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Tensions on the Nile – Dr. Mahlakeng Khosi Mahlakeng


Tensions on the Nile

by Dr. Mahlakeng Khosi Mahlakeng

National University of Lesotho

Volume 7 (2019), Number 15 (October 2019)

The environmental and political landscape of the already fragile Nile region has become threatened. The Nile River Basin faces considerable challenges, all of which have resulted into ‘water scarcity’ (i.e. the decrease in the quality and quantity of water). The already precarious water situation is also threatened by rapid population growth, environmental degradation and depletion, excessive strain on dwindling renewable resources, unequal distribution and insecurity. The causes of water scarcity in the NRB are evidently numerous thus exacerbating the issue of ‘hydropolitics’ (i.e. the politics over water) in the basin. Moreover, these causes are detrimental when they interact with one another and/or occur simultaneously. These challenges combined have affected the management, sustainability and use of the basin.

One of the most contentious issues related to the Nile River is the use of available water resources. The use of the Nile has always been and remains a controversial issue. Water is already scarce in some parts of the basin. Water scarcity is not only a result of the amount or scale of rainfall, but also of the agreements (i.e. the 1929 and 1959 agreements) that govern the Nile. These agreements have rendered the use of water between the upstream (i.e. Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the DRC) and downstream riparian countries (i.e. Egypt, South Sudan and Sudan) unequal.

The current distribution of water in the area has serious global political consequences and is fundamental to the developmental processes of the respective countries. This uneven distribution also bears many local political, economic and social implications. The impact of resource distribution, specifically water, carries many political implications in local, state, regional and international spheres. In shared basins, the lower or upper-lying riparian country can control the quantity and quality of water flow by means of its military might and hydrological situation. Political actors may often also use resources as objects of military and political action in an effort to extend their influence in such regions. Thus, increasing the potential for ‘conflict’ (i.e. conflict defined as verbal, political and/or violent).

An example of this is the defining influence of Egyptian foreign policy on states in the basin. Egypt, being the stronger party, provokes, initiates or prevails with military action against its weaker adversaries, thereby increasing the potential for conflict. The issue of controlling the Nile at the expense of other riparian countries has been central to political decision-making.

In almost a century long continued interest by Egypt and Sudan to exclusively control the Nile waters, the other nine riparian countries remain structurally denied from accessing, utilising and benefiting from the Nile. Despite its seemingly current participation and interest in cooperative renegotiation and development with upstream countries, however, it is still evident that Egypt continues to hold the idea that the 1929 and 1959 agreements should remain as valid yardsticks and as controlling international legal instruments for managing the governance of the Nile. These series of agreements shared the principle of protecting Egyptian interests in the Nile region. They stipulated that countries would not construct or cause to be constructed irrigation or any work that might negatively affect the flow of the Nile to Egypt.

Egypt’s’ repeated call for external intervention, particularly the United States of America (USA), shows defiant signs and a challenge to an equitable cooperative solution. For instance, Egypt’s close relationship with a succession of major powers has always helped it to exert its influence over the Nile. The United Kingdom (UK) until the 1950s, the Soviet Union until the mid-1970s and, currently the United States (US), have all provided political and financial support to cement Egypt’s position in the basin, through legal treaties if possible. They have also simultaneously influenced the construction of infrastructure for power generation, storage and irrigation.

The involvement of external actors, possibly with varying external demands and biases, further exacerbates and complicates an already delicate environment. The role of external actors is significant to the sustainability, management and use of trans-boundary basins in that they can highly influence the nature and politics of trans-boundary basins.

Given a number of immense challenges confronting the Nile water security vis-à-vis the water needs of all riparian countries, it is no surprise that under the uneven water distribution in favour of Egypt and Sudan, Ethiopia’s construction and completion appears to the former to be moving too fast.In a similar understanding by Egypt that climate change and the subsequent water scarcity pose a great danger to the Nile in general, and its shares specifically, it must note the enormous water security challenge facing the upstream riparian countries particularly given their current exclusion for the access and utilisation of the Nile.

