`South African Muslims enjoy more freedom than those elsewhere’

June 4th, 2009 - 4:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, June 4 (IANS) South African Muslims enjoy more freedom than their counterparts in any Islamic country in the world, newly-appointed Deputy Minister of International Relations Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim has said at an event organised by an Indian Muslims’ charity.
Ebrahim was the keynote speaker at the annual fundraising banquet of the Saaberie Chishty Ambulance Society, an organisation started nearly two decades ago by an Indian Muslim charitable group to provide a free ambulance service as apartheid-era facilities failed communities in need.

“South African Muslims are free to practise their religion, culture and customs as they wish, protected by the constitution, unlike any other country in the Islamic world,” Ebrahim said.

“We need to recognise that and assist each other to contribute to the development of our country for the benefit of all its citizens.”

Ebrahim also commented on the Muslim Personal Law issue which had been in the spotlight here, reminding people that he and local Member of Parliament Ismail Vadi had already initiated the process after the first democratic elections in 1994.

Calling for consensus on the matter, Ebrahim said the process had been stalled because of “lots of different opinions” within the Muslim community.

Marriages by Muslim rites are not recognised in South African law, with several cases of widows left destitute in recent years having highlighted the plight of partners in such marriages who stand to get nothing from their deceased husbands’ estates despite a lifetime of marriage.

Attempts to have this changed have been hampered by the differing views of various interest groups within the Muslim community here.

Ebrahim, a specialist in the Sri Lankan situation which has seen 25 years of civil war between the ruling Sinhalese and Tamils who were until recently fighting for a separate state, also highlighted the plight of thousands of Tamils there after the government announced that they had wiped out the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

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