be upon you: as salam alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

We come to you as women and men who care deeply for you, our brothers and sisters in faith. We grieve with you at the state of the world today, where so many are suffering from war, oppression, displacement, and deprivation. Prophet Muhammad, may God’s peace and blessings be upon him, said that the believers are like one body, if one part hurts, the whole body is afflicted with sleeplessness and fever.

Bottom of Form

It is for this reason that any violation of trust and ethics which comes within our community of faith is even more painful and distressing. We all share that distress, and we wish that such violations never happened. But reality is not based on our wishes, and much injustice has continued because of denial. Allah the Most High says,

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُونُواْ قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاء لِلّهِ وَلَوْ عَلَى أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوِ الْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالأَقْرَبِينَ إِن يَكُنْ غَنِيًّا أَوْ فَقَيرًا فَاللّهُ أَوْلَى بِهِمَا فَلاَ تَتَّبِعُواْ الْهَوَى أَن تَعْدِلُواْ وَإِن تَلْوُواْ أَوْ تُعْرِضُواْ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا

O you who believe, be steadfast in standing up for justice as witnesses for Allah, even against yourselves or your parents or your relatives, whether they are rich or poor, for Allah can best protect both. Do not follow your wishes lest you deviate and if you distort or turn away, truly Allah is aware of whatsoever you do. (Qur’an 4:135)

We have therefore come together out of profound concern for the well-being of the women with whom Br. Nouman Ali Khan has engaged in conduct unbecoming of any believer, much less someone who teaches about the Holy Qur’an. We have refrained from making any public statement until now because we refused to act on the basis of ambiguous accusations and second-hand information. As a group we have taken our time to speak, all together or in smaller designated groups, with Brother Nouman, with a number of the women involved, and with numerous respected scholars and imams who have at various times tried to counsel Br. Nouman. It is with heavy hearts that we confirm that Br. Nouman has committed significant violations of trust, spiritual abuse and unethical behavior. We advise our brother to ask forgiveness from those he has hurt, to face the consequences of his actions, and to take a break from public life in order to get counselling and engage in acts of expiation. We advise members of the community to refrain from speculating about and attacking those in the process of seeking justice.

We are profoundly distressed by the anguish and grief that this has caused. We unequivocally recognize and support survivors of abuse who are often silenced in our communities. We want to make clear to the Muslim community that we are available to support all those affected by this and other less visible forms of spiritual abuse. We commit to improve mechanisms of accountability for anyone engaged in public service. We realize that there have been many situations in the past in which Muslim leaders have behaved inappropriately and have engaged in abusive behavior, and we are committed to working with experts in all fields to create ethical standards that protect our community from future harm and ethical misconduct or abuse of power by any Muslim leader.

The following signatories are comprised of scholars, community leaders and mental health professionals:

Sr. Aisha Al-Adawiya, Sr. Salma Abugideiri, Sheikha Tamara Gray, Dr. Altaf Husain, Imam Mohamed Magid, Dr. Ingrid Mattson




Gatesville Mosque response to this letter:

From: Masjidul Quds Gates Cape Town <>
Sent: Wednesday, April 17, 2019 10:24 PM
To: Manjra, Shuaib <>
Subject: Nak

Asalaamu Alaikum Brother Shuaib,

Your email dated 16th April 2019 to Sataar Parker, with subject matter NAK 3 refers.

We trust that this email finds you in good health inshallah.

The committee has taken a decision not to go into any protracted engagement regarding this matter.

You hold a position which we respect and we humbly request that you similarly respect our position regarding the matter.

Wishing you and your families well for the blessed month of Ramadaan.

JazakumAllahu Khairan

Mohammed Abdulla


Executive Committee – Masjidul-Quds

Sataar Parker


Trustee – Masjidul-Quds



8 March 2019

Members of Gatesville Masjid-ul-Quds Committee

As Salaam Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatu

Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Raheem

We pray that all is well with you and your families by the grace of Allah SWT.

As members of the greater Cape Town and South African Muslim community, we are deeply concerned regarding an invitation which you have extended to Nouman Ali Khan for the month of Ramadan.

You may be aware that, in 2017, allegations of sexual harassment, spiritual abuse, manipulation, threats and payoffs were leveled against Nouman Ali Khan. Inappropriateshirtless selfies and attached crude messages from him to a few women were posted online. In short, he was accused of partaking in acts unbefitting an Islamic scholar.

A panel of clerics and religious scholars investigated the accusations against him and found that he had indeed manipulated women into secret sham marriages and then attempted to buy their silence or threaten them if they called him out or put pressure on him. According to this panel, Nouman Ali Khan confessed to inappropriate interactions with several women. He also admitted to resorting to lies and threats to cover up his misconduct.

