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Muslims slam Pastor Justice

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MBABANE –The Research of Islam and Muslims in Africa (RIMA) accuses Pastor Justice Dlamini and Swazi journalists of misrepresenting facts about Islam; sometimes portraying it as a religion for cannibals and terrorists.

RIMA says the media coverage of Islam and Muslims in Swaziland was full of prejudice, ignorance and negativity since 2005 when there was a constitutional debate on Christianity being the only official religion in Swaziland.

The organisation referred to an article published on July 13, 2005 on a Times newspaper’s front page headlined: ‘Muslims Are to Blame – Pastor Justice Dlamini.’

Dr Moshe Terdiman, the Director of RIMA, quoted Pastor Justice Dlamini as saying in the article: "It is clear that the invasion of the Islamic religion would mark the beginning of violence and terrorism in the country".

Dr Terdiman is the founder of RIMA and lecturer at Ben Gurion University in Israel. He is an Israeli. He is a Middle Eastern studies scholar and an expert on the Middle East, radical Islam, Islam in Africa, Islam in the Caribbean Basin, Islam and the environment and environment throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

In February 2011, he founded Green Compass Research, which conducts research and gives analysis, consultancy, and business intelligence services on social, cultural, environmental, and economic issues throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

He said Pastor Justice commented that the Islam community had a strong influence in the removal of the clause in the constitution, which was eventually removed from the draft. This clause had named Christianity as the only official religion in Swaziland. His organisation then reported that His Majesty the King had to put an end to the debate by saying that Christianity needed no special protection because it originated from God.

Dr Terdiman also referred to the US Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report of 2011.

In this report, he quoted a paragraph in which the US government reported that "members of Swaziland society often viewed non-Christian religious groups with suspicion, especially in rural areas."

He said the Swazi press framed Muslims as warlike people who were plotting against Swaziland and had no respect for Swazi customs.

He felt Islam was inferior to Christianity -‘the only true religion’ in Swaziland.

He reported that there was perception that Muslims were conniving to force decent Christians in Swaziland to convert to Islam in return for money. He said this suspicion had been expressed and fomented by the Swazi media.

He said not only Muslims had been treated with suspicion, prejudice and dehumanisation by the Swazi media but also Asian immigrants had been treated in the same manner.

He referred to an article published on June 28, 2008 by one senior scribe who wrote in his column that "Swaziland was being overwhelmed by hordes of fellows, some of scary extraction that you tend to wonder whether they do not ‘feed’ on human flesh." He said the journalist also wrote that some resembled scarecrows and "you would swear they’re siblings to the Star Wars’ (villain) Darth Vader or the Swamp Thing."

He said the journalist further wrote: "Swazi lawmakers had to move real fast on this Eastern invasion, before they dilute our progeny and ultimately our identity and what else we have." Dr Terdiman said another newspaper in Swaziland published an article on June 16, 2007 in its front page headlined ‘Emazimu’ and a photograph of what supposed to have been cannibals in the Amazon jungle.

Emazimu is the siSwati word for cannibals. Dr Terdiman said, the newspaper reported that Mbabane was gripped by a sense of fear and the city had been engulfed by fear that strange beings or man-eating beings had descended on the city. He further said the article went on to say that cannibals were feared to be in Mbabane and the nation had pressed a panic button in fear that their safety could no longer be guaranteed anymore. In the following week, he said, the same newspaper revealed that these cannibals were a visiting group of Muslims from Pakistan and there was no need to panic. "Yet, the article also included the following sentence: "Obviously, confused by a group of 15 men with beards and of foreign origin it was ‘easy’ for everyone to refer to the group of cannibals," reports Dr Terdiman.

He said another expression of this suspicion and ignorance about Islam and Muslims was the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) halal controversy, which broke out in July 2010.

That was when KFC officially announced that its meat was halal.

"As a result, some of its Christian customers were agitated because of the ignorance concerning the true meaning of halal," he said.

Dr Terdiman, an Israeli, said Pastor Zipho Mhlanga of the Latter Harvest Church in Manzini commented that making the KFC halal was tantamount to imposing the religion of Islam on people.

He quoted Pastor Mhlanga allegedly saying, "The worst thing is that the meat is eaten by all people, whether Christian or Muslim. Why is there a need to make it halal? He said Pastor Mhlanga went on to suggest that Christians should establish their own businesses so that they would not have to argue over such issues.

In its report, RIMA also cited the comments made by Pastor Joseph Mudzingwa of the Seventh Day Adventist, who said, "Though we do have a scripture that talks about not eating food sacrificed to idols, Christians should check their conscience because nowadays most meat has been proclaimed halal. When one walks into a supermarket he finds that most of the meat on offer is halal.

This is why I say Christians should not take the issue lightly." In June 2010, Kentucky Fried Chicken obtained a certificate that its fried chicken was halal.

He said the print media had not been the only channel covering the so called ‘Muslim threat’.

He said Swazi television, radio, and blogs had also covered this subject using the same motifs as used in the press.

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