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Open letter to South African home affairs minister

Source: CAGE Africa, 18/11/2016

Dear Honorable Minister Malusi Gigaba, We note with concern your pronouncements reported by Reuters news agency on Friday, 11 November stating that there are militant "sleeper" cells in South Africa. We note that you have not provided any proof to justify your statements, and have alluded to increased securitisation and surveillance of Muslim communities as a result.

We also note the positive relationship that has existed so far between Muslim communities and the South African government and security services. We are concerned that this relationship be maintained.

However, as an organisation dedicated to campaigning for the rights of communities impacted by the War on Terror, we have found that such statements and the consequent securitisation of communities have a detrimental effect, not only on national unity by fostering an unfounded fear and hatred of Islam but also on Muslims themselves, especially the youth.

We have found through our work that Muslims, especially young Muslims, who feel increasingly under the eye of the security services, are more likely to self censor themselves on issues such as Palestinian activism and the current horrific situation in Syria.

Left with no legitimate space to vent their feelings, they can resort to searching for other alternatives, which can be dangerous. In short, securitization and surveillance of communities, is divisive, as is the banning or criminalisation of organisations. It leads to alienation and anger, which leads to a greater propensity for violence. This trajectory is surely familiar to you given the history of the ANC in South Africa.

Moreover, on the global stage, vague definitions of "terrorism" also mean that legitimate dissent from the mainstream is criminalised.

What is and isn`t terrorism is subjective and open to manipulation, especially by foreign powers. This is surely a familiar state of affairs to you as well.

You mentioned that you did not want South Africa being dragged into other people`s battles. Adopting the current US approach, which casts Muslims as a threat, is surely doing just this.

It is important for our sovereignty and the independence of the constitution, that the government resists any pressure from outside the country, to play ball in the US led global campaign, that is the `War on Terror`.

Finally, we invite you to visit a mosque or talk to respected Muslim groups, in order to build and further a constructive dialogue with the community of Islam. Yours sincerely, CAGE Africa


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