A panel of esteemed Islamic leaders issued a joint statement that said:

“We have come together out of profound concern for the well-being of the women with whom Br.Nouman Ali Khan has engaged in conduct unbecoming of any believer, much less someone who teaches about the Holy Quran. We have refrained from making any public statement until now because we refused to act on the basis of ambiguous accusations and second-hand information. As a group we have taken our time to speak, all together or in smaller designated groups, with Brother Nouman, with a number of the women involved, and with numerous respected scholars and imams who have at various times tried to counsel Br. Nouman. It is with heavy hearts that we confirm that Br. Nouman has committed significant violations of trust, spiritual abuse, and unethical behavior. We advise out brother to ask forgiveness from those he has hurt, to face the consequences of his actions, and to take a break from public life in order to get counseling and engage in acts of expiation”. (

An agreement was reached whereby he would cease giving public speeches until further notice, would get professional and religious counseling, and would cease all contact with said women. However, possibly realizing that he still had a substantial following, Nouman violated the agreement, subsequently denied the allegations and accused many of those who had investigated him of jealousy. To date, most of Nouman’s online followers attack, in mob-like fashion, anyone who tries to hold him accountable, with absolutely no regard for Islamic manners, decency or etiquette. As far as we are aware, he himself has never publicly shown remorse or asked forgiveness of the women he had wronged. Instead he has made himself out to be the victim and branded those seeking justice as envy-driven liars. Given all the information that we have at our disposal, we believe that an invitation by you to Nouman Ali Khan will be highly inappropriate, lacking in wisdom and an affront to the community’s well-being and Islamic sensibilities. What type of example can he set if he does not embody good Islamic principles and character? Ramadan is meant to be a month of reflection and spiritual upliftment. Instead of being a positive influence, his presence will serve as an unwanted distraction during this holy month, as there will undoubtedly be talk and preoccupation about the allegations. More importantly, what type of message will we be sending if he is not held accountable or shunned? Will we be communicating to people that there aren’t onsequences for sexual harassment and abuse; that women (especially Muslim women in this case) are not worthy of respect?

By inviting Nouman Ali Khan, the Gatesville Masjid will be seen to be making a clear and direct statement that suggests that:

1) it is not concerned about the welfare of Muslim women;

2) abusive Muslim men need not be held accountable for their abuse, that they

can be given second and third chances without any remorse, reparation or

process of accountability;

3) powerful Muslim men are not expected to uphold decent, ethical conduct;

4) the Gatesville Masjid committee is implicitly enabling gender-based violence

by giving a platform to this man whom a number of respected Muslim elders in

the USA had found guilty of indecent and abusive behaviour.

Such messages sent out to the Muslim community would indeed be sad, and a terrible violation of the historically powerful legacy of this masjid. As Muslims based in Cape Town and elsewhere in the country, and in the interests of proper adab and appropriate procedure, we are approaching you first directly to appeal to you to rescind your invitation to him. We prefer that this matter be dealt with speedily by yourselves and the invitation is immediately rescinded; if it is not, however, then we believe that, in order to protect the integrity of our Muslim community, there will be sections of the community that will publicly bring attention to the invitation to, and presence of, Nouman Ali Khan in Cape Town. Such attention will not be good for the reputation of a masjid that has played numerous critically important roles in our community, and has ensured that it is an institution we are proud of. We would not want that reputation to be sullied by such a mistake. As you know, this is a time in South Africa and across the globe where issues of sexual violation and gender-based violence are high on the agenda in the media, public spaces and social awareness. In general, South Africans are more sensitive now to such matters and more intolerant to those accused of such violations. It would not be in keeping with the reputation of Masjid-ul-Quds if it were drawn into this scenario. We trust that your committee will do what is in the best interests of the masjid, the Muslim community, your consciences, and broader Islamic imperatives of justice and accountability, and that you will revoke the invitation. We pray that this Ramadan is one of immense spiritual growth and upliftment for all of us, Insha Allah.

We look forward to receiving the official response by the Gatesville Masjid committee.

With salaams,


Associate Professor Sa’diyya Shaikh (UCT, Religious Studies)

Dr. Zuhayr Kafaar (Stellenbosch University, Psychology)

Prof Ashraf Kagee (Stellenbosch University, Psychology)

Farhana Ismail (Member of Masjid ul-Islam Committee and UCT postgraduate student)

Rosieda Shabodien

AbuBakr Karolia (Academy of Self Knowledge and in association with UJ’s Department of

Religion Studies).

