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Archive for October 2011

Africa’s ‘most beautiful mosque’ opens in February

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A view of the Nizamiye mosque built by a Turkish businessman in Midrand near Johannesburg.Photo credit Hamza Seedat.

By Hassan Isilow

One of Africa’s most beautiful mosques will be officially opening its doors for worshippers in February next year.
The spectacular mosque which has become a landmark in the midrand area of Johannesburg is the brainchild of 74 year old Ali Katircioglu, a prominent Turkish businessman. The site project manager, Orhan Celik, said on Wednesday, that the property owner wanted to initially build the project in America but a friend of his in the States advised him to instead bring the project down to South Africa.

‘‘When Mr. Ali, came to South Africa, he bought this land and decided he would build a mosque, school, shops and a clinic to benefit humanity’’ Orhan said, adding the property owner wanted the project built in elegant Ottoman Empire style.

He said the mosque was built on a similar plan as the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, Turkey, which is currently a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Orhan said the mosque has already become a centre of attraction around Midrand area. ‘‘On Sundays we receive about 500 visitors who come to tour our

He says 10 percent of those who visit are non-Muslims who are generally impressed with the structural design of the building. The extraordinary mosque can be clearly visible on the Pretoria freeway five kilometres before approaching it. While driving on the Pretoria highway you will not miss the sight of the mosques shiny dome, and its four tall minarets measured at 55 meters. Inside the mosque, the high ceiling is designed in beautiful colours-which make it gorgeously attractive. I must admit I have-not seen such a beautiful piece of structural design in Africa. The authentic Turkish calligraphy on the walls is another stunning feature of this mosque.

On the left side of the property are smartly built shops designed in Turkish architecture. According to the project manager, the shops will sell traditional Turkish goods exhibiting their rich culture. He says there will also be a Turkish restaurant open to all who visit the property.

On the right side of the property there is a well built school. Isakh Turan is the schools principal. He says the school will be officially opened on January 16, 2012 and registration is already in progress. Turan says the school will accommodate 850 students. With his vast wealth of experience as an educator who has served in different parts of the world, Turan hopes the school will be a centre of academic excellence. Turkish owned schools are already doing well in Johannesburg. The Sama High school in Mayfair, Johannesburg has consistently produced A-grade matric results and is a well recognised community institution.

Tucan says the world class school will be run with an Islamic ethos.
‘‘Non-Muslim students wishing to enrol in our school are welcome but should observe the rules,’’ said Tucan.

There is also a cemetery in the compound of the property. ‘‘During itkaaf when people are praying in the mosque and they see the cemetery, they will be reminded of death and therefore improve on their imaan (faith),’’ says Ebrahim Atasoy, the imam of the mosque.
The down to earth Ebrahim came to South Africa in July and is currently learning about the South African culture. He was previously an imam of a mosque in Petersburg United States. He also served as a school principal in Albania. The imam is a graduate of the famous Al-Azhar University

©- This article was first published on channel Islam International.
photo credits Hamza Seedat.


Written by africawitness

October 31, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Will Kenya succeed in fighting Al-Shabaab?

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Former Somali transitional President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed (L) shakes hands with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki (R).