However, Ethiopia’s GERD also presents a unilateral unsustainable lose-lose scenario. However, considering the issues of climate change, water scarcity, population growth and its exclusion from accessing and utilising the Nile for almost a century at the behest and benefit of Egypt, and the continued delay in initialising the NBI CFA, leaves Ethiopia with no other option. More importantly, filling the GERD could take close to a decade or beyond. And during this fill, Egypt could experience a cut of 25% of the Nile’s fresh water flow. Moreover, this is at the background of an already serious country-wide freshwater shortage in Egypt.

Far-reaching consequences of unilateral hydropower developments in shared watercourses are not only water availability but social and environment implications. In many cases, the social and environmental effects, as a result of unilateral decision-making, are far greater than the hydropower potential expected. These implications include, among others, the destruction of arable land and the displacement of communities (i.e. environmental refugees). As a result, this warrants stronger regional basin-wide cooperation and effective water governance. Moreover, it points to the need and urgency of an equitable Nile water sharing solution in a form of a cooperative framework that will cater for short, medium and long term needs of all riparian countries.

The water needs for both upstream and downstream countries cannot be solved by massive water transfers, but rather through a coordinated water-demand management and a supply-oriented approach. This is only possible through multilateral ventures coupled with an agreement that serves and protects the interests of all Nile water users.

A sustainable understanding and consensus of all riparian countries in general, and the established expert panel (i.e. The National Independent Scientific Research Group) would be to equitably access and utilise the Nile through the guidance of a cooperative legal framework, now more than ever. Furthermore, the need and urgency of a cooperative legal framework should form the basis of the findings and conclusion of this panel. This legal framework is the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) proposed by the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI).

Agreeing to and/or signing the CFA would translate into win-win gains for riparian countries. The CFA aims to replace the colonial-era treaties that gave Egypt and Sudan a majority share of the Nile’s water.

The CFA outlines principles, rights and responsibilities for cooperative management and development of the Nile Basin water resources.  Rather than quantifying water use allocations, the Treaty intends to establish a framework to “promote integrated management, sustainable development, and harmonious utilization of the water resources of the Basin, as well as their conservation and protection for the benefit of present and future generations“.

The main reason the NBI proposed for a CFA is because the former is just a transitional mechanism that is expected to phase out when a permanent NRBC is established following the conclusion of the CFA. The CFA should be included in national legislation, thus disbanding the NBI and simultaneously establishing a permanent NRBC. For the initiative to convert into a commission, six of the 11 countries’ parliaments must ratify the CFA as law.7 countries agreed to open CFA for signature, a position rejected by Egypt and Sudan. The Commission would serve to promote and facilitate the implementation of the CFA and to facilitate cooperation among the Nile Basin States in the conservation, management and development of the Nile River Basin and its waters.

Transforming the initiative into a commission entails a different level of competencies. Among others, the establishment of an interstate commission (the NRBC) constitutes a departure from the past trend of unilateral water use and management, particularly in emphasising the issues of fair water allocation, joint management and developing resources. This also signals a fundamental shift in the hydropolitical landscape of the Nile. The NRBC would facilitate and oversee the smooth equitable and reasonable use, management and protection of the Nile’s water.

Without proper basin-wide cooperation, the water system of the Nile will experience severe pressure from uncoordinated projects. The lack of cooperation will lead to an increasingly ineffective use of water. The development of unilateral hydropower projects is a result of the inability to establish a commission that will create a more conducive win-win environment for all Nile riparian countries. The article further argued that unilateralism prompts competition, which leads to lose-lose gains and the failure of the NBI. This subsequently influences the development of more unilateral decision-making by riparian states regarding major water resource investment projects (i.e., hydropower projects) and therefore increases the level of disputes in the region.