Fatima Vally (Human Rights Activist)

Aaisha Dadi Patel (Journalist)

Professor Usuf Chikte (Global Health, Stellenbosch University)

Associate Professor Gabeba Baderoon (Penn State University and Stellenbosch University)

Associate Professor Shahana Rasool (University of Johannesburg)

Cherry Muslim (UKZN, Religion and Director of Islamic Studies Research Unit, UKZN)

Dr Fatima Seedat (UCT, Gender Studies, PhD Islamic Law).

Rifqah van Schalkwyk (UCT, Religious Studies)

Dr Shuaib Manjra

Shahin Azmuth (Practicing Attorney)

Saajidha Sader (UKZN Social Justice Education)

Aneesa Moosa (Occupational Therapist)

Zeenat Sujee (Attorney)

Razina Munshi (Journalist)

Fatima Paruk (Postgraduate student Wits University)

Farhana Kara Motala (Human Rights Activist)

Naadira Munshi (Human and Labour Rights Activist)

Safiyyah Surtee (Member of Masjidul Islam Committee and UJ Study of Islam)

Ashraff Paruk (Engineer)

Masnoenah Kamalie (IPSA)

Gabo Kgomongwe (Masters Student, UCT)

Reyhana Satar (Architect and Mother)

Fatima Gabru (Palestine Solidarity and Human Rights Activist)

Mohammad Groenewald (Muslim Youth Movement)

Kharnita Mohamed (UCT, Dept of Anthropology)

Abdul Karriem Matthews (Community Organiser)

Jaamia Galant

Yousuf Cajee (Palestinian Solidarity, Muslim Youth Movement, Concerned Muslim)

Shabnam Palesa Mohamed (activist, media commentator, radio presenter, public speaker,


Ashraf Mahomed (Attorney)

Azeezah Saloojee (Occupational Therapy Student)

Nelisiwe Msomi (Journalist and activist)

Aqeelah Bray (UCT Honours Student)

Shehnaz Munshi (Health equity activist, public health researcher, occupational therapist)

Benazir Cassim

Shaazia Ebrahim

Naweed Aghmad Khan (Member of Masjidul Islam Committee, Johannesburg)

Mujahid Osman

Ihsaan Bassier

Mariam Stuurman

Ra’eesa Pather

Na’eem Jeenah (Member of Masjidul Islam Committee, Johannesburg)

Zeyaana Sallie

Dr Ghadija Hayat

Basheerah Soomar

Aniesha Bulbulia

Abdul-Aleem Somers

Shafinaaz Hassim (Public Sociologist)

Professor Adam Haupt (Centre for Film & Media Studies, UCT)

Nafisa Patel (Religious Studies -UCT)

Rumana Mahomed (Attorney & Gender Justice Activist)

Kaathima Ebrahim (NGO leader)

Shameelah Khan (Co Founder of NGO WOW, Women of Waqf. Lecturer/Researcher at AFDA

University. Co director magazine Odd)

Alia Kajee (ActionAid South Africa)

Dr Yumna Mayet

Aysha Waja

Azraa Waja

Riyaadh Ebrahim

Lutfiyah Suliman

Nadeem Mahomed

Gadija Ahjum

Asief Mohamed

Altamish Khan

Moefiedah Jaffer

Prof Aslam Fataar (Stellenbosch University)

Dr Najwa Norodien-Fataar (CPUT)

Muhammad Zakaria Suleman (Advocate, Durban)

Dr Lubna Nadvi

Ebrahim Adam

Tasmi Quazi (Social activist and Development researcher)

Dr. Shamim Bodhanya (Academic and Leadership consultant)

Sakina Godwin (law student)

TIP Taking Islam to the People, (Durban Muslim organisation)

Shafeeqah Salie

*additional list of online links regarding Nouman Ali Khan scandal:





Navigating The Nouman Ali Khan Scandal



Unable to copy and paste



South Africa’s relationships must be based primarily on human rights considerations

Rhulani Thembi Siweya ( must be commended for her sense of internationalism and concern about the plight of South African workers. Undoubtedly the economy is central to transformation in South Africa and specific types of investments are critical in attempting to reduce the GINI coefficient and improving the lives of the majority. However, in invoking the economy she shows little appreciation for the type of economy necessary for us to overcome the morass of unemployment.

Aside from that, her other arguments suffer severe deficits in basic logic, factual accuracy and historical appreciation. Consistency could be added if one considers that she warns in a June 2017 article:

“Ecowas must also not fall into the trap of being enticed by Prime Minister Netanyahu who addressed the summit on the fourth of June by saying ‘ Israel is coming back to Africa and Africa is coming back to Israel’. In 2016 they made an impassioned plea to the Eastern block of Africa. They are determined to infiltrate Africa. Such statements must not be eagerly entertained because this is a nation which continues to undermine the dignity of Palestinians and refuse them a seat in the League of Nations.

