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.”

(https://muslimmatters.org/…/a-statement-regarding-br…/)

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.

 

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Freedom: what does it mean today

Jumu’ah Talk at the Claremont Main Road Mosque

26 April 2019

PART 1

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.

 PART 2

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.

PART 3

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.

PART 4

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

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.

 

  1. https://muslimmatters.org/2017/06/03/what-do-i-do-when-i-find-out-my-favorite-preacher-is-corrupt/
  2. https://muslimmatters.org/2017/10/03/a-statement-regarding-br-nouman-ali-khan/
  3. https://www.parhlo.com/this-new-development-on-nouman-ali-khan-controversy-is-shaking-the-internet/amp/?fbclid=IwAR2cFIhW2aGUFc0DvDWmagCHH142iNJAwlX_PpESrN8BTtTxLhhSOgqxfDA
  4. https://www.browngirlmagazine.com/2018/01/nouman-ali-khan-what-in-male-privilege-allows-gender-based-violence-to-Occur/?fbclid=IwAR3S5WY7D8_7SBtbM1S6ghBVoM1ffi9CpCJu5xInOOhryiU3FG2E1t-
  5. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/hannahallam/payoffs-threats-and-sham-marriages-women-say-a-celebrity
  6. https://www.npr.org/2018/01/01/574933314/muslim-americans-face-challenges-when-confronting-leaders-misconduct?fbclid=IwAR00O4I7NFVcJnGo1AgheTqBON5Y8PmpfGtB2jrgGMzxnPpNcnd8bnadSF8
  7. https://stepfeed.com/a-muslim-preacher-was-accused-of-sexting-and-people-have-mixed-reactions-0859
  8. https://muslimmatters.org/2017/09/24/navigating-the-nouman-ali-khan-scandal/
  9. http://www.splitthemoon.com/tag/nouman-ali-khan/
  10. https://bullshitbasher.wordpress.com/2019/04/19/gatesville-mosque-dont-platform-sexual-predators/
  11. https://www.facebook.com/noumanbayyinah/posts/1124992947633446

 

 

 

 

 

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

____________________________________________________________________________________________

STATEMENT BY ‘THE GROUP’

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

______________________________________________________________________________________________

ARTICLES OF INTEREST

https://muslimmatters.org/2017/06/03/what-do-i-do-when-i-find-out-my-favorite-preacher-is-corrupt/

https://muslimmatters.org/2017/10/03/a-statement-regarding-br-nouman-ali-khan/

https://www.parhlo.com/this-new-development-on-nouman-ali-khan-controversy-is-shaking-the-internet/amp/?fbclid=IwAR2cFIhW2aGUFc0DvDWmagCHH142iNJAwlX_PpESrN8BTtTxLhhSOgqxfDA

https://www.browngirlmagazine.com/2018/01/nouman-ali-khan-what-in-male-privilege-allows-gender-based-violence-to-Occur/?fbclid=IwAR3S5WY7D8_7SBtbM1S6ghBVoM1ffi9CpCJu5xInOOhryiU3FG2E1t-

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/hannahallam/payoffs-threats-and-sham-marriages-women-say-a-celebrity

https://www.npr.org/2018/01/01/574933314/muslim-americans-face-challenges-when-confronting-leaders-misconduct?fbclid=IwAR00O4I7NFVcJnGo1AgheTqBON5Y8PmpfGtB2jrgGMzxnPpNcnd8bnadSF8

https://stepfeed.com/a-muslim-preacher-was-accused-of-sexting-and-people-have-mixed-reactions-0859

https://muslimmatters.org/2017/09/24/navigating-the-nouman-ali-khan-scandal/

http://www.splitthemoon.com/tag/nouman-ali-khan/

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Gatesville Mosque response to this letter:

From: Masjidul Quds Gates Cape Town <info@masjidulquds.com>
Sent: Wednesday, April 17, 2019 10:24 PM
To: Manjra, Shuaib <Shuaib.Manjra@za.bp.com>
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

Chairperson

Executive Committee – Masjidul-Quds

Sataar Parker

Chairperson

Trustee – Masjidul-Quds

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

PETITION TO GATESVILLE MOSQUE

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”. (https://muslimmatters.org/2017/10/03/astatement-regarding-br-nouman-ali-khan/)

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,

Signatories:

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,

attorney).

