Shaykh Yusuf da Costa: The death of a child

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When little Crystal Abrahams died from a bullet wound in the road outside her home in Ocean View in 2002, some of us cringed when we read the report. This is perhaps because some of us have worked with children most of our lives, or we have our own children. There was no reaction, as far as we know, from any of the many organizations in our community or from individuals. We only know of a lecture that was delivered in Goodwood Masjid on the matter. Nobody from our community heard her final moans and the screams from her mother. The community remained silent. When children are shot in the Cape Peninsula, for one or other reason, it appears that we “go about our work”. It is not our business. Crystal was shot accidently (sic) in a shoot-out between gangsters and members of PAGAD (People Against Gangsterism and Drugs).

A few months ago [2012], there was a picture in the local newspaper of an Abu Sayef soldier in the Philippines keeping a gun to the head of a child he held as hostage. And we read often of children being shot or blown up in one or other struggle in the world. In many of these cases Muslims are involved, and we suppose that the deaths of children, whatever their nationality or religion, are part of the “collateral damage”. We do not know anymore. They say that those who blow up children of the enemy are “martyrs”. Perhaps we do not understand or perhaps with old age some of us have grown soft and romantic, or perhaps it is fully justifiable to target children for the greater cause. Perhaps we are missing something. We would not like to be martyred like that. We do not know of any of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) who were “martyred” in that way, but perhaps we have not read enough history.

Some of us might remember the picture of the child somewhere in Vietnam, standing half burnt and screaming, during the Vietnam War. The bomb that did that to her had “Made in USA” printed in small letters on its side. That child depicted in a very dramatic way what we have been doing to children throughout the world. The pilot who dropped the bomb was most probably decorated for “bravery in the field” by the then USA President. Bravery is not difficult when it comes to burning up children. In the USA pilots were decorated for throwing atomic bombs on cities in Japan and killing most of their populations. The majority of all population groups are always children. Who cares? It was “collateral damage”.

And we also get the impression that whatever Muslims do in a struggle, even if is not according to the teachings of Islam, is beyond question, may not be criticized, and is on the same level as Holy Writ. We suppose this is the reason for the deadly silence from the Muslim community here when Muslims elsewhere trample on the teachings of Islam when they devise ways of dealing with the enemy. And so, for example, it does not matter what the Palestinians do in the struggle against Zionism, it may not be criticized and it may not be measured in terms of Islamic teachings. They say one must look at the “broader picture”, whatever that means.

We have double standards. Almost a quarter million fetuses have been killed legally in this country over the last few years. Here we kill children before birth and in Palestine children are killed after birth. It is difficult for us to see the difference. Perhaps with age, our sight has grown dim. All our organizations that plead with hands on their chests as to their principles have all been deadly silent on this. Perhaps they have been too busy scrutinizing the Internet to check what Muslims are saying and doing overseas to worry about these trivial matters in this country. And the ANC members who speak passionately about the struggle in Palestine on “Muslim” platforms never mention that their government recognizes Israel as part of the community of nations (as the USA does), has diplomatic relations with Israel (as the USA does), trades with that country (as the USA does), and most probably has many other links with Israel (as the USA does). We have not seen a single pamphlet in any of the mosques dealing with this. Watching the Internet is a full-time occupation, they say. We have not seen any editorials on these matters, either. They say writing editorials is also a full time occupation.

Is there something wrong somewhere that we do not want to, or we are too afraid to question the religious validity of what we or other Muslims do? Or is it that there is something we do not know?

[Unpublished 2012]



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