It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well — (applause) — to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion and generosity and truth. He changed laws, but he also changed hearts.
For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired around the globe, Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate a heroic life. But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for self-reflection. With honesty, regardless of our station or our circumstance, we must ask: How well have I applied his lessons in my own life? It’s a question I ask myself, as a man and as a President.
We know that, like South Africa, the United States had to overcome centuries of racial subjugation. As was true here, it took sacrifice — the sacrifice of countless people, known and unknown, to see the dawn of a new day. Michelle and I are beneficiaries of that struggle. But in America, and in South Africa, and in countries all around the globe, we cannot allow our progress to cloud the fact that our work is not yet done.
The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality or universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important. For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger and disease. We still see run-down schools. We still see young people without prospects for the future. Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love. That is happening today.
And so we, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.
- Full transcript available here
From Muslimah Media Watch:
I wrote part of this piece when Dr Laury Silvers asked me for a few words she could read in her khutbah at El Tawhid Unity Mosque in Toronto. She wanted to open with words from a South African, and I am grateful to her and the congregation for the opportunity to express these words on the passing of our beloved Comrade, President, Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who returned to his creator on Thursday night, December 5 at the age of 95.
Tata (father), as we fondly call Nelson Mandela, represents so much to me, as a South African Muslim woman, as he does to all South Africans. His name is synonymous with struggle and sacrifice. His contributions to dismantling Apartheid in South Africa and his lifelong commitment to non-racialism and non-sexism has made my years growing up in South Africa an incredible experience. I still cannot fathom that he spent the total sum of my life (27 years) imprisoned!
I was born in one of the areas to which South African Indians had been forcibly relocated, at the tail end of Apartheid. Madiba’s rise to presidency, however, meant that I would no longer be confined to racially-segregated towns and limited options for education as my parents experienced.
Mandela taught us important lessons about the deeper meanings of peace and forgiveness but he was by no means a passive resistor against the indiscriminate violence of the Apartheid state, and nor was he without severe critics and opposition. Whilst I do not wish to sanitize or idolize the life of Nelson Mandela, neither is today a day to critique or analyse his policies and politics – it is a day to celebrate the immense goodness that one person brought to the world around him. What I do wish to highlight is that he overcame many of his own inner weaknesses (such as his rather tumultuous relationships with women) during the struggle years, and wrote openly about his development. He taught us to own up to our lives, our mistakes and our choices – and to walk for the ideals we profess to stand for.
Even after his rise to presidency in the new democratic South Africa, Madiba continued to show support and solidarity for global issues of social justice, especially HIV/AIDS, education for all
children, the occupation of Palestine, and of course, gender equality… all issues that still require our commitment and activism today.
(Left) Mandela with struggle activist Fatima Meer. [Source].
Madiba had a wonderful and open relationship with the Muslim community, and many of his closest friends during the struggle were Muslim. Figures like Ahmad Kathrada, Ismail Meer, Yusuf Dadoo, Fatima Meer, Rahima Moosa and Amina Cachalia are household names in South Africa and represent some of the key stalwarts in the anti-apartheid movement, many of whom were close confidantes and intimates of Nelson Mandela, and some of whom spent decades in prison with him. Read more…
African men want to have their wives and children to live with them where they work, and not be forced into an unnatural existence in men’s hostels. African women want to be with their menfolk and not be left permanently widowed in the reserves. Africans want to be allowed out after 11 o’clock at night and not to be confined to their rooms like little children. Africans want to be allowed to travel in their own country and to seek work where they want to and not where the labour bureau tells them to. Africans want a just share in the whole of South Africa; they want security and a stake in society.
Above all, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear democracy. But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division, based on colour, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one colour group by another. The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs it will not change that policy.
This then is what the ANC is fighting. Their struggle is a truly national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by their own suffering and their own experience. It is a struggle for the right to live. During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
- Nelson Mandela, during the first day of his trial on charges of sabotage, April 20, 1964.
Here’s what should have happened in the 17 years since then: Cape Town, the country’s oldest city with its reputation for being cosmopolitan, ought to have led the way in racial unity. It didn’t happen. Far away from verkrampte Pretoria and even more conservative Bloemfontein, Cape Town failed us. Her people withdrew into their racial enclaves and passed each other warily on the street.
I spent two and a half years in Cape Town before I fled for Johannesburg, like so many other black professionals (ahem). It wasn’t just the stories you’d hear about people of colour being turned away from nightclubs, or how the only other black people in your work place were generally the cleaners. It wasn’t even the near complete absence of racial integration.