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:

https://www.parhlo.com/this-new-development-on-nouman-ali-khan-controversy-is-shaking-theinternet/

amp/

https://www.browngirlmagazine.com/2018/01/nouman-ali-khan-what-in-male-privilege-allows-genderbased-

violence-to-occur/

https://www.npr.org/2018/01/01/574933314/muslim-americans-face-challenges-when-confrontingleaders-

misconduct

https://www.google.com/amp/s/stepfeed.com/amp/a-muslim-preacher-was-accused-of-sexting-andpeople-

have-mixed-reactions-0859

Navigating The Nouman Ali Khan Scandal

https://www.meforum.org/6972/when-islamists-fall-out

_______________________________________________________________________________________

RESPONSE FROM GATESVILLE MOSQUE TO THIS PETITION

Unable to copy and paste

 

 

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

Rhulani Thembi Siweya (https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2019-02-15-bds-sa-undermines-south-africans/) 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. (https://www.csmonitor.com/1989/1012/ekri.html)

 

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 (https://bit.ly/2urXt8J). 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 (https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/maureen-clare-murphy/israels-freezing-palestinian-tax-funds-collective-punishment).

 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:

(https://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_time_to_talk_about_a_one_state_solution ).

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?” (https://www.timesofisrael.com/german-fm-skewers-israeli-leaders-opposition-to-two-state-solution/).

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

The Daily Maverick declined to publish this response.

 

 

CASTER SEMENYA VS IAAF: FIVE KEY QUESTIONS FOR CAS

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.

Referenes:

https://www.iaaf.org/news/press-release/eligibility-regulations-for-female-classifica

https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/51/17/1309

http://leastthing.blogspot.com/2018/07/bjsm-lets-stand-deeply-flawed-paper-why.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/12/sports/iaaf-caster-semenya.html

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1v-AENZFjP8vvlLmfwq3e_Qtmn-xLKxzt/view

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

Response to Allan Wolman’s bigotry

The Editor

Cape Argus

It is our tragedy that bigotry blinds us to the truth; yet we unashamedly publicly parade this bigotry as fact – as is the case with Allan Wolman’s letter (Middle East problems not ours, 9/9/2016 SEE BELOW). I attended the event on settler colonialism in Israel, held symbolically at a monument to ethnic cleansing by another settler colonial entity – the District Six Museum. A panel of ‘Palestinian Israeli’s’ – those who live within the borders of the state of Israel, established through violence and ethnic cleansing in 1948 – addressed us from personal and painful experiences not dissimilar to ours, surrounded by memories of District Six. Two of the participants from ADRID, an organisation for internally displaced Palestinians, simply and without rancour recounted how they were forced from their ancestral villages by Zionist militias prior to 1948 and forced to relocate elsewhere. In Lubya, and there were thousands of such villages, over 3000 residents were ethnically cleansed and forced to settle in Gaza, neighbouring countries and a few inside Israel. Nayif Hujjo described how his family had to sleep in the open for months just two kilometers from Lubya, but were prevented from returning by armed militia, and had to live under military curfew for many years thereafter. Many years later when they were allowed to go close to Lubya they noticed newly planted trees obliterating their village.

The Zionist strategy to erase any memory of ethnically cleansed villages was achieved by planting forests over razed villages. Such forests were funded and promoted by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), a quasi-governmental organisation which receives funding from both the Israeli government and Jewish communities around the world, and controls land exclusively for Jewish use. The JNF masks its role in ethnic cleansing under the guise of environmental agency, as it does locally in South Africa. Another symbolism of this meeting was that the forest erasing the village of Lubya is called the South African Forest – where South African Jewry funded ethnic cleansing in Israel.

Last year members of the SA Jews for a Free Palestine (SAJFP) took about 300 signed letters from South African Jews to the citizens of Lubya apologizing for the role played by South African Jewry in their displacement. This symbolic apology, reminiscent of our own TRC, was also about acknowledging and embracing a painful history. The current visit was in reciprocation of that visit. Needless to say, and not unlike South Africa, Palestinians seek land restitution.

Wolman vilifies SAJFP as ‘an outspoken anti-Israel fringe group’ – rather than a courageous group acknowledging the truth of history and apologizing for their community’s complicity. SAJFP should however take comfort that Jewish anti-apartheid activists were similarly ostracized by their community at the time, but embraced today out of expedience, but also the triumph of truth.

