05 November 2007

i love south africa?

I write this just a short while after finding out about the tragic death of a family member. The elderly member, grandfather of a few, loved by many, was tragically shot and killed in his home in the early hours of the evening on 31 October. He was a soft and warm man, always with a smile on his face, always with a good word to share.

I must admit that we were not at all extremely close- if anything I met and spoke to him on average twice a year- but it was that twice a year meeting that we had every year of my entire life.

Since I got to London, I have been getting upset by the perceptions of everyone who looks at me with pity when I say that I am from South Africa. ‘It’s a beautiful country’, I say, ‘we are busy rebuilding after years of being damaged by Apartheid!’
So, we have problems. But there are so many positive things too. We need all the help and effort we can get to sort thing out, I say.

And then when I meet fellow South Africans here, I get into the discussion about how we need to remain committed to our roots- the country that made us what we are, that gave us opportunities- the very same opportunities that many others are not able to harness. I explain that even if we are enjoying it here in a foreign country, we need to continue to work to sort our issues out back home. To the Muslims I meet, I have been saying that it is a responsibility placed on us by our religion to work towards the redevelopment and to establish social justice and harmony in the land of our birth.

In some way, I sometimes explain, we, as members of the middle to upper class levels of society, are partly to blame for some of the problems facing the country.
Facts like- South Africa is the most unjust country in the world; South Africa has overtaken Brazil and now has the minority controlling the majority of the resources.
That in South Africa, the religious leadership and the business and community leaders have tacitly propped each other up- by the religious scholars holding firmly onto the reigns of religion and not harshly condemning the capitalistic behaviour of Muslims; and us Capitalist Muslims keeping them on their pedestals in return for this!
Could we have dug our own graves here? Our economics practises may explain the high levels of crime- but what will explain the extreme violence we experience?

I have thought of the past- it must be there in our past somewhere- the results we see today borne out of a past of brutality, the Aids epidemic, injustice, oppression, unfulfilled promises, inadequate solutions, economics inequality, and so much more. Maybe all these ingredients have proved to bare a flavour that our pallet cannot bear.

But while I have been always singing this rhetoric, with the hope that it would help drive change, I have been vocal in speaking out against the brain drain and shouting our responsibilities to our poor and oppressed neighbours!

A close friend, who many of you reading this will know well; a person who has one of the best hearts I have come across- I fought him hard on his decision to leave South Africa and seek a better life somewhere else. I tried to guilt him into agreeing with me that we cannot leave her- that if we do leave it must only be for a short term, on a specific mission, so that we know we are coming back to continue our work in rebuilding this country. But now I am reconsidering.

There are problems here too- And everywhere else in the world as well. But is it hypocritical to perhaps think that I should be committed to rebuilding South Africa, but at the same time take steps to set one foot out of the country? Is it wrong to believe that, while I have hope and optimism for a bright future, I can still try to look at having an ‘exit strategy’? Is the current situation, and its constant deterioration, a justifiable enough excuse for this kind of behaviour?

To summarise, can a person that is committed to giving back to South Africa, that is determined to see positive change and that is concerned and worried about the well-being of all the people there: can this person live out of the country and continue to work towards solving the problems. (As opposed to a person who lives in the country and continues to rape and savage the country economically!)

Your thoughts will be eagerly anticipated: click on SignsOfIntelligentLife to leave a comment!


Ahmed said...

The issue of crime is not unique to South Africa but nonetheless a major problem. You are definitely correct when you talk about the capitalist economic system and how Muslims playing an active part in it, actually help preserve the status quo of injustic and unemployment and poverty. So yes, our economic behaviours do provide a partial explanation for the extreme violence and crime that has South Africa in a strangle hold. However, the severe lack of morality and religious consciousness also plays an instrumental. we dont have to go further than Quraan and the Hadith which clearly outlines the consequences of a divergence from a religious based society.

when you talk about an 'exit strategy', do not feel ashamed to do so becuase even the most vehement supporters of our beautiful country will pack up and leave when "the shit hits the fan". as much i vocally proclaim support for the present dispensation, if things get way out of hand, i am prepared to take my talents elsewhere.

to recap, it is a combination of our extreme capitalistic behaviours which has robbed society of its morals and ethics and our subsequent divergence our from religious rule (which is in effect our own doing) that is to blame for the crime ravaging South Africs

Bibi-Aisha said...

''but now i am reconsidering'' when my sister visited from london last year after being there for 8 months,i was about to leave for egypt. She and i were the only truly patriotic members of our family,so i was disappointed to hear her say she wants to relocate permanently to the uk-that it offers more opportunities and greater freedom of lifestyle. But after living away from sa, i too changed my views. In the beginning of my return,i was set on leaving sa. But my love for this country has returned and i'm not sure i can leave. We have to work toward making it safe. We just have to! and yes,we have to play a part in redressing the evils of poverty and inequality, and of playing our part as muslims. How will we answer to our Creator if we don't...?

Bilal said...

But the issue is that as Muslims, we continue to live under the misconception of what it means to really be Muslim- that we continue to enjoy the ‘barakah’ that God showers on us through our business, even if our business does not contribute to the essence of the messages from Quraan and Sunnah..

