An Open Letter to the South African Muslim Community

An Open Letter to the South African Muslim Community

I am a Jew. I was born and was educated in Johannesburg, South Africa. I went to Wits University and was on elected to first non-racial Law Student Council of Wits Law School where we fought against racism of any kind. I appall prejudice and I am a Zionist.


And I am genuinely confused.


I have always been fascinated by the connections and connectivity between Jews and Muslims. Much of our history is shared and many customs and traditions are very similar. I have always regarded you as our cousins. The approach to community, to family and recognition of the role that God plays in our everyday lives is common to both religions. But something has changed and I am left perplexed.

I write this letter to the South African Moslem community as this is one that I feel that I know and I trust. It is you with whom I have a kinship. We have been through so much together in South Africa and yet I am now seeing the chasm between us increasing daily. I have never been afraid to wear my kippah in your presence or been concerned about discussing religion with you – I have worked with you, socialized and befriended you. But now I feel hurt by your silence and I am confused as to why you have chosen this approach.

I am bothered by your silence with regard to radical Islam and how it is devastating the world. We are becoming accustomed to beheadings, to rape, to murder of children and to slavery – all in the name of your religion. I have grown up with you and I know that that is not who you are. I know that it is not what you believe in. It cannot be. It cannot be that you cant see what Hamas has done in Gaza causing the death of children and civilians by forcing them to stand in the way of retaliatory rocket fire when no needed to be hurt. Rockets should never have been fired from schools and hospitals and mosques and the innocent should not have been forced to face Israeli fire. They had build tunnels that were prepared for evil but could have been opened and used as shelters for civilians and not only for terrorists. They that could have been used to save lives.

As Jews, we have been told that we are “The chosen people,” that we are a “Light unto the nations” and that we have a privileged and special relationship with our Creator. And that feels good. It feels good that we have won a disproportionate number of Nobel prizes, that we have changed political and economic landscapes in many countries, that we are responsible for curing diseases, inventing life altering technologies and that we look after the citizens of Gaza when their own leaders do not.

But it felt terrible, really, really terrible, when a few months ago, for a brief moment in history some of our brothers broke the code and murdered a young Palestinian boy in response to the kidnapping and slaughter of our three teenagers. We tried to distance ourselves, we tried to understand it, we tried to “sell” the concept that we didn’t do it, and when we failed to rationalize out of it, we felt sad and we didn’t feel so proud. So we did what we had to. We condemned it as loudly as we could, partly because our children needed to know that this behavior is not what Judaism is about.

No one listens to those who support Israel when we bemoan Hamas treatment of its citizens – but they would have listened to you. If you said it, they would have taken notice. If you were fair with your criticism less people would have died.

If you said that what is happening around the world “in the name of Islam” is NOT in the name of God, then the world would listen. For the sake of your religion and for the sake of your children, you must not and cannot afford to be silent. Announce that this is not Islam at all and tell them that for generations past, in South Africa, we have lived beside each other and we have flourished. Tell your children that this is not how it should be so that mine don’t have to think that it is.


You should not have, and should not continue to remain silent. You know that and it must shame you. For all our sake, reclaim your religion at the tip of Africa, and let the world see what can be achieved.

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Write a comment
  1. Rebel
    Rebel 25 November, 2014, 14:43

    Sounds like you kissing ass now, too late. Freedom has its price, yours just came after.

    Reply this comment
  2. Zunaid
    Zunaid 29 December, 2014, 10:11

    Hi Howard

    Your perspective makes for an interesting read. Not all remains silent, but I agree more should be made to voice discontent.

    The erosion of islamic ideals in certain parts should be recognised as less of a religious issue as it now borders on social irregularity…or perversion for that matter. My fear is that radical Islam is the title, but when you deconstruct and unearth the motivation of these individuals it is because they are:
    1) ill-informed by the teachings of Islam
    2) Their interpretation of text is literal and not read to context (forgoing the spirit of the text)
    3) Are the pawns of Human Agenda- internal and external.
    4) Vulnerable, due to being uniformed and perhaps ignorant.
    5) Have been depraved by loss
    6) Wrong

    The underpinnings of the ‘Islamic conflict’ is therefore in itself so diverse and then wrapped and labelled as Islam. This therefore becomes problematic as the true underlying issues become ignored. Which is sad because religion can be and is a beautiful thing, it’s us as humans that depreciate and erode the value it can present.

    As a South African, the one thing that I know is that we discriminate; be it based on race, religion, class, gender or culture. This then has full vertical and horizontal application because even within each of these sects, we break down even further to discriminate against ‘our own’: Shia or Sunni, Afrikaans or European white, Malay or Indian Muslim… Therefore as long as we celebrate differences, it becomes complex to live harmoniously.

    I don’t know if we as humans of this world have the maturity (for lack of a better word) to find a solution to this problem, as we all have our own personal agenda mostly driven by selfish and opportunistic gain. Our world is perplexed as we are no longer separated by distance…the world is too small.

    Keep writing.

    Yours as a faith observer of this world
    Zunaid- Cape Town SA and Muslim at heart.

    Reply this comment

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