What drove me slowly mad was how racism was an elephant in the room that you could not talk about. How white Capetonians would cringe and turn away when the topic came up, or look at you in blank confusion and ask why you were so obsessed with race. It was how, yes, there is racism everywhere in South Africa but in Cape Town it is not possible to even discuss it. And how Cape Town, with its pristine beaches, its lofty Parliament buildings and history of activism, was somehow supposed to be better than that.
And in our haste to one-up each other in the Being Right game, South Africans have singularly failed to stop and listen to each other. It’s the black professionals like myself who fled the city, generally for Johannesburg, and didn’t consider what the glib statement “Cape Town is racist” really meant, and how a generalisation like that was itself prejudiced.
- From “The black professional is not dead,” in The Mail & Guardian.
By Guest Contributor Safiyyah Surtee, cross-posted from Muslimah Media Watch
Several weeks after Eid al-Fitr, it’s a good time to analyze the recent media embroglio about women and Eid prayers in South Africa. The ways in which South African Muslims interact with the media has changed drastically in the last few years with the rise of social media, and this has reflected itself especially in what has been called “the desktop gender jihad” (women using the internet to fight, lobby and advocate for their rights).
In the weeks following Eid al-Fitr, a group of South African women from different cities and affiliated with different groups put their heads together to make a statement: Women have the right to attend Eid prayers. Traditionally, South African Muslim women in the north have been barred from attending the prayers, as part of the dominant mindset of women as a source “temptation” and “distraction.” Muslims in the South, especially in the Cape, have always had women as part of their congregations. These differences are sometimes attributed to ethnicity and sometimes to madhab (school of law).
The campaign to attend Eid prayer was carried out using various media channels, including radio and television interviews, newspaper articles, blog posts and social media updates. I’d like to look at how Muslim women used the media to further their campaign, as well the counter-attacks launched by a number of Muslim media agencies.
by Guest Contributor Geo, originally published at Prometheus Brown
Morgan Freeman: the kind of black dude even an old white racist can’t hate. Which is why he was cast to drive Miss Daisy, free a man from prison, become president (twice), help Batman, and become the literal, physical embodiment of God. Apparently has magic in his melanin.
Matt Damon: the kind of white guy maybe a Panther can love. Plays the peckerwood douchebag role convincingly while managing to assure us he’s a real compassionate, progressive guy offscreen.
Clint Eastwood: the guy who brought Dirty Harry out of retirement last year in Gran Torino and killed him once and for all. One of maybe two or three big Hollywood directors (Martin Scorsese is the other) with a 1970’s movie style that still manages to work.
South Africa: A country with social and political contradictions similar to America but far away enough to not have to think about it if you don’t want to. And close enough, unlike an imaginary planet in the future, to feel empathy for. Once upon a time used to dominate the World News section of the nightly news.
Invictus (2009): the film directed by Eastwood and starring Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Damon as a rugby player. Opens with a 40-minute set-up story of Mandela’s election and transition to President of South Africa. Obama/Mandela parallels everywhere. Although Mandela is played like a funny-accented black Confucius, the racial tension and political drama make for entertaining historical fluff. Along comes a whole ‘nother story about the South African rugby team, which Mandela recruits to unite the country by winning the World Cup. Like Eastwood recruiting a tiring formula to add some action to a political biopic.
Because a movie about Mandela himself, particularly the parts of his life we haven’t seen on TV before, is worthy of its own two hours. And so is the rugby team’s story, which would’ve probably made yet another one of those decent inspirational sports stories. The ones that do an awesome job of convincing us that sports is a matter of life and death.
Sometimes, we’re convinced. But when it’s tasked with something like, say, healing the wounds of Apartheid, it’s a cinematic gamble that loses. Not to mention the audacity of the American movie industry to make a movie about another country’s history in its own image, or the way we eat it up like that’s not some seriously fucked up shit. Plus, we all know Mandela had a much thicker accent than that.
by Latoya Peterson
The Associated Press originally broke the news that a white South African, Brandon Carl Huntley, claimed he was being persecuted for the color of his skin. He appealed to Canada and was granted refugee status. The report notes:
Huntley argued that whites are targeted by black criminals in South Africa and that the government does nothing to protect them. He claimed he was attacked seven times during attempted robberies and muggings.
However, South African officials doubt Huntley’s story. The Australian reports:
He claimed to have been called a “white dog”, and maintained he could not get a job because of Pretoria’s affirmative action policies. But Mr Huntley admitted yesterday he had not reported the attacks to the police. “I refuse to talk to the government,” he told The Star newspaper in Johannesburg.
(Thanks to Marjannaa A and DDSuber for the tip!)