Quraysha Ismail Sooliman Addresses Students at WITS

Address at the Interfaith Prayer, Solomon Mahlangu House, 25 September 2016: #FeesMustFall

 

In the name of Allah, Ar-Rahman (الرحمن), Ar-Rahim (الرحيم)

My name is Quraysha Ismail Sooliman, I am a member of staff at the University of Pretoria (UP), a PhD Candidate with the Faculty of Law, a South African, a practising Muslim[1] woman, student activist and mother whose child is on campus. I support you, stand with and by you and I salute you – the students of the Fallist Movements. It makes me proud to stand in solidarity with the best of South Africans, and prouder still that Muslim women like Shaeera Kalla, Wits SRC President 2014/2015 and Fasiha Hasan, secretary-general of the Wits SRC 2016 are at the forefront of this dynamic struggle.

We are in the best of times, we are in the worst of times – the rising of our youth –is an indication of the authenticity of our peoples – a celebration of the best of times – a sign of inner strength and justice. A force demanding change that projects to a better way in spite of the external influences. This is in keeping with the Islamic tradition, that one can take people on…take them on, “and argue with them in a way that is best” (Quran 16:25). This is and has been the way of the Fallists and it must be recognised.

This is also about the courage of our people –about claiming back, social justice and accountability – about our history and the fearless mobilisation of the youth in confronting the viciousness of power and injustice. The day that our youth stop protesting, stop agitating, stop challenging and raising their voices – that is the day that the colonial project has won. But we are also in the worst of times- where we have those from within our own ranks who manifest the schizophrenia of colonialism. Since colonialism and then apartheid, there exists a schizophrenia in our societies – a system that develops the intellects of our people- mostly the elite and the political leaders – that moulds intellects not grown from the fabric of our society, but minds which are alien to the societies they are supposed to protect and represent. These people see their own as reactionary, aggressive and backward. Consider the statements by Gwede Mantashe and Blade Nzimande, individuals I believe who should be resigned to the dustbin of SA politics and leadership. The impact of colonial penetration has driven the agenda of whiteness and the need to “whiten up” and it is this that the youth must resist. Many of our elites, and now our children have been emasculated and neutralised through an infusion of their sensibilities into colonial and colonised education and material benefits; they have been emasculated into pacifism. When this happens, they cannot but seek to emasculate and neutralise those around them.

These are those whom Fanon refers to in Black Skin White Masks – they have been “whitened” and favour the foreign over the local, they develop what Nyamnjoh calls an “imported thinking” and are “minded by the language of power.” These are the ones who have surrendered to the colonial project – they have negated themselves and are complicit with power and the politics of white supremacy. What they do not know nor understand is that access to education and learning is an ontological project, about an entire way of being – and demanding this access, demanding that #FeesMustFall, which is not a utopic demand as the gatekeepers project – is also about collapsing the hegemonic gaze that has been lodged in our thinking and pedagogical practises – it is about building an African nation of greatness and creativity and refuting the myth of African incompetence, backwardness and aggression. This is also a parallel narrative with Islamophobia. A narrative that dehumanises the Muslim body (exactly as what is done to the black body), equating it with barbarism, violence and backwardness. Youth uprisings in South Africa (including the African Spring- not Arab spring as the subversive logic of white supremacy directs us to think, because Egypt, Tunisia and Libya are all in Africa) are evidence of a call to the continent’s unfinished business which lies in the burden of our histories (Nyamnjoh:2016). It is about revolting against the terms of engagement that have been dictated to us – terms that have aggravated our predicaments by attempting to assimilate our identities and integrity into the pursuit of “white-ache” (Nyamnjoh:2016) and working at making us forget the past that brought us to this moment. The Fallist movement has animated the recollection of this forgetting. Thus those who want to sanitise the past, resent this re-ignition, this remembering –retaliating by viciously guarding a system of gatekeeping – controlling access to Higher Education for the majority. And it is in this process that we get a prioritisation of buildings, objects and commodities over the value and prioritisation of human life and open, honest dialogue. For as long as they dumb us down, prevent us from accessing education first and then critical, decolonial education, they will make us see enemies in each other. It is from ignorance and scripted texts that make of us a spectacle that we mistrust.

