Johannesburg – The recent Cape Accord aims to enforce an agreement between Sunni Muslims and Shia in South Africa, despite many prominent leaders citing deeply held beliefs that prohibit them from signing such an agreement.

However, refraining from signing this accord is not an indicator of “extremism” as some individuals have claimed, since whether such agreements may be entered into in the first place is something that remains to be debated from the perspective of Islamic jurisprudence.

Rather, labeling individuals and organisations as “extremists” for not signing such an Accord, when their reasons may be valid, indicates that there are foreign interests behind this Accord.

In fact, the Accord appears to be a sweet-natured front to promote disastrous counter-extremism programmes modelled on the failed British programme PREVENT.

PREVENT has had devastating results in Britain. These results include Muslims labelled as “extremist” having their bank accounts closed and passports removed for speaking up against British foreign policy. These individuals often do not get the chance to adequately challenge this divisive label.

PREVENT has not only targeted Muslims, but has resulted in the surveillance and criminalisation of environmental activists, pro-Palestinian activists and socialist groups.

Counter-extremism programmes are sold in different ways depending on the complexities of Muslim communities within each country, but they trade on the fear of violence, and have had counter-productive effects, including causing marginalisation, alienation and anger.

We are alarmed that a similar programme appears to be gathering momentum in South Africa, under the guise of facilitating harmony, when in fact the result so far has quite clearly been the exact opposite and has resulted in division within the Sunni Muslim community.

Feroze Boda, spokesperson for CAGE Africa, said:

“While dialogue between different beliefs is essential, employing the language of foreign counter-extremism initiatives by labeling those who refuse to sign the Accord as “extremist”, is a mistake. Individuals and organisations have a right to identify beliefs that run contrary to their own deeply held views, and to choose to avoid associating with them. This is called freedom of choice.”

“The term “extremist” has not been adequately interrogated and has been used to marginalise and criminalise according to a preconceived agenda. The definition of “extremism” globally remains so broad that the UN has warned that using the labels endangers freedom of speech and aggravates existing differences. South Africa must not go down this slippery slope, the end of which is the censorship of belief.”

“We call for dialogue between differing communities, without the involvement or influence of foreign agencies whose interests have been proven time and again by documentation we have gathered meticulously over the years, to be most definitely not those of the Muslim community, though they may appear otherwise.”


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Image courtesy of Flickr/Chris Eason 

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)