umm Abdillah, Radio Islam Programming, 2015.01.26 | 4 Rabi-us-Thani 1436 H
Attacks on foreign-owned shops in Soweto last week immediately had us screaming “xenophobia”. As a South African collective, we then looked to President Zuma in Davos and ask: “Well, why isn’t he here?” Or we're quick to say: “This is Malema’s fault: he taught people to rebel violently.” By scapegoating politicians we’re defaulting our own role as patriots and becoming part of the problem, writes umm Abdillah.
Violence broke out in the Snake Park area early last week after a foreign shop owner allegedly shot dead a teenage boy when a group tried to rob his store. The storeowner appeared at the Protea magistrate’s court on charges of murder, attempted murder and possession of an unlicensed weapon on Thursday. His case was postponed. Residents have been on a rampage looting shops and attacking foreigners. The violence has spilled over to Braamfischerville, Dobsonville, Emdeni, Zola and Protea Glen.
The South African Police Service said that by the weekend 90 people had been arrested and that more officers had been deployed in the area. An increasing number of foreign shop owners had requested to be escorted out of the township. Gauteng police commissioner Lt-Gen Lesetja Mothiba also said on Thursday it was youth who have instigated the looting. Some of them were still in their school uniforms.
It’s not just xenophobia
Violence and looting has more triggers than xenophobia. Without doubt, corruption and weak political leadership are taking their toll on ordinary South Africans. Service-delivery problems, criminal elements, what is deemed a lack of a future - youth who are disinterested in hard work and serving rather than only receiving is a well-worn cliché. But, they are already disenfranchised because they’re always deemed the “other”. If we as a South African community deem “black youth” as the “other”, surely we’ve paved the way for them to deem foreigners as their ‘other’? Youth need mentors. Politicians and the media aren’t mentors. It’s time we literally and figuratively adopted the children of our country as our own. We’re quick to shout out about paying taxes and contributing to the infrastructure of this country. It only makes sense that we don’t waste what we’re already paying the price for. An interest in just one South African child’s life out of our comfort zone, even if it’s the child of a domestic worker, is all it takes to become an active participant in the future of our country. An interest in choosing a vocation or career that serves not only our person or family, but our community and country needs to be upped. Not wasting university degrees because we ‘can’ and being determined to serve our people is what needs a greater emphasis. What Islam as a religion has to offer is icing on that cake. We’re all workers for a better future - a future of faith and freedom. Great powerful oceans are all created of just single drops.
But, they steal our jobs…
What of the argument that foreigners take jobs and an income away from local South Africans? This goes against the principals of the Islamic sunnah. Sustenance, rozi or riqz, as its commonly known, is pre-ordained by the Almighty. Even if they are mere crumbs we’re meant to earn, it is still an effort Allah requires of us.
Secondly, the issue of the ‘township thug’ who’ll still turn out to be ungrateful no matter what you do for him is an oft-churned tale among the middle class. An answer to that lies in one of the first ahadith a child learns: “Deeds are judged on merit of their intentions”. In simple words, if one believes the outcome will be good for us, for those “thugs’ mentored, good for our country and for our Deen, the Almighty will make that the eventual outcome.
Lastly, we cannot ignore that black-in-black discrimination, rather than a blanketed xenophobia plays it’s part here. Differences in colour and facial features have played and continue to play a role in the socioeconomic status, family and personal relationships, and professional lives of many blacks. "Throughout American history degrees of skin colouring and kinkiness of hair have had the power to shape the quality of black people's lives," the authors of THE COLOR COMPLEX The Politics of Skin Color Among African Americans write. Even if we’re to argue that South African blacks cannot afford to waste time on such superficial issues because the Soweto looting is so multifaceted, and so many of the youth face a multitude of problems like unemployment, drug abuse and homelessness – the writing is on the wall. Before we begin to wave the flag of xenophobia, even our own locals may need to shed some burdensome psychological baggage.
Below, comments from our listeners on the subject:
Sulaimaan M. Ravat @sulaimaanravat Jan 22
#SowetoViolence: Police say Youth hv been the main instigators behind the looting of foreign-owned shops. What does this indicate? #SMQ
Discontent with the wealth gap, disillusionment with government's priorities, culture of abuse + madness of youth = time bomb.
The culture of stealing without fear, the abuse of drugs, the desire to imitate criminals, the lack of religious conviction.
This indicates that the Muslim shop owners need to wake up, it could be that they are disobeying the commands of ALLAAH.
They feel as though foreigners are stealing their jobs & business, not understanding that rizq is in Allah's hand alone.