Countries like Israel and Morocco are taking advantage of the weaknesses in African economies, knocking at their doors attempting to buy favours with them. Both these countries continue to oppress their neighbours and African leaders must not forget that.”

Clearly something has changed.

Logical Fallacy 1: The Economy

Aside from hyperbole, the following statement fails a simple test of logic:

The trajectory taken by BDS-SA to selectively discriminate against entrepreneurial and business opportunities by corporations linked to Israel, if not challenged, may lead to a huge collapse of the South African economy and ultimately lead to unwarranted job losses. (emphasis mine).

Statistics detailing South Africa’s trade with Israel reveals no threat of a ‘huge collapse in the South African economy”. They also alert us that a significant percentage of SA’s exports to Israel consisted of unbeneficiated diamonds; and the bulk of imports are agricultural produce. It is here where a huge potential for employment exists through the creation of local industries, not the takeover of one major corporation by another. Typically, Siweya fails to support her assertion that a foreign takeover of Clover will produce more jobs, but by some stretch of logic concludes that the failure of this transaction would result in job losses.

Furthermore, reducing the GINI coefficient is not dependent on Israeli investment. It requires far more, or far less than that: not least of all is government policy, labour intensive industries, a living wage, a basic income grant, progressive taxation and initiatives of distributive justice.

However alluring it may be, and no doubt we as a country need to embrace it, technology and the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ is no panacea to unemployment. In fact, it would probably increase unemployment and worsen the GINI coefficient as many jobs become redundant and the privileged continue to benefit.

While her concerns about workers is commendable, the largest trade unions in this country, who legitimately represent worker interests, are fully supportive of BDS. Their sense of international solidarity stands in stark contrast to someone who pretends to talk on behalf of workers. Coincidently, opponents of sanctions against the Apartheid regime used the predictable argument that sanctions would distress workers.

Logical Fallacy 2: The Occupation

Siweya lists a host of “Occupations” around the world, but fails to distinguish their unique characteristics and their historical genesis, which any student will tell you is useful for a meaningful analysis and determination of political action. This is not to detract from their violations, or from the principle of consistency and internationalism. However, lumping them together in the way she does reduces her list to ‘whataboutism’ rather than a call to meaningful international solidarity and struggle for justice and human rights. It is predicated on the juvenile notion that unless we engage in every struggle, we shouldn’t engage in any struggle. This notion of ‘if not every, then not any’ is morally offensive and hopelessly impractical.

A factual correction on Tibet: notwithstanding the gross violation of their human rights, the Uighurs are not from Tibet. Furthermore, there are no UN resolutions which support the independence of Tibet, and not a single country in the world recognizes its independence, unlike Palestine. Yet Tibet continues to be used as a canard in ‘whataboutism”. I implore her to study the history of both Tibet and Crimea so that they become more than mere distractions. The continued repressive occupation of the Western Sahara by Morocco remains a blot on Africa and the AU, and we must continue opposing the Saudi’s gross violations of human rights both domestically, in Yemen, and their sponsorship of international terrorism. Sanctions against Saudi Arabia must be supported, as must any case for war crimes. As a declared pan-Africanist I am surprised Ceuta and Mellila don’t feature in Siweya’s list of Occupations, nor does Somaliland. Nor does she mention the Falklands, Northern Ireland nor Gibraltar – all British colonial occupations.

But here is the nub of the issue and why the Occupation of Palestine fits a special category. In any era there are particular struggles that capture the imagination of human rights activists because of their particular egregiousness. In the past it was against Nazism, the Vietnam War, Apartheid and Colonialism. During these periods one could have used the canards employed in ‘whataboutism” to distract from the menacing ideologies which were a blot on humanity. In fact during the struggle against Apartheid, apologists for the regime attempted to deflect attention using the same canards employed by defenders of Israel. This opening line from a worthy article in the Christian Science Monitor (1989) titled “Why South African Shouldn’t be Singled Out” is instructive: While the violation of human rights is the norm rather than the exception in most of Africa’s 42 black-ruled states, the spotlight remains on South Africa. (


So what makes Israel’s gross human rights abuses particularly egregious? I would direct her to the UN report on Israel as an Apartheid State ( The second is that it is one of the settler colonial occupations that survives the 21st century. And thirdly this colonial project is based on the expulsion of over 750 000 Palestinians, the destruction of 450 towns and villages, and (continuing) land theft, ethnic cleansing and discrimination against Palestinians. So, like the other signal struggles mentioned above, in Israel human rights violations occur within a boarder framework of a supremacist, racist-ethno-nationalist ideology which is designed to perforce colonize a land; exterminate, ethnically cleanse, obliterate indigenous populations, and disempower and subjugate those remaining. It also denies the existence, identity, history, suffering and claims to the land of these indigenous populations. The fundamentalist religious underpinning of these ideologies, even in secular incarnations, anchor such atrocities.

