Wits University’s Muslim Students’ Association, hosted a talk, which examined the misconceptions of Muslim women, the incompatibility of patriarchy and Islam.
A University of Johannesburg professor addressed an audience outside the gates of a French university after he was banned from speaking at the institution yesterday.
Despite being banned from speaking at the Pantheon-Sorbonne University in France yesterday, Professor Farid Esack still managed to deliver a lecture on “Israel as an Apartheid State” at the main gates of the institution.
Esack is a professor in the Study of Islam, and Head of the Department of Religion Studies at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), and also chairs the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) South Africa board. He was due to speak at the public research university in Paris as part of the Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) but was not able to after complaints were received by the institution.
“A pretty sad sight for France which turned out in their hundreds of thousands to defend ‘freedom of speech’ only a few months ago,” said Esack.
“The major allegations was that I was violent and anti-Semitic. The basis for this?” asks Esack
According to Esack, allegations of violence against BDS supporters during the Boycott Woolworths campaign were ascribed to him as the chair of the organisation. “This was the sum of the Israeli lobby’s petition to French universities,” Esack continues.
Esack also addressed allegations that he is anti-Semitic by saying, “believe it or not, it all started with Dubula-i-Juda story that was first printed in Vuvuzela!” he exclaims.
According to Esack, BDS South Africa’s (through coordinator Mohammed Desai), attempts to explain the Wits incident “in the context of larger liberation struggle songs was presented as proof that I am anti-Semitic.”
“The BDS Board, which I chair and of which Desai is a member as the organization’s director, concurred with, unambiguously condemned that incident and BDS reaffirms its commitment to non-violence as its way of responding to the crimes of occupation and dispossession committed against the Palestinian people.”
Watching the Wits University women’s soccer team, you may spot a hijab-wearing soccer player at the centre back, defending the goals.
Second-year BSc physiotherapy student Naeema Hussein chooses to play soccer in her hijab (headscarf) to represent her Islamic faith at a “higher level”.
Hussein says: “My faith pushes me to want to achieve more and say you can excel and aspire without needing to compromise your faith or your Islamic identity.”
After matriculating in 2012, she was awarded a university entrance scholarship for her distinctions. Hussein was later awarded the Bidvest Wits Football Club bursary and has been playing for Wits for the past two years.
She takes credit for initiating playing with a hijab at Wits: “They were very open to it, very considerate.” The South African Football Association changed their regulations to allow Muslim women to play in a hijab. This also helped her cause.
Hussein’s passion for soccer comes from her “Egyptian blood”.
“I have three brothers … We’ve been soccer crazy ever since I was small,” she says.
Hussein’s soccer career started in grade eight when she joined the Parktown Girls’ High School soccer team. “I was so excited. So I started on the second team, building myself up.” A year later, she was in the school’s first team and pushed for a ladies’ team at the Marks Park Football Club.
In 2010 the team was one of the youngest invited to compete at the Arsenal International Soccer Festival in London. “I think we came back with experience that was priceless,” says Hussein.
The exposure to higher levels of soccer pushed the team to perform at their best.
In her matric year, Hussein captained the first team at her school. At the time she was playing for three different soccer teams while balancing schoolwork. “It pushed me further because I was forced not to procrastinate. I managed my time way better like that.” The soccer was a stress relief between studies: “I think it’s important to keep a balance.”
Hussein was also the recipient of this year’s Golden Key New Member Chapter Award at Wits. It recognises academic excellence, leadership roles, commitment to community work and participation in extracurricular activities.
Hussein is a member of the Wits Muslim Students’ Association and the Muslim Youth Movement. Last year she served on “the core” of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee.
Additionally she is part of Awqaf South Africa. Awqaf is an Arabic word for assets donated or purchased for specific charitable causes that are socially beneficial. It focuses on youth and leadership development, immediate poverty relief and long-term community investments.
Her Awqaf membership has given her an opportunity to attend an international leadership programme in Jakarta, Indonesia for two weeks in December. “They’ve given me a platform to push myself further,” she says. “When I come back it’s my responsibility to go and facilitate courses to educate others.”
Hussein and a group of girls under the Islamic Careline organisation two weeks ago launched a leadership development programme for young Muslim women between the ages of 18 and 25. Called Hayatoon-Nujoom, (“our star”) which they hope to expand to other demographics.
“The key thing is I empower myself so that I can empower those around me and at the end of the day, it’s the empowerment of the entire society, the global society that we are living in.”