At the same meeting Advocate Myssana Morany from human rights organisation Adalah documented the continued ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Israel where Bedouin communities are being forcibly removed from their ancestral lands in the Negev to make way for exclusive Jewish settlements. Ethnic cleansing did not end in 1948 or begin in 1967 – it is a daily experience of Palestinians.

Our struggles for Palestinian rights, Zimbabwean rights, or the rights of the Baha’i community, for example, do not blind us to our local struggles. We see them all as an undifferentiated struggle for human rights and a just, inclusive and more humane world. We hope that those like Alan Wollman will actively join us in all of these struggles rather than exploit a local issue to mask their support for injustice elsewhere. Lubya is testament to the inter-relatedness of our struggles. I implore your readers to watch the sensitively documented history of Lubya, aptly titled The Village under the Forest by Mark Kaplan and Heidi Grunebaum, which was the winner of the Audience Award for Best South African Film at Encounters Documentary Festival. Readers can view and then judge Wollman’s churlishness (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISmj31rJkGQ).

 

 Shuaib Manjra

Open Shuhada Street

 

Wolman.png

Shuaib Manjra: Nomination to serve on UCT Council

Dear Friends

I have been nominated, and accepted to stand for a position on the UCT Council.

I hope to make a contribution to the future of UCT in these challenging times and request your vote and support  in this election.

My profile, abridged CV and statement of intent (which was restricted to 200 words) is included on the website. My statement of intent is also copied below.

6 candidates will be elected out of a 27 nominated and each person can vote for up to six persons. There are some really worthy candidates.

I apologise if you are not an alumnus of UCT and have received this mail but am sure you know of many whose support you can solicit.

The link  to the profiles and to vote electronically  is given below.

If you are not registered with the UCT Development and Alumni Department (DAD) you may not have received the notice below. However you can email election@uct.ac.za, and request a username and password to participate in the electronic ballot.

I implore you to use this democratic right to contribute to the future of UCT so that we together can bring positive change.

Please call me should you have any queries.

Sincerely

Shuaib Manjra

 

STATEMENT OF INTENT

As an alumnus, staff member, parent of a current student and a conscious, active member of civil society I am acutely aware of the numerous challenges facing UCT within the context of our dynamic society. These include advancing academic excellence, transformation in the broadest sense, granting fair access, fair employment practices and good corporate governance within severe budgetary constraints and rising student and public expectation. Most challenging however is the poor school system in disadvantaged areas which presents the greatest impediment to access, and is largely beyond the control of the university. My commitment is to bring my varied experiences to the collective and find balance in addressing these critical issues in a sustainable way that takes into account the needs and expectations of the university’s various constituencies while maintaining its position as Africa’s premier university. To find the delicate balance between access and excellence is a universal challenge.

I am committed to deconstructing glib terms so that they inform, rather than obfuscate a clarity of vision and purpose: ‘excellence’, ‘access’, ‘transformation’, ‘African university’, ‘race and class’, ‘sustainability’, etc. Also imperative is how UCT produces not only graduants for a market, but conscious citizens and continues to enhance human knowledge.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

UCT Convocation election

Nominations for members of Council elected by Convocation closed on 22 April 2016. Twenty seven nominations were received for the six available seats on Council and an electronic ballot will be held.

View the candidates’ statements and abbreviated CVs

Members of Convocation who have registered email addresses with the UCT Development and Alumni Department (DAD) can vote for up to six of these candidates. Email notifications have been sent to those members of Convocation for whom DAD has email addresses. If you do not have a registered email address with the Development and Alumni Department, please email election@uct.ac.za, and request a username and password to participate in the electronic ballot. Once verified, you will receive a username, password and voting instructions by email within 8 business hours.

Go to the eBallot login page

Voting opens at 08:30 SAST on Monday, 9 May and will close at noon SAT on 22 May 2016.

Note:

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The tired and contrived narrative of Israel’s apologists – a further response to Heneck

Abridged version published in the Cape Times, 18 April 2016.

In a piece published in Counterpunch, Marek Sullivan sagaciously argued that atheist and neuroscientist Mark Harris must live in a “quantum universe” because he habitually makes contradictory statements that he believes are simultaneously valid – not unlike Schrödinger’s cat experiment. Harris believes that “it is obscene, irrational, and unjustifiable to have a state organized around a religion” followed by the claim that “the justification for such a state is rather easy to find…[and] if there were going to be a state organized around protecting members of a single religion, it certainly should be a Jewish state.”