By Hassan Isilow

Is the Kenyan government paying a price for deliberately not intervening earlier in solving the Somali crisis, which has been ongoing for two decades? This is the first thought that came to my mind last week, when suspected Al Shabbab sympathisers hurled grenades at innocent civilians in Nairobi.
One would expect Kenya to have intervened in the Somali crisis, as early as the 90’s, because the two countries share a border and an ocean. Kenya also has a long history of friendship and co-operation with Somalia. Another factor bonding the two nations is the large Somali ethnic population which occupies Kenya’s entire north Eastern province.
However, when former Somali president Mohamed Siyad Barre, was overthrown in 1991, Kenya turned a blind eye on the brewing crisis in neighboring Somalia.Several years later the situation became worse in Somalia, with different warlords battling for leadership. Kenya did not intervene in preventing this crisis from getting worse.
As a result, thousands of Somali refugees today seek refuge in Kenya. There have also been reports of arms smuggling from Somalia into Kenya, which some believe is responsible for an increase in Kenya’s crime levels. If Kenya had intervened earlier in the Somali crisis, would it have been paying such a high price today? As far as I can remember, Kenya has only been applying quiet diplomacy in the Somalia crisis.
The biggest role Kenya has ever played was to provide a mediation venue in Nairobi where different warlords and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) officials came together to discuss the way forward. I acknowledge this mediation effort, but I think Kenya could have done better by sending troops into Somalia at the onset of the crisis. This, I believe, would have prevented the situation from getting out of hand.
As I write this piece today, the clock is ticking, heading towards a fully fledged war between the Kenyan government and Al Shabbab fighters in southern Somalia. This comes after Kenya recently deployed troops in southern Somalia to pursue suspected pirates and Al Shabbab who entered the coastal territory and kidnapped an elderly French woman. The woman later died while in custody. This incident scared off many tourists from visiting the Kenyan coast, one of Africa’s main tourist destinations.
With tourism being one of Kenyans main foreign exchange earners, the state had to act by sending in the troops. To many this was a bold move, however, if Kenya had acted sooner in southern Somalia, Al Shabbab would probably have been history by now. Regardless of the foregoing, the Kenyan government should also observe human rights as it embarks on its mission against Al Shabaab inside Somalia.
On Sunday Doctors without Boarders (MSF) reported that an internally displaced people’s camp in southern Somalia had been bombed by Kenyan military. Three people were reportedly killed and 52 injured, mostly women and children. Kenyan police officers have also previously been accused by human rights groups of raping female Somali refugees crossing into Kenya.
The Kenyan government has to act decisively on any officer implicated in sexual violence. But its police should also stop victimizing Somali refugees living in Nairobi’s suburb of Eastleigh, because not all Somalis sympathise with Al Shabbab. The continued victimization and extortion of money from these people will only lead to radicalism, making it difficult for Kenya to succeed in its war against Al Shabbab

This article was first published in Uganda’s The New vision (

Written by africawitness

October 31, 2011 at 11:15 am

Posted in Xenophobia

South African’s welcome Cele’s suspension

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Hassan Isilow

South African’s have welcomed President Jacob Zuma’s move of suspending the National police commissioner, General Bheki Cele, but have questioned why he should continue drawing a full salary.

Two months ago, the Public protector’s report found the police commissioner had played a role in the controversial police headquarters leasing deals in both Pretoria and Durban.

Cele’s suspension had a mixed reaction on social networking sites. Writing on Face book, Fauzana Yusuf charged that ‘fire him suspension does not make a difference’.
‘‘Suspension with Pay? So until he is fired he will receive a salary for not working. Do you think Cele is worried?’’ Zee Khan wrote on the Channel Islam International Face book page.
Mohammed Ismail said the police chief should not have been appointed in the first place.

Democratic Alliance police spokesperson Diane Kohler Barnard said: “We welcome the suspension of General Cele, though we find it extraordinary that the presidency took so long to act against him’’.

Written by africawitness

October 24, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Xenophobia

Malema’s ‘Makula’ word upsets Indians

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Mr A. Rajbansi, MPL accompanied by Mrs Shameen Rajbansi, MPL receives the IIFS Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chief Minister of Delhi, Smt. Sheila Dikshit and Dr Bhishma Narian Singh, former governor of Tamil Nadu and Assam.

By Hassan isilow

The Indian community has reacted angrily towards ANC Youth League President Julius Malema after he referred to them as ‘Makula’, a term loosely translated to mean ‘‘coolies’’.
Amichand Rajbansi, leader of the Minority Front Party blamed Malema for trying to inflame racial hatred in the country.
‘‘Its sad Malema used the derogatory word against the peaceful Indian community’’ Rajbansi, said Thursday evening.
Malema reportedly referred to Indians living in Lenasia as ‘‘Makula’’ on Wednesday as he addressed residents of Thembelihle informal settlement, south of Johannesburg.