By Nomatter Ndebele and Pheladi Sethusa
For Muslims all over the world Ramadan is a time of sacrifice and reflection.
What is Ramadan?
Anwar Jhetam from the Muslim Students Association said Ramadan marks the ninth month in the Islamic calendar.
This is the month in which it is believed the holy Qu’ran was revealed, said Jhetam.
“It is a month of fasting and increased worship to develop a closer relationship with God. Ramadan is a month of reflection and self development,” he said.
During this month Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and abstain from “food, drink and sex with one’s spouse”, said Jhetam. The fast is broken after dusk at which point people are allowed to indulge in the above.
Students and fasting
While the rest of the students go about their day, munching this and that, Muslim students have to wake up before sunrise to have breakfast and fast throughout the day until about 5.30pm.
Romy Dasoo, 1st year Engineering, said she is finding fasting while attending university very difficult.
She has class from 8am to 5pm. “I end up breaking fast later, due to traffic,” she said.
Third year physiology student, Imraan Ballim, said: “Apart from the weird gastric sounds, it’s quite cool.”
Ballim believes the month of Ramadan is a very spiritual experience. “You engage more with religion and what it means,” said Ballim.
He also believes the introspection aspect of the fast makes it worthwhile. [pullquote align=”right”]”It becomes easier with time as you aren’t distracted by having to eat or drink”[/pullquote]
Dasoo wishes she was more spiritual because the month would mean more to her and added that she admires students who are very spiritual.
Many students are quite aware of the difficulty of having to concentrate on an empty stomach.
Ballim agreed the first few days are difficult but said it becomes easier with time as you aren’t distracted by having to eat or drink.
Many Muslim students also get together to pray in the afternoon.
Ballim said this is a “nice experience because everyone gets together” and shares in the religion. Breaking fast is another good experience, as people gather with their families to feast on food they have been wilfully avoiding all day.
Special concessions are made for pregnant women, children, the sick and people who will be travelling at the time.
“They are permitted to abstain from the fast and can fast at a later date,” said Jhetam.
“At the heart of the fast is drawing closer to God during this special time,” he added, saying that students should use this time to develop character traits and habits that they will carry with them long after this religious period is over.
The Wits and UJ Muslim student associations broke their fast together at a Ramadan Iftar dinner at UJ on Tuesday.
The room was full of excitement as the students sat cross-legged on the floor, set with eating utensils.
Ramadan is a month of celebration for Muslims; it is the month the Qur’an was revealed to the prophet Muhammad, bestowed on him to spread the word of Islam. Muslims come together for worship and fast from sunrise to sunset every day for 30 days.
Zain Patel, chairperson of Wits Muslim Student Association (MSA), said: “Fasting means that we can’t eat or drink anything during that time. Not even water, basically nothing can pass our lips.”
The Muslim men and women sat separately from one another, divided by a barricade of tables and screens.
Ibrahim Patel said the Dua is a prayer recited just before the sun sets. “It stresses the need for self-cleansing and purity of the soul. It is also to thank God for your blessings and to ask for forgiveness and to renew your personal relationship with Him.”
After the Dua was said, the Adhaan, or The Call, was done by Maseehullah Suleman. This signals that the fast may be broken, and people may eat.
The fast is traditionally broken with small sweet dates as that is what the prophet Mohammad ate when he broke fast. The MSA committee paid for a generous meal of chicken hot wings, sliders and pizza. Juice, soda and milkshakes were served.
The decision to combine Iftar with UJ was for Muslims from both universities to socialise with each other and gain spiritual support during Ramadan.
Iftar at UJ
Guest speaker, Ibrahim Fakude who opened the event, said there are many reasons why Muslims fast. Some fast to lose weight, some to please Allah and some just to cut bad habits, “but if you fast for these reasons, don’t expect to get the same fawaad [reward]”.
“The reason Muslims should fast is to change for the better. It is to practise self-restraint, to contribute to the welfare of society and to be charitable.
Fasting during Ramadan is also a time to deepen one’s spiritual relationship with God and to strive to be the embodiment of Islam,” said Naadira Pahad, an MSA member.
“Nobody will know if you lock yourself in your room and eat when you are supposed to be fasting. Fasting is really something that is between yourself and God,” said Pahad.
Ramadan started on 9 July and will end on Wednesday, 7 August. To mark the end of Ramadan Muslim families will rejoice Eid ul-Fitr. Much like Christmas, Eid ul-Fitr is a time of great celebration and religious practices, where gifts are given and there is an abundance of food.