So it is necessary for all of us- all our youth to vision a better way and not to tear ourselves apart. We must learn to work together. We must learn to trust each other. We must not submit to colonial hierarchies that pit us, one against the other. Never be arrogant in seeking the best for our people/our youth- our future. This is about strategy. The choice to strategise, compromise and win should always be greater than the “I”, the “me” and the desire to gain points or be popular. It is a wisdom and mentality that belongs to our ancestors, to the traditions of Ubuntu and Ummah and to the legacy of justice embedded and sedimented deep within our religions, ontologies and epistemologies. It is necessary to stand together – united behind a purpose- prepared to stand up, to speak out – we are not beggars for recognition, and never should be– we must never apologise for being black or being Muslim – never become or allow ourselves to become that person who celebrates the negation of himself. Because we are a great people, and we all have dignity, as is affirmed in the Islamic tradition, “And We have certainly honoured all the children of Adam” (Quran 17:70).

All our youth must stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder with fellow comrades and support the movements demanding Free Education, #AfrikaansMustFall, Decolonisation of the Curriculum and of Institutional Culture and Residences. These are non-negotiable foundations to establishing social justice and addressing the nightmare and memory of the past.[2] The encounter with the past is a necessary yardstick for justice- especially social justice. This association of past with future is a very important link to our liberation.

And so it is from the past that we take lesson and know that the youth uprising is certainly an indication of a stirring from within, a wisdom innate, a liberation that must come. From within the Islamic tradition and reflection by the Muslim scholars, based on the story of Moses, (Prophet Moosa, may peace and blessings be upon him) and the wandering of the Banu Israeel for forty years there comes a dynamic message of hope. It has been said that Moosa and his followers were left to wander for forty years before they could enter Palestine because it takes forty years to rid a people of the ideological infiltration, sense of inferiority and subjugation of the oppressive system in which they have been schooled and shackled. After forty years, new leaders emerge; leaders capable and courageous enough to question the structures and systems of power and injustice. It has been forty years since the Soweto uprisings, forty years since that powerful moment in 1976, where from the nation has been birthing leaders and protagonists of justice, not masks of Europhilia and whiteness. We have not had leaders till now – and thus it is not disrespectful when the youth question the arrogance of those who claim to represent and lead us, people who live the colonial project and their own emasculation.

Remember that you will, you can and you must choose your leaders and choose the system that governs and regulates your life. The Western liberal rhetoric will tell you this is what neo-liberalism and democracy is about – we say no! Because what this Western neo-liberal system actually does, is tell you, that “you may choose everything except the right to reject the englobing system” (Ian Dallas: 1989). By protesting about gatekeeping to Higher Education – we choose the right to resist these systems – in spite of what they may say or do. We choose to resist the dominant contemporary form of man-made supremacy, a globally operating system of racism/ white supremacy and its inherent systems of organising life/education/society and politics.

Power is with the people – and we the people will take ownership of this power- by not forgetting both the near and far past – and by choosing our own leaders. With the name of Allah, Al-`Adl (العدل)- The One who is Most Just, I salute you- our youth!

No justice, no peace!

Amandla!!!

Notes:

F.B. Nyamnjoh #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at resilient colonialism in South Africa 2016

Ian Dallas The Gestalt of Freedom 1989

[1] Islam is not a patriarchal religion. Cultural attitudes and colonial practises of patriarchy have been imposed onto what is claimed to be “Islam” through the colonisation of the intellect of certain Muslims who choose to interpret the Quran from a position of patriarchy. This serves bases of power and structures of power. The problem is not with the Quran, the problem is with the interpretation of the Quran. And a part of this problem lies with Muslims, but certainly not with Islam.

[2] The Fallist movements and the protests are defined as per different sections of the Constitution by Pierre de Vos. I strongly urge every student activist to know these. Pierre de Vos also writes: “but the demand that no student should be excluded from education merely because he or she cannot afford the cost is a demand that finds echoes in section 29(1)(b) of the Constitution. This section states that everyone has the right to “further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible. As I have explained before, excluding students from higher education because those students lack the funds to pay for it may well infringe on section 29 of the Constitution.” De Vos adds further: ““Where the state cuts funding to higher education institutions (as it has done since 2000), making it more difficult for many students to gain access to higher education of a better quality, the state is engaging in ‘deliberately retrogressive measures’.” (I acknowledge Gillian Schutte from Media forJustice for sharing this article with me). http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2016-09-21-student-protests-staunchly-backed-by-constitution/#.V-fnPPl97IU

#FeesMustFall

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