Peace and Security in the Sahel as Elusive as Ever – Professor Hussein Solomon


Peace and Security in the Sahel as Elusive as Ever

by Hussein Solomon

Volume 7 (2019), Number 14 (October 2019)

The security situation in the Sahel region has deteriorated this past two years with the number of terror attacks on the rise whilst terror groups continue to proliferate and continue their expansion both southwards and westwards. The curious issue about the expansion of terror groups is that it is occurring at the same time as the counter-terror alliance arrayed it is also increasing its footprint across the Sahel. At its September Summit last year, the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) has pledged to spend US $1 billion between 2020 and 2024 to support national and joint military operations. The Sahel G-5 force has renewed its military operations after a hiatus following an attack on its headquarters in Mopti on 29th June 2018. France still maintains its 4,500 strong Operation Barkhane anti-terrorism force in the region and has joined forces with Germany in creating a Partnership for Stability and Security in the Sahel. The US military presence across the region is also palpable. Meanwhile the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUMSA), with its more than 15,000 security personnel, had its mandate renewed for another year.

Despite these forces against them, why then do terrorist groups proliferate? First, terror groups operate across a vast and inhospitable region. Second, many of the region’s armed forces are over-stretched and under-resourced. Chad’s soldiers are fatigued with multiple deployments and are overstretched financially. Niger’s army operates on a chronic deficit whilst maintaining a permanent presence on three borders with Mali, Libya and Nigeria. This poor state of affairs is worsened by the tense relations existing between the military and political establishments. Burkina Faso’s army and intelligence services seem to be involved in a never-ending restructuring process since the fall of President Campaore whilst Mali’s armed forces are as disorganized as it was when Captain Sanogo staged his coup in March 2012. It stands to reason that regional forces – whether the Sahel G-5 initiative or an ECOWAS force – made up of national contingents will be infused with these problems also. Third, such regional forces lack strategic coherence. Whilst ECOWAS has pledged funds for ongoing counter-terror initiatives, there is little clarity on how they will operate with other security initiatives in the region. This lack of strategic coherence is also seen on the part of international players. Consider the case of MINUMSA. Whilst having an expanded mandate, there has been no equivalent increase in funding for the force. Moreover, MINUMSA’s objective of restoring the presence of the state and the authority of Bamako over vast swathes of ungoverned spaces has not endeared it to the local population who regard such state authority with suspicion if not outright hostility. Corruption in the Malian state is endemic and fuels jihadi narratives of the state being viewed as illegitimate. Benjaminsen and Ba in their pioneering study, for instance, has demonstrated how rent-seeking behavior on the part of local officials and judges are not properly adjudicating land-use conflicts because they have received payments from both parties to support their claims.

This suggests a more holistic approach to counter-terrorism stressing development initiatives and the international community making use of their leverage over states to behave better towards their citizens. Recognizing this, Paris is beginning to stress the developmental dimension in its counter-terrorism operations by focusing on healing ethnic cleavages inside communities. Whilst this is a welcome departure from military-centred approaches it will not work if the nature of the African state itself is not problematized: where states live against their citizens, where the state fuels communal violence and where the armed forces engage in random acts of violence against hapless civilians.

“Out with the old, in with the new” – Egypt’s new financial and administrative capital to replace Cairo – Sanet Madonsela


“Out with the old, in with the new” – Egypt’s new financial and administrative capital to replace Cairo

by Sanet Madonsela

 Volume 7 (2019), Number 13 (September 2019)

Former general and head of military intelligence, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, came into power after orchestrating a coup d’etat in July 2013 and has been ruling the country with an iron fist since then. Despite his attempt to sanitize his regime through a sham election, there has been an escalation in the campaign of intimidation, violence and arrest against political opponents, civil society and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) activists. This crackdown has resulted in both individuals and groups being listed on the government’s terrorism list and others sentenced to death. In 2017, Egypt had the sixth-highest number of executions and the third-largest number of death sentences globally. Cairo justifies this under the guise of combatting terrorism. The diverse numbers of Egyptians from a variety of political persuasions, however, belie the terrorist label. Indeed, the only thing they have in common is opposition to the military junta. In addition to that, the country’s military operations have also escalated. In February 2018, the regime announced a new campaign against an Islamic State-affiliated group in the Sinai Peninsula in a desperate attempt to regain control of the region from the militants. This operation has resulted in hundreds of hectares of farmland and at least 3,000 houses destroyed. Additionally, the state has proven incapable of protecting women and children against sexual and gender-based violence.