The Business Day newspaper quoted Malema as saying “Bana ba lena ba tshwanetše ba dumelelwe gore ba tsene sekolo le bana ba makula mona [your children must be allowed to go to school with coolie children],”
Rajbansi offered to invite Malema for a lunch at his home in KZN were he would teach him that Indians are good people who love tolerance

Malema’s statement created mixed reaction on social networking sites. Ibrahim Shaik wrote on Face book claiming the youth leader made the statement in the most arrogant, forceful and inflammatory context.

‘‘I spoke to a number of my black colleagues today who all don’t know another word in their language for ‘makula’ many of them said they only realized at university that it may be offensive and some didn’t even know it was. I don’t think there was any malice intended in the statement. More positively, I am pleased to hear Julius Malema telling the residents to live ‘together with the Indians across the road.’’Zeenat Dadabhay wrote on the Channel Islam International face book page.

Meanwhile, Naeem Dawood said he thinks it would have been fair for the controversial youth leader to refer to the Indians as ‘Amandiya’ other than ‘Makula’.
However, Ponty Moletsane, a radio producer in Johannesburg says for people in townships referring to Indians as ‘Makula’ is not derogatory, but thinks the media blew the statement out of proportion.

‘ ‘ The ANCYL will therefore not use the word ‘makula’ to refer to South Africans of Indian origin because we appreciate and acknowledge that it is not an appropriate word’’ said Floyd Shivambu the Youth League spokesman.

Written by africawitness

October 21, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Posted in Xenophobia

Xenophobia brews in Alexandra

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This Somali immigrant was beaten up by a mob in shosonguve near Pretoria, because he was a foreign trader. Somali’s are the most targeted African migrants.

By Hassan Isilow
Foreigners in Alexandra Township, north of Johannesburg, are living on tenterhooks after unknown locals distributed pamphlets warning those illegally living in RDP houses meant for South Africans to vacate. By Tuesday evening some foreign traders operating businesses in the area said they were planning to close their businesses for fear of being looted.

“I witnessed the 2008 violent anti-foreign attacks, where locals looted all goods in my shop. So I can’t take another risk,” Abu-Bakr Suleiman said, adding that whenever there was service delivery protests, residents took advantage by looting shops belonging to foreign traders, whom they consider as soft targets.

Police Warrant Officer Kay Makhubela confirmed that some residents were delivering pamphlets to foreign nationals living in RDP houses. A copy of the pamphlet shown to me warns foreigners living in the low cost houses meant for nationals to vacate within seven days or face the consequences. “If they don’t leave the RDP houses by next Tuesday, we shall burn them alive,” a man who only identified himself as Sipho warned.

Another resident of Alex said he has been waiting for an RDP house for the past nine years without success. “I can not allow a foreign national to live in a RDP house while I’m still in a shark. It’s unfair,” he stated. The 2008 xenophobic attacks first started in Alexandra township, later spreading to other parts of the country.

Engineer Geoffrey Murefu a foreign national from Uganda believes it’s wrong for foreign nationals to occupy RDP houses while the locals are homeless. “I think foreigners who are living or doing business in RDP houses are violating the rights of the citizens,” he said.
Ivo Vegter of the Daily Maverick newspaper writes in one of his articles that the problem that causes xenophobia is when citizens believe foreigners partake of services and opportunities to which citizens themselves are entitled. According to Vegter when citizens feel hard done because their government is failing to deliver social services, they get angry. And it is easy for them to deflect their anger by making foreigners the scapegoats.
Vegter also believes, politicians contribute to xenophobia instead of leading communities away from hatred and violence. “There is little doubt that local politicians in South Africa are implicated in whipping up the mobs.” He believes for government to eradicate xenophobia, they should address the economic problems that cause it, such as Lack of service delivery among others.
Gabriel Hertz, secretary general of the Migrant Board said he was still evaluating the situation before issuing an official comment.

Written by africawitness

October 19, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Posted in Xenophobia

Police chief angers migrants

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Statements made by Gen Bheki Cele –seen here, have angered many migrants in South Africa.