I am sure this sounds familiar to her and explains why Palestine is one of signal struggles of our times. It also explains why Palestine has become an important axis in intersectional politics.

Myth 3: BDS

Not only does Siweya claim to speak on behalf of South African workers, she also arrogates to speak on behalf of Palestinians. “BDS-SA ought to listen to what ordinary Palestinians yearn for” she pronounces, blissfully unaware that BDS is a Palestinian civil society initiative as part of its non-violent action to achieve freedom and independence.

Contrary to what she says, nowhere does BDS policy state or imply “that Israel has no right to exist”. BDS is based on three principles: an end to the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territory (pre-1967 borders); equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel; and the right of return of Palestinian refugees. I wonder which of these internationally established rights she finds objectionable. In the first two she would find an implicit recognition of Israel as an independent state.

What exposes her profound ignorance about the real nature of the Occupation is her assertion that: “Israel continues to be the Palestinian Authority’s most important trading partner. In fact, Palestinian Authority officials were recently seen at a meeting sitting around a table that has on it, several juice bottles, all products from Israel”. This simply confirms that the entire border of Palestine is controlled by Israel and consequently the economy is held hostage. No import or export is possible without Israel’s consent. Palestinians simply are compelled to trade with Israel, which punitively withholds hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue due to the beleaguered PA (

 Myth 4: Palestinians are intransigent

In typical victim blaming she calls on Palestinians to implement ‘previous resolutions’, ‘Oslo Accords’, and to return to the negotiating. Palestinians suffer “peace-process fatigue” since every effort has resulted in more Israeli violence, more land confiscation, more ethnic cleansing and more settlement construction. UN resolutions, the commitments at the Oslo Accords and other agreements are daily violated by Israel. Donald Trump’s alliance with his fellow right-wing in Israel has permitted the latter to act with impunity – both in its violence and its settlement activity. This certainly is no evidence of any commitment to peace or justice. If there was, why the accelerated settlement activity on Palestinian land?

In this victim blaming one should never forget that Palestinians are already negotiating for a whittled down 20% of their original homeland and are expected to compromise even further! The Arab Peace Plan – the most comprehensive initiative, including complete recognition of Israel in return for a Palestinians state on the internationally recognised borders, was rebuffed by Israel. It remains on the table.

If one reads a little bit of history, it will be clear that even in 1948 Zionist leaders had an ideological commitment to a “Greater Israel” encompassing the currently Occupied Territories (OPT). Few of the Israeli leaders had any willingness to withdraw from the OPT. With the rise of the right-wing, particularly the religious element, Israel has no will to withdraw from the OPT.

Anti-Apartheid veteran Lord Peter Hain sums up the dilemma:

( ).

Prime Minister Netanyahu has increasingly drifted away the two-state solution over the course of an ongoing programme of occupation and settlement. Members of his government and its parliamentary grouping have recently spoken out against a two-state solution, while the renewed ‘Greater Israel’ discourse of the growing Israeli right openly opposes a two-state solution, calling for the annexation of Palestinian territories.

The German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel echoed this sentiments when speaking to an Israeli think-tank: “Some members of Israel’s cabinet are explicitly against the two-state solutionacross Europe and even in Germany, there is clearly growing frustration with Israel’s actions, with young people feeling increasingly less inclined to accept what they deem unfair treatment of the Palestiniansit is increasingly difficult for people like me to explain to them the reasons why our support for Israel must persist … are you willing to bear the consequences of fully fledged annexation — a one-state reality of unequal rights? Or are you ready to accept a single democratic state between the sea and the river?” (

This clearly points to where the failure of negotiations lies – spoken by none other than Israel’s supporters. Israel will not end the Occupation unless there is a significant cost to it. BDS is one initiative that provides non-violent action.

Siweya would do well to note that the Central Bottling Company (CBC) of Israel, the bidder for Clover, is not only listed on the UN Blacklist of companies doing business in the illegal Israeli settlements, but it has also funded Im Tirtzu, a far-right wing organisation that was declared by the Israeli Supreme Court to have ‘certain lines of resemblance to Fascism”. She should choose her friends a bit more carefully, particularly as her own party, the ANCYL has distanced itself from her views.