The Egyptian government has also been struggling to attract foreign investors. This led to Sisi accepting a $12 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. Sisi has indicated that the country would need a minimum of $1 trillion to improve its conditions as the current state budget cannot accommodate the demands of rapid population growth and attendant urbanisation. The country’s population has increased from 20 million in 1950 to approximately a 100 million in 2019. The country’s capital, Cairo, is bursting at its seams as one-fifth of the total population resides there. Cairo’s population is expected to rise to at least 40 million by 2050. It is important to note that 50% of Cairo’s neighbourhoods lack access to the sewerage system and that its public service is failing. Some municipal councils operate on as little as $4 per capita per year. Given the collapsing infrastructure, the country’s middle and upper classes have moved out of the city into gated communities in search of a better quality of life.

In 2015, Egypt announced that it would be replacing the ancient city of Cairo with a new financial and administrative capital. The new capital is located on a flat stretch of desert between the Suez Canal and the Nile River. This smart city will become home to 6.5 million people.  Government ministries and agencies is set to move to this new location. The smart city will cover an area of 7,000 square kilometers and will include a new parliamentary complex, a convention center, 663 hospitals and clinics, 1,250 mosques and 40, 000 hotel rooms. Its estimated value is US$45 billion. This is expected to solve Cairo’s crowding, pollution and rising house price problems.

It is argued that the aesthetic character of the development could make housing unaffordable and unattainable to the majority of Cairo’s inhabitants, as this new city is built on a high modernist approach and does not allow for the informal enterprises and activities that most Egyptians rely on. While government has policies in place to regulate the price of land in the area, it is important to note that the value of the land has already increased. The smallest apartment in the new capital is 1.3 million pounds, making it unaffordable for even mid-level bureaucrats. The new city is said to be a cashless city, as it will cooperate with MasterCard’s global expertise in the field of electronic payment technology. This suggests that Cairo may soon witness the exodus of its wealthier residents, holding calamitous consequences for revenues of the city.

One of the most fascinating aspects about the project is the Chinese interest. It is important to note that the China State Construction Engineering Corporation has replaced the UAE based Capital City Planners; while the Chinese Fortune Land Development Plan and another Chinese state company also contributed towards the project. They invested $20 billion and $15 billion respectfully. Thus, funds for the project from Beijing has facilitated the realization of Sisi’s dream of a new capital. It is, however, not only the Chinese that are involved in the construction of the new capital. A US-based firm, Honeywell, has been contracted to provide a citywide surveillance system that will involve security forces, police and medical staff. The company will install 60,000 wireless cameras to monitor crowds, detect theft and observe suspicious people and behaviour.  The security dimensions are emphasized by the fact that the Egyptian army is said to main command and control of the new city from the Integrated Command and Control Centre. Demographics and Cairo’s own crumbling infrastructure alone do not explain the push for a new capital. Security considerations seem to be uppermost in the concerns of Egypt’s new Pharaoh.

Sufism and Boko Haram in Nigeria: 10 Years on – Mawlana Dr Muhammad Ashraf E Dockrat


Sufism and Boko Haram in Nigeria: 10 Years on

by Mawlana Dr Muhammad Ashraf E Dockrat 

LanCSAL: University of Johannesburg  

Volume 7 (2019), Number 12 (August 2019)

Muslim-Christian relations in Nigeria is marred by the insurgency of the Boko-Haram who, since 2019, have separatist aims to establish an Islamic state in the region. It is not only inter-religious co-existence that has been the first victim of this plague, but also intra-religious relationships have suffered.

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. Nigeria has an estimated population of 194.746 million. According to a 2001 report from The World Factbook by CIA, about 50% of Nigeria’s population is Muslim, about 40% are Christians and about 10% adhere to local religions. With the largest Muslim population in sub-Saharan Africa, Islam has adherents in the north and a number of followers in the southwestern Yoruba part of the country. The Hausa ethnic group in the north is mostly Muslim, while the Yoruba tribe in the west is divided among mainly Christianity, Islam and traditional religions. The Igbos of the east and the Ijaw in the south are predominantly Christians (Catholics) and some practitioners of traditional religions. Other minority ethnic groups are to be found in the middle-belt of Nigeria. They are mainly Christians and members of traditional religions with some converts to Islam.