Glen Heneck (Cape Times, April 8) lives in a similar universe where Schrödinger’s cat is both dead and alive! Of course Heneck is forced to make exceptions to the moral rules he follows in the service of a preconceived worldview grounded in the shrill dogma of Zionist ideology, in order to sound reasonable. But behind this claimed reasonableness is a toxic outcome – supporting the idea of an ethnic/religious state in Israel, with an ethnic majority achieved through violent ethnic cleansing, and that discriminates against the indigenous minority that remains. But he goes further and regards ‘peaceful coexistence’ a higher virtue than ‘social justice’. This is an obscene view both in Palestine and South Africa where we grapple with centuries of colonialism and apartheid. The subtext of course is that the poor, marginalised, occupied and oppressed must respectfully submit to their status in this world and submit to unbridled power. For these bigoted views he considers himself a ‘decently-educated, quiet-spoken, semi-intellectual’, which I take as code for ‘civilised’.

On the other hand Heneck characterises me as one who peddles “hate-riddled caricature” – in other words angry and irrational. Besides his characteristic failure to substantively engage even a single point that I raise in my article, this moniker is ascribed to me for a perfectly rational view:  support for inclusive societies based on social justice that treat every individual equally, without regard to or discrimination based on race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or religion; and my support for states that belongs to all of its citizens equally. These universal values define democracies. Such a state of Israel would have my support.

However this perversion of reality is characteristic of the narrative presented on the Palestinian question: those who seek universal freedoms are demonised and those engaged in colonialism, occupation, discrimination and violent repression are celebrated as paragons of democracy and civilised values. Admittedly Heneck may be uncomfortable with my characterisation of Israel because of his cognitive inability to accept that the idealistic utopian Zionism ingrained in his identity in reality has become its ‘hate-riddled caricature’.  This unfortunately is the only logical outcome of exclusive states and societies.

While Heneck claims to attempt a fresh approach to the Middle-East conundrum, in his tortuous articles he says nothing new. He, in fact reconfigures the tired hasbara tropes in ways which seek to further obfuscate the fundamental issues. All the boxes on my card were ticked in my invented game of Bullshit Bingo – which triggers every time one of these tropes is trotted out. These tropes and red-herrings have been frequently debunked by those much wiser than me – but space limits me repeating them. They include:

  • Creating a great complexity to the problem
  • Fear mongering by claiming Israel’s existential threat
  • Proclaiming  an ancient Jewish claim on the land
  • Using ‘whataboutery’ which serves to deflect the fundamental issues by using  obscure, inaccurate and ahistorical examples
  • Invoking ‘the grand delinquency of other governments in the region’
  • Mention the spurned peace offerings by Palestinians (without providing the details of these offerings)
  • Highlight that Israel’s objective is peace (despite all the evidence to the contrary).
  • Claim that this conflict was started by Palestinians
  • Describe Palestinians as uncompromising (although they are negotiating for less than 20% of their historical homeland).
  • If all fails invoke the Hamas Charter.

One also begins to questions Heneck’s legal credentials when he categorically states: ‘any lawyer will tell you that most claims of right are resolved not by way of restitution but rather by way of damages: so why should that modality not be applied in this case?’ Heneck may be right on most civil claims, but any good lawyer with a semblance of knowledge of human rights and restorative justice will tell you otherwise. Restitution is the default mode unless circumstances make it improbable and damages are awarded in lieu – as in land claims in South Africa. This lawyer will also tell you that the choice rests with the victim and not the aggressor. Interestingly Israel’s own actions make restitution perfectly possible, evidenced by the expansion of Jewish settlements and the ‘right of return’.  But more tellingly, why does Heneck fear restitution?  Is it because he fears the loss of a Jewish majority? If the answer to question is in the affirmative he leaves no doubt regarding his support for ethnic cleansing in the achievement of this.

Also intriguing is why Heneck fails to disclose his leadership at the SA Jewish Board of Deputies – which is a cheerleader for Israel’s occupation and brutality.

If Heneck is sincere in seeking solutions he has to move beyond tribal affiliations, hasbara tropes and platitudes and examine a concreate reality against universal values. Otherwise he remains Israel’s apologist. I am also sorry that he takes offence at my robust tone; but I make no apology as I rely on  JK Galbraith’s  wisdom that ‘in all life one should comfort the afflicted, but verily, also, one should afflict the comfortable, and especially when they are comfortably, contentedly, even happily wrong’.

Shuaib Manjra

Cape Town