She would do well to be led by President Ramaphosa, who echoed Mandela when he said at the 2019 SONA: “Our support for the struggle of the Palestinian people is not merely a product of history – it is a refusal to accept that a people should be continually denied the right of self-determination in violation of international law.”

Shuaib Manjra

26 February 2019

Published in the Daily Maverick.




The case of Caster Semenya has generated global interest, not least because its impact is equivalent to the Council for Arbitration in Sport’s (CAS) ruling permitting Oscar Pistorius to participate in “able-bodied events”. The opposition to Oscar’s participation was predicated on the notion that he had an unfair advantage gifted him by his running blades. It also has the impact of the Bosman ruling in football by the European Court of Justice which classified footballers out of contract as free agents, resulting in huge financial impacts on football clubs.

The CAS deliberations on the proposed IAAF policy titled “Eligibility regulations for the female classification (athletes with differences of sex development)” will address athletes not fitting into the binary sexual categorization that currently characterizes sport classification. But it also places the IAAF in a conundrum regarding its mandate to ensure a level playing field for all athletes. No doubt enormous effort has gone into producing this policy in attempting to balance various interests and rights.

Currently sport recognizes four bases for differentiation: sex (male/female), weight (in some sport such as boxing, weightlifting and judo), age (in age-specific competitions), and degree of impairment (in disabled sport). Probably the only sport that doesn’t differentiate on sex is equestrian. With established categories any athlete who crosses into another category is penalized by recategorization. This is understandable for weight and in most cases for age, which is often a challenge in countries with poor birth registration systems. Degree of impairment in disabled sport is a fine balance between an objective and subjective assessment and oftentimes the assumed advantage is speculative. A higher category in disabled sport results in significant disadvantage to the athlete.

In the case of sex (not to be confused with gender), the binary division is not helpful for a range of athletes who do not neatly fit into any of the categories and who cross the established boundaries. This is one of the critical issues that CAS will consider in its ruling on the IAAF policy: HOW DOES ONE DIFFERENTIATE SEX AND WHAT IS THE BEST MARKER? Various methods have been attempted previously – including a nude parade by female athletes to assess external genitalia, analysis of chromosomal patterns, hormonal profiles, assessment of internal genitalia, and a combination of these – but the issue remains fraught since these analyses only throw up greater questions. Challenges, acknowledged by the IAAF, include mixed chromosomal types, androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS) and alpha-reductase deficiency (genetically males but with female characteristics). Thus, cases of Difference of Sexual Development (DSD) renders binary classification notoriously difficult and sport has no special category for such individuals. Importantly, many of these athletes are unaware of this difference, and are frequently picked up on abnormal doping results (elevated testosterone levels). The IAAF policy attempts to answer this complex question by reducing it to a single end-point variable: female testosterone (fT) levels. CAS will have to address this challenging question.

Accepting the fact that some females have elevated testosterone (fT) levels for a whole range of reasons, the second question that CAS will consider is: DO SUCH FEMALE ATHLETE HAVE AN ADVANTAGE. This is the question that CAS posed to the IAAF in the Duttee Chand case in 2015 when suspending the IAAF’s previous regulation (“Regulations Governing Eligibility of Females with Hyperandrogenism to Compete in Women’s Competition”) granting it two years to provide evidence. The court accepted that some female athletes have higher testosterone levels but questioned whether this translates into physiological and performance advantage and therefore could be used as a basis for remedial action by the IAAF. The IAAF policy is based on population norms (with an allowance for athletes) where males and females levels of testosterone do not overlap. Normative values of testosterone in females is 0.1 – 2 nmol/l and in males it is between 7.7 and 30 nmol/l. Testosterone is considered the major differentiator in sports performance between males and females: male performances generally exceeds female performances between 9-15%. It is fair to assume that athletes such as Chand and Semenya have levels greater than 10 nmol/l since both were compelled by the IAAF to reduce their levels under the previous policy where the testosterone level for athletes classified as female was pegged at 10 nmol/l (the new policy proposes a more stringent cut-off of 5 nmol/l). It is fair to assume that the IAAF believes that raised testosterone levels grant female athletes with elevated fT a physiological and performance advantage. A paper published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine by the IAAF (based on testing at Daegu and Moscow World Championships), and comparing athletes with high T to low T, demonstrated an advantage only in the 400 m, 400 m hurdles, 800 m, hammer throw, and pole vault.