Abubakr Shekau, the leader of the the Salafi Boko-Haram group and Abu Usamah al-Ansari the leader of the Ansaru conservative faction of the Boko-Haram have focused on overthrowing the Nigerian government. They first emerged in 2009, and after defeats in 2015 during the West African offensive by a coalition of Nigerian led African and Western countries, they retreated to the Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad regions. Internal opposition to Shekau’s leadership emerged and a group called “Islamic State’s West Africa Province” (ISWAP) emerged. Shekau aligned his group with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in March 2015. Shekau’s leadership was challenged and a violent split emerged which resulted in the faction led by Shekau being referred to as the “Boko Haram” and those loyal to Abu Musab al-Barnawi linking to the ISIL and calling themselves ISWAP. After a period of defeat, Boko Haram and ISWAP launched new offensives in 2018 and 2019 and made some gains. President Muhammadu Buhari promised to put an end to Boko Haram and despite his claim that the armed group has been “technically defeated”, his army has struggled to contain the violence. According to al-Jazeera’s Eromo Egbejule (30 Jul 2019), “The fight against Boko Haram has been beset by many drawbacks, including delays to military funding and reports of extrajudicial killings by the army, which has led to the US government refusal to sell weapons to Nigeria.” He writes: “Borno state, like every other conflict zone in the world, is full of sadness and happiness – gut-wrenching stories one day and awe-inspiring stories the next day,” said Abubakar, the photographer.”

Sufism and Sufi tariqah’s (confraternities) are found mainly in Northern Nigeria. There are a few Shiah’s in Nigeria but the majority of Sunnis are either Wahhabi or Sufi. The Ikhwani (Muslim Brotherhood) also have a following amongst the middle class and professionals. There are two Sufi brotherhoods: Qādarīyyah and Tijāniyyah and Ilorin is home to both these Sufi tariqahs. Sufi leaders will back Christian presidential candidates instead of a Shia president or politician.

On Tuesday 23 July 2019, Nigerian troops and police clashed with Shi’ite Muslim protesters in the capital Abuja. Shi’ahs, under the flag of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) marched in protesting against the continued detention of its leader, Shaykh Ibrahim Zakzaky, who has been in detention since 2015, despite a court ruling that he be released. On the 22 July at least three people – including a journalist and senior policeman – were killed in a similar confrontation in Abuja. The death toll on Monday 22 July 2019 could have been at least 10. The army has used live ammunition and tear gas and there is the fear that IMN might turn to violent insurgency as did Sunni Islamist group Boko Haram after police killed their leader, Muhammad Yusuf, in 2009.

The Qādarīyyah order spread as a result of the influence of the charismatic leader Usman dan Fodio (r.‎1803–1815) who led a revolution in the 19th Century. Here Sufism became a practical way to institute political change and reform. Qādarīyyah have projects built around education with nursery, primary and secondary schools, and a college that is accredited to award diplomas. All classes are co-educational which is unusual in Northern Nigeria. Tijāniyyah scholars have also established educational facilities and promoted literacy and the study of the Qur’an amongst children and adults alike.

The tariqahs are concerned about the radicalisation of their people and engage with federal, state and local government. They have a good media presence and their leaders appear on television and radio. In this way they are able to continue fostering the respect that they have enjoyed over the last two centuries. As descendants of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), they are seen as legitimate leaders.

Sufism in Nigeria can be traced to the 15th century. In the 1804 Usman Dan Fodio declared war against an oppressive and un-Islamic government. It took five years for Dan Fodio and his followers to bring most of the city-states in northern Nigeria, southern Niger and the western part of Cameroon under his wing. He established the biggest Islamic empire in the history of West Africa since the Songhai Empire of the the 15th century.

The strength of Uthman Dan Fodio’s Sokoto Empire was not its military or political power, but rather its broad-based socio-political system. Due to this version of the polity, Sufi Islam became more ingrained into the personal and public lives of the populace.

