President Nelson Mandela has hailed the prominent role played by Islam in the liberation and construction of Africa describing the world’s most frequently demonised faith as the continent’s principal religion and as an agent of tolerance and goodwill. He has also praised the contribution of South African Muslims to the struggle against apartheid and to current attempts to build a State, based on equality, justice and brotherhood adding that there are three Muslim ministers in his government.
The South Africa leader’s remarks came during a lecture at Oxford University in Britain on the new world order. Speaking at the invitation of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies on July 11, he said the African continent, long neglected in the past, would take its rightful place in the new world order, playing its own effective part in building peace and justice on the basis of religious principles and joint action since no group can live in isolation from the rest of the world.
Mandela maintained that the interaction and cooperation between Africa’s three main religions - Islam, Christianity and animism - would be one of the most important elements and objectives determining the continent’s future politically, economically and developmentally. He considered Islam to be the continent’s principal religion as Muslims are in majority.
The president paid tribute to the leading and significant role played by South African Muslims in combating apartheid. He also praised their contribution to current efforts to build an equal and just society in cooperation with Hindus, Jews, Christians and other groups. Their role in forging excellent links of cooperation and understanding with the peoples of the Gulf, the Middle East, North Africa and South East Asia is equally commendable, he said.
Mandela emphasized the importance of confronting the real challenge facing the world today, of finding the means to remove the scourges of wars, poverty and epidemics, and of establishing the basis of cooperation between all the religions in order to build a new international community free from any discrimination on the basis of religion and ethnicity. In South Africa, Muslims are guaranteed full rights, he said - adding that the official recognition given to marriages according to Isamic rites is only one example.
After a review of the history of Islam’s spread in Africa, Mandela described Islam as a benevolent religion, which had taken part in developing and liberating the continent, while interacting with Christianity and other faiths with maximum tolerance and mercy.
Mandela’s tribute to Islam as an engine of tolerance and development has come at a time when the west, and its Muslim proxies, have declared war on it, demonising it as an instrument of terrorism, destruction and backwardness. Less than a week after Mandela’s landmark address, Turkey’s new prime minister, Mesut Yilmaz, declared that his country was now ready to march forward instead of going backwards, implying that Refah’s Islamic oriented programme was taking it back to the Middle Ages. Egypt was also putting the finishing touches to a security agreement with Greece to combat ‘terrorism’ in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions.
Equally significantly, the address is a public rejection of the west’s claim that African Christians are being systematically victimised in Muslim countries, particularly Sudan, which is the victim of war financed and fomented by Uncle Sam and his duplicitous British cousins.
Mandela, a non-Muslim, has in effect delivered a ringing rebuke to western church leaders - the pope and archbishop George Carey, who twice in the past two years visited South Sudan to instigate a Christian revolt and to the Clinton administration, which is coordinating a Christian attack on Sudan, using Christian warlords such as Ethiopia’s and Eritrea’s presidents Meles Zenawi and Isaias Aferwerki, to force the secession of the south.
In view of his emphasis on the need to build a new world order on the basis of religious values, Mandela has also rejected the west’s version, which is based on secularism, American capitalism and military muscle.
It is not surprising that Mandela’s address was totally ignored by the western media, although all his other activities during his visit to Britain were minutely covered. It would not do to publicise the favourable views on Islam of a widely-respected leader, who is also non-Muslim, when the thrust of the west’s propaganda is that Islam is the biggest threat to the world since the collapse of communism.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the US, who also spoke at the Oxford Islamic Centre, praised Mandela as a man ‘larger than life’ - surely, though not for his defence of Islam which the Saudi regime is fighting so viciously!
Muslimedia - August 16-31, 1997