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Concern about disappearance and detention of two South African Muslim clerics in The Gambia

Despite yesterday?s newspaper reports that the two Pretoria-based Muslim clerics, Moulana Farhaad Ahmed Dockrat and his son Muaaz, were finalising plans to return home nearly sixteen days after their departure from South Africa on a brief exchange visit to Islamic learning institutions in Senegal and The Gambia, and thirteen days after their scheduled return, the two clerics remain in custody in a detention centre in The Gambia. Moulana Farhaad Ahmed Dockrat is the principal of the Darus Salaam Islamic College in Laudium in Pretoria and Muaaz is a lecturer at the college.

Despite yesterday?s newspaper reports that the two Pretoria-based Muslim clerics, Moulana Farhaad Ahmed Dockrat and his son Muaaz, were finalising plans to return home nearly sixteen days after their departure from South Africa on a brief exchange visit to Islamic learning institutions in Senegal and The Gambia, and thirteen days after their scheduled return, the two clerics remain in custody in a detention centre in The Gambia. Moulana Farhaad Ahmed Dockrat is the principal of the Darus Salaam Islamic College in Laudium in Pretoria and Muaaz is a lecturer at the college.

Various media reports in South Africa have attempted to link the detention of the two clerics with allegations of South African connections to al-Qaeda activities in various regions of the world. Khulumani Support Group believes that the action taken against the two South African Muslim clerics represents action based on global discourses about the so-called ?war on terror?, where the source of the terror is assumed to be Islamic fundamentalism and where any suspicions of links to Islamic fundamentalist groupings are raised in relation to what would be normal cultural exchanges between people for the promotion of knowledge and understanding.

The criminalisation of Muslims across the world is a growing phenomenon and one that does not serve the purposes of the promotion of mutual respect and understanding between people and communities. The so-called global ?war on terror? has in fact become a ?war of terror? in which many innocent and faithful Muslim people are being suspected of terrorist activities. Much harm has been done since 2001 in the name of ?defending the world from grave danger?1 through unsubstantiated arguments in support of the invasion of Iraq on grounds that Iraq represented a threat to global security because of its alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction and its alleged and unproven connections to the al-Qaeda network.

Although these claims were not and have subsequently not been substantiated, they formed the basis for the legitimation of a ?pre-emptive strike? on Iraq by so-called coalition forces. The U S-led intervention in Iraq has in fact had no positive impact on reducing threats of al-Qaeda ? acknowledged attacks on civilian targets. Rather, it has made the world a more dangerous place for everyone because it has increased support for ?terrorist activities? against an imperial power and has set a precedent in taking action that disregarded international law.

In the case of the detained South African Muslim clerics, we fear that an unhelpful and hegemonic discourse is being used to justify their detention in line with the harassment to which Muslims are being subjected across the world. While we respect the right of a state to seek to advance state security, we wish to assert that human security is not advanced by undermining basic human rights, as has happened in this situation.

The South African Constitution provides for the right of every individual to freedom and security of the person including the right not to be deprived of freedom arbitrarily or without just cause; not to be detained without trial; to be free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources; and not to be tortured in any way. The arbitrary detention of the two South African Muslim clerics is not consistent with the provisions of our Constitution. The two clerics have in fact been subjected to an enforced disappearance.

The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights Working Group on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances secured approval of the final text of the Convention on September 23, 2005. This convention calls on all States to acknowledge the autonomous right of every person not to be disappeared and to recognise enforced disappearances as a crime against humanity for which there should be no impunity. It also acknowledges that disappeared persons are those who have been taken into custody by agents of a state, yet whose whereabouts and fate are concealed, and whose custody is denied. This was the situation pertaining to the disappearance of Moulana Farhaad Dockrat and his son until a few days ago.

Khulumani Support Group wishes to express its vigorous disapproval of this action that appears to have been taken on an alleged basis of protecting public security. Khulumani condemns the enforced disappearance of the two Pretoria-based Muslim clerics and calls for the cessation of unwarranted and ongoing harassment of members of the Muslim community in South Africa. We believe such ?victimisation? does not serve the deepening of democracy in South Africa.

Issued byDr Marjorie Jobson, Chairperson, Board of Directors, Khulumani Support Group

1 President Bush Addresses the Nation, March 19, 2003 http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/03/20030319-17.html

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