By Hassan Isilow
Migrants across South Africa have reacted with anger to remarks made by the national police commissioner Bheki Cele, which they regard as hate speech that could incite xenophobia. Amir Sheikh, secretary general of the Somali Community Board (SCOB) said the police commissioner’s statements were likely to set a dangerous precedent.
“Although the commissioner has retracted his statements, we feel his utterances were very unfortunate owing to the fact that Somali’s are a vulnerable people who are often targeted in xenophobic attacks,” Sheik said, adding his organisation had forgiven the police commissioner after his retraction and won’t consider suing him.

Cele recently said Somalis had pushed out locals from business. He further accused them of being responsible for the high rental property in Bellville a suburb of Cape Town. “If you rent a flat there, they come and rent you out. At the spazas (small shops), they’re better stocked than Shoprite. We can’t have a country that’s run by people who jump the borders,” Cele told a breakfast meeting of police officers in Khayelitsha (a Township of Cape Town) last Thursday. The Police commissioner claimed dominance of foreign traders in the country was fuelling xenophobic violence. “Our people have been economically displaced; all these spaza shops (in the townships) are not run by locals,” Cele claims.
Refugee activist Braam Hanekom of PASSOP said these utterances by the police

chief were inciting and very dangerous. “We should be very concerned. How can the leader of a police force make such reckless statements?” Hanekom said many low ranking police officers in South Africa were xenophobic towards foreign nationals because of the bad influence they were getting from local councillors and top police officers.

“No wonder the police always responds late whenever foreign traders are attacked,” the activist said this week, adding they received information that some police officers had torn apart documents belonging to a group of foreign nationals in Cape Town. Efforts to get a comment from the commissioner’s spokesperson were futile as she was unwilling to comment on this matter.

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October 14, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Xenophobia

SA Drs ‘discriminate’ against refugees

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Photo: Eamonn Vitt | HIV/AIDS patient with severe skin disease. In 2008 a study found that HIV Positive migrants in South Africa seeking anti retroviral treatment (ART) from government facilities were being turned away.

By Hassan Isilow
Government hospitals and clinics should stop discriminating against legal refugees seeking health care, a senior researcher in health migration at the African Centre for Migration and Society has said. Dr Joanna Vearey condemned medical practitioners who discriminate against refugees and asylum seekers who go for treatment at government health facilities.

Joanna’s comment comes a week after a doctor at Johannesburg’s Helen Joseph Hospital told a Somali man suffering from renal failure to seek treatment elsewhere as his nationality reportedly ‘disqualified’ him from receiving long-term dialysis at a government hospital.

The Somali Community Board of South Africa (SCOB) expressed shock to read a medical report signed by a doctor at Helen Joseph Hospital who advised the 38-year-old Osman Hirsi to seek treatment elsewhere.
“Asylum seekers holding Section 22 permits and refugees with Section 21 permits living in the country are required to access the rights to which they are entitled to such as access to basic health care, employment and education among others,” Vearey stated.
She advised refugees who feel they have been discriminated against by a medical staff member to forward complaints to the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA).

Earlier this year several refugee women told a community dialogue facilitated by the Southern Africa Media and Gender Institute that they had been mistreated by nurses at government hospitals both during antenatal visits and while in hospital to give birth. One woman explained that she had been called insulting names and was lightly assaulted by a nurse.

This is not the first time refugees and asylum seekers have been discriminated against while seeking local health care. In 2008, a study conducted by the Forced Migration Studies programme of Wits University found that in spite of migrants having a legal right to access anti retroviral treatment (ART), they were being turned away from government clinics.

The study further found that despite South Africa having a protective, urban refugee policy, which affords particular rights through protective legislation to refugees and asylum seekers, in practice things were very different. The study discovered that many refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants struggled to access basic rights that they were entitled to such as access to basic health, and employment among others

Earlier this year The Star newspaper reported the plight of a Burundian woman who had died after being denied dialysis treatment. 37-year-old Andrea Hakizimana was denied the life saving care by the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in Johannesburg and the Steve Biko Academic Hospital since 2007. She had also unsuccessfully challenged the government in court.

Written by africawitness

October 12, 2011 at 11:50 am

Posted in Xenophobia

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