This raises the next critical question that CAS will consider is: if there is indeed an advantage, WHAT IS THE QUANTUM OF SUCH AN ADVANTAGE? Of all the events considered, the referenced paper showed an advantage of   2.73% (400 m), 2.78% (400 m hurdles), 1.78% (800 m), 4.53% (hammer throw), and 2.94% (pole vault). It has been estimated that if Semenya was to reduce her T levels, it would affect her performance negatively in the region of 5%. This is assumed to have occurred when, in compliance with the previous IAAF policy, Semenya did attempt to reduce her fT levels through hormonal manipulation.

This would trigger the next question: WHAT IS A TOLERABLE LEVEL OF ADVANTAGE? What advantage (extrapolated to fT levels) would be sufficiently tolerated as not granting a female athlete an unfair advantage. There must be a cut-off defined scientifically by the IAAF. Previously it was a fT level of 10 nmol/l and now reduced to 5 nmol/l, probably based on the published data. But these cut-off value relate to fT levels and not a performance threshold, since the demonstrable advantage of elevated fT does not exceed 5% according to the IAAF’s own study.

The final question is WHAT IS CONSIDERED AN UNFAIR ADVANTAGE? Does an accident of nature automatically classify as a fair advantage equivalent to height, muscle composition, arm span, feet size, etc. Such category comparisons are spurious since sports does not classify according to these criteria but does differentiate sex. On the other hand, athletes with DSD have no control over the advantage they gain, unlike doping. Evidence from the East German dataset of state sponsored doping in the 1970s demonstrated a significant benefit to female athletes doping with testosterone. CAS may ask: if there is indeed an advantage, where would the line signifying an unfair advantage: Would a 10 or 20% advantage be considered unfair?

CAS will have to grapple with these five questions with the evidence supporting the various positions in its deliberations, the results of which will be made public before the end of March 2019. The flaws in the IAAF cased have already been exposed: the paper which forms the fundamental basis of their case has fatal flaws and has been panned by academics and statisticians, flaws acknowledged by the authors themselves who were forced to produce an addendum to the paper. The first flaw is the errors inherent in compiling their dataset (with an error rate potentially as high as 30%). The second flaw is that the study compared high fT and low fT athletes, not with normal T athletes. The third flaw in the IAAF policy is that while it demonstrated advantage in specific events they added additional events to their policy without scientific evidence – restrictions including all races between 400m and the one-mile races – when no evidence of advantage has been demonstrated in races above 800m. Furthermore, the field events, where there is demonstrable advantage in the IAAF study, are excluded. But it could also be notionally argued that since testosterone increases muscle strength, power, endurance and speed; enhances cardiorespiratory function; and causes elevated red blood cell volume it would grant advantage in all events and not only those selected by the IAAF. Finally, despite its denial the IAAF policy attempts to assign sex, evidenced by the title of its policy – “eligibility regulations for the female classification”

The perennial racism question has been bandied around. Notwithstanding a remark by Olympic official Norman Cox, over fifty years ago, that there should a separate category for black female athletes who are ‘unfairly advantaged hermaphrodites’, the IAAF has equally applied its standard to white and black athletes. One such athletes will testify as an expert witness for Caster on the negative effects of reducing her testosterone levels. Various European athletes have fallen foul of the regulations, notwithstanding the fact that the two latest high-profile cases happen to be black.

The South African Department of Sport and Recreation have wagered a whopping R25-million in this case. The key challenge lies in CAS balancing genetics, anatomy, physiology, endocrinology and performance, against fairness and gender rights in their decision. Even 29 experts may not enable CAS to produce a result that is satisfactory to all, and this case may just find itself in a higher civil court if it finds in favour of the IAAF. However, one cannot put a price to the emotional cost to Caster Semenya, Duttee Chand and similar athletes. This must rank certainly rank as one of CAS’s most difficult decision.


Shuaib Manjra

25 February 2019

Giving the gift of sectarian hatred

Charities and aid-agencies are the glue that holds many societies together. Without them many societies would collapse, largely because of the failure of the state, which may be due to various reasons – ideological, economic status, incompetence and corruption, or war. In acute situations, such as exists in war-zones, charities mediate between life and death for civilian populations. They are the last line of refuge for food, shelter and other basic necessities to sustain life. But such agencies navigate a difficult and often dangerous terrain. Such agencies are the subject of much criticism – from the right-wing for being activists and taking sides; and from the left for not taking political positions and benefitting from the status quo by not questioning the fundamental causes of poverty, inequality and violence. So being in this critical line of work is not only dangerous, but also fair game for criticism.