And you touch on what is a difficult question- when does the ‘shit hit the fan’? When you or someone extremely close to you gets killed?

I agree on your summary of the causes- but what about the fact that a good person living outside could possibly do more good for the country than a selfish person living in the country!


I know- I am always the one going on about this. I even told some people that it could be ‘haraam’ to run away from South Africa solely to seek a better life elsewhere- if you have no concern for those left behind.

But the question is, do you have to physically remain in the country to play a part, focal or not?

Ahmed said...

thats a really interesting yet tricky question. i think my previous post provides a partial answer to the question you pose. i have been a victim of a vicious hijacking at my home 7 years ago and that woke up my intellectual senses to the whole issue of the relationship between crime and economics. When the "shit hits the fan", i was referring to our close neighbours in Zimbabwe. thus, my conception of the "shit hits the fan" methaphor is if i feel that there is not much chance of me leading a decent economic life and crime does lead to a deterioration of economic prosperity.

so there is no easy answer to your question. many have left the country because their loved ones were murdered and so on but numerous people have also began re-evaluating their the situation and their own lives. therefore, the position i have taken is to respect the decision of those who leave the country becuase of our crime situation. at the end of the day, who are we to make judgements. but i also urge people to educate themselves about the world they live in and to make informed judgements and not racist ones, which is most prevelant amongst those who leave.

whether or not we can make a meaningful contribution to South Africa from abroad is an easy question. the answer is most definitely yes. the fight against apartheid really started growing when the people went into exile and started viewing the situation from the outside. London had huge anti aparthied movement headedby the likes of thabo mbeki and oliver thambo. so what those living abroad can do is to provide explanations and answers for the high crime rate in south africa and to propose solutions. However, these people must be willing to return to south africa one day

Ali la Loca said...

This is my take on it:

You ask if it is possible to contribute to change while being physically out of the country. I say, Why not?!?

If you can dream a way to contribute that doesn't require you be on the ground, then do it. Words know no boundaries. The internet is limitless. You can effect people thousands of kilometers away!

Also, there is something to be said, in my opinion, for the perspective gained by leaving one's home. Sometimes only by stepping far away, trying to get a more objective perspective on the problems and attributes of a particular society, can a plan for contributing to change in an effective and sustainable matter truly be born.

Every experience contributes to the impact you will eventually have (or are already having)!

Moe said...

i think its important for us to go oversees learn and come back.

nanabhay said "there is no sin in migration your grandaddy did it" haha

but following on from our conversation last night.

i only have this to say. no radical change is good. change must be planned ochastrated and executed.

Anonymous said...

I know of a few ppl who worked 4 the betterment of communities etc in SA, and are now 6 feet under. they were the doctors in rural towns yet got killed in the place they helped and probably by the ppl they helped. Dont get me wrong, i am truly S. african but things like this make me want to pack up and leave

Bilal said...


What is your blog? Can’t seem to find it and read your previous posts.

On Zimbabwe- I don’t think South Africa will be allowed to deteriorate as far as that- big business has too much at stake, both in the country and using the country as a gateway to the entire African market!

I agree- those who want to leave should not be discouraged. But I still feel that even if you leave the country, you need to somehow assist with bringing about positive change- how is that possible? I don’t know... But I guess if there is a will, there will be a way:)

Thanks for your thoughts and insights- its people like you that South Africa needs!

@Ali la Loca:

Thanks for your comments. I agree- we need to WANT to do something. I hope that all South Africans living outside the country remember this and continue to discuss and come up with ways for bringing change.

Being outside of your comfort zone most definitely gives you a wider view and different perspective!


True. In that case, leaving the country for a short period is a must- as long as our intentions are right.

Nanabhay is right- but we need to stop thinking like our granddaddy’s!

You say, ‘change must be planned, orchestrated and executed.’- I agree fully! But answer this: who is planning, orchestrating or executing? Are we doing? Am I doing anything? Are you?

I understand the difficulty of the scenario you mention- but that’s the problem. The situation is so complex and complicated. So many things to consider, question and change..

How many people exploit the communities, both in rural towns and elsewhere? Not that there can be any excuse for killing, but its not a simple equation- its definitely not the racist argument I have unfortunately heard a few times already in London-

‘these people (blacks/poor/ oppressed/etc) are the problem. You do so much to help them and they just kill you! They just like to protest, strike and toyitoy! They don’t like to work and they are lazy- that is why they don’t have jobs and homes..’

Unfortunately, views like this are common and widespread, and in my opinion, are part of the problem...

Zeynab said...

First, let me offer my condolences to your family.

Second, "Fixing" a country while you are not in it is an issue Iranis all over the world debate heatedly. Even though many Iranis haven't been back since they left, even though their children may not ever have been, we all think we're entitled to talk about Iran like it's ours. Because we love it, even if we're not there through whatever circumstance. And so we want the best for it.
There are other ways to improve your country without being there; invest in developmental projects, work for NGOs, etc.

Bilal said...

Thanks for the comments.

I agree with your comments, and that is pretty much the idea I am trying to get out: that we need to remember where we benefited and we must be sure to assist other to get the opportunities we had..
And that’s also not to say we don’t to help out elsewhere as well! Like trying to create awareness around the ridiculous claims by the US warmongers!