Aid agencies must not be neutral, they must take sides. However the only side they must take is the side of the oppressed and innocent victims. However in the execution of their work they must minister to all without fear or favour. A friend of mine who heads Islamic Relief in the USA recently told me how they have to fend off sectarian pressures in their work in Syria in order to maintain their neutrality and provide services to all sectors of the population, including fighters from all sides.

Thus it is surprising that one of South Africa’s most prominent charities promotes sectarian interests in Syria. Curiously, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman of the Gift of the Givers Foundation has embarked on a countrywide tour inflaming sectarian hatred, for which I criticized him on Facebook and eliciting varied responses. My point is this: that Syria is a quagmire; the Assad regime and many of its opponents have committed atrocities against local populations. Bashar al Assad, like his father Hafez al Assad is a brutal dictator. Thus one would expect the local populations to support the opposition forces in their fight against this dictator. Therein lays the problem: the behavior of many opposition groups alienated the local populations and weakened them. This, for example, resulted in the Assad forces winning in East Aleppo. So this situation consists of protagonists divided into the bad and the worse, with the civilian population bearing the brunt of this conflict with no clear end in sight. The brutality of Assad is more evident because of his indiscriminate bombings of civilian areas. One cannot also discount the role of the media in framing a particular narrative.

My second and fundamental criticism against Sooliman is where he frames this conflict as a religious conflict – Sunnis versus Shias – and going on his anti-Shia diatribe, even describing Hezbollah as Hizbo-Shaytaan!  What this kind of senseless rhetoric does, is essentialise what is a war against a brutal dictator, to a large extent a civil war, and what has become a geo-political conflict into a religious war. This simplistic rhetoric entirely ignores geo-politics which has brought in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Hezbollah, Russia, the USA and Israel into battle. Moreover this also feeds into the anti-Shia diatribe that has been spewing from our pulpits for decades. But it also ignores the fact that the Syrian army and the opposition have a mixture of Shias, Sunnis and Druze, and attempting to neatly characterize one as Sunni and the other as Shia is analytically flawed.  The flip side of this is that there has been a deafening silence on the atrocities committed by Saudi Arabia (Sunnis) against the Yemeni population into what amounts to war crimes, or the suicide attacks against Shias in Pakistan and Iraq. The sub-text is that Shias are fair game.

Let me provide an example by quoting Imtiaz Sooliman directly:

‘I’m not talking as Gift of the Givers here, nor am I making this a sectarian issue, but the Syrian people – our Sunni brothers and sisters, your Sunni brothers and sisters – are getting massacred, and by whom? The Alawites and the Shi’ah’s. Iran plays this game of the Islamic Revolution; there’s nothing Islamic about Iran. Say it like it is ….when you can cause conflict by sending arms to kill women and children, there is nothing Islamic about you! We think it politically incorrect to mention other names. But they’re not shy. They’re not embarrassed to send weapons to kill Sunnis. So why should we hold back in mentioning their names? What political correctness is this? This is political expediency that has got nothing to do with Islam.”

Sooliman’s claims of being apolitical or neutral are contradicted by this kind of inflammatory rhetoric which demonstrates that he has abdicated any sense of neutrality and has firmly embedded himself into a sectarian discourse that only provides relief to those who gorge themselves on Sunni triumphalism and hubris. While he acknowledges that this Syrian conflict involves ‘political expediency’ and has ‘nothing to do with Islam’, he contradicts himself by pitting Sunni against Shia, thereby characterising as a religious conflict.

My third criticism of Suleman is the quote he uses to express his own opinion that the ‘Israeli’s have more compassion than Assad’. Any such analogy is fraught with problems and should be avoided. But this kind of thinking is what informs people who say that living under apartheid is better than living under the current government. It ignores a whole set of factors while playing into the hands of the white right. Besides being wrong and ignoring the history of massacres and continued ethnic cleansing in Palestine and that many of Assad’s victims are Palestinian refugees, this kind of narrative plays into the hands of the Zionist lobby who counter any criticism of Israel with the claim that Syria is being ignored and focusing on Israel is the result of some inherent anti-Semitism. It undermines the Palestinian struggle.

So if Imtiaz Sooliman and the GOTG want to enter into the political terrain the least we expect is an informed opinion about the conflict – and being on the ground in Syria does not mean that you become an expert. We also expect balance, in that you cannot enter the political terrain in one conflict and remain silent in others. And last, but certainly not least, such organisations should desist from inflaming sectarian hatred lest this inflames the conflict even further and brings it to our shores where all communities live in harmony. It also detracts from the valuable work that GOTG does in providing relief in desperate situations.

However, if the GOTG want to give up their neutrality then they become fair game as well.

Published in Al Qalam, January 2017