It was only in the 1970’s that Salafism, which was bankrolled by petro-dollars began to gain prominence in Nigeria. Mucahid Durmaz in an article titled “The Unknown Side of Boko Haram: How a Salafi Group Spread in Historically Sufi Northern Nigeria” writing in The New Turkey (24 February 2018) has this to say: “Essentially, social and economic developments, such as high population growth and rapid urbanization, helped Salafi thoughts to be planted in society. From 1960 to 2015, the country’s population quadrupled from 45 million to 182 million people. According to figures published by the World Bank, the number of people in urban areas also skyrocketed from just 6 to 87 million in the same period. The population boom in urban areas brought with it a huge number of young people who didn’t have traditional Sufi education. These socioeconomic developments undermined the traditional Sufi establishment and formed a basis for new religious movements and scholars to emerge.”

Salafi scholars such as Abdulkadir Gumi and Izala a popular Salafi organization publicly questioned and criticized Sufism and in fact, Izala and were able to reach large audiences. Degenerate Sufism also opened itself to criticism and middle-class Muslims were attracted to the Salafi da’wah (call). The Salafi movement was faced with factionalism and Boko Haram led by Muhammad Yusuf who preached his message from an Izala religious centre founded by Ja’far Mahmud Adam.

Durmaz also points our that it was in the 1980’s that “the city of Maiduguri, which is the capital city of northeastern Borno state, became a center for Salafi groups just in less than two decades. The city was where Adam – the Salafi scholar who hired Muhammed Yusuf into his network – was based, and where Boko Haram was born.” Abubakar Shekau, in a widely publicised video is seen, firing an AK 47 and pronouncing takfir (as heretics) the Naqshabandi Sufis and others.

Those who call for an Islamic state and shari’ah law will do well to learn from their own history and appreciate the way that Shaykh Uthman Dan Fodio was able to marry the tariqah with a reformist agenda based on the welfare of the masses.

4 August 2019


South Africa’s First Islamic Finance Conference: Some Reflections -Mawlana Dr. MAE (Ashraf) Dockrat


South Africa’s First Islamic Finance Conference: Some Reflections

by Mawlana Dr MAE (Ashraf) Dockrat (Pretoria)

Volume 7 (2019), Number 11 (July 2019)

Al Baraka Bank’s press release of the 21 June 2019 led with the headline “Industry Experts Gather at South Africa’s First Islamic Finance Conference.”

The IFN (Islamic Finance News) South Africa Forum was held at Cape Town’s Marriott Hotel Crystal Towers on Monday 24 June 2019 and brought together industry players, decision-makers and regulators to deliberate on “Shariah Finance” in South African and to explore “opportunities the country has to offer”. Delegates, according to the press release, discussed “the biggest market trends and debate hard-hitting topics and challenges facing Islamic Finance in South Africa.”

“The IFN Forum South Africa 2019, the first-of-its-kind for the country, is the last stop on the IFN African Roadshow which commenced on 18 June and included similar events in Kenya and Nigeria.”

Islamic Finance was touted as a viable alternative to traditional banking models for the benefit of Governments, the business sector and investors. Presenters tackled subjects such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the role of “Islamic financial institutions”.

The Conference had the blessings of the Banking Association of South Africa, was led by the keynote address by BASA Managing Director, Cas Coovadia. The big- wigs of “Islamic Finance” and executive who peddle their wares under the guise of “Islamic Finance and Shariah-compliant banking” were attracted to the event like bees to the nectar. Muftis and Ulama who serve on multiple “Shariah-compliance Boards” gave the event their blessings.

“As South Africa’s only fully-fledged Islamic Bank, it was critical that Al Baraka Bank played a leading role at this historic event. Al Baraka Bank will participate in several key panel discussions that debate issues influencing Islamic finance, banking and investment in Southern Africa and beyond, including a critical debate on the role of Islamic finance in the future development and achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in Southern Africa,” explains Al Baraka Bank’s Chief Executive, Mr Shabir Chohan.

In his press release Chohan states: “South Africa is increasingly being recognised as a prominent player in the global Islamic Finance industry and it is encouraging to note that since 2010, our legislation has been continually tailored to better facilitate Shariah-compliant financial transactions and better accommodate the industry. The Islamic Finance industry has a vital role to play in working with Government to grow and improve the South African economy, well into the future”.

“Islamic Finance” is an ulceration of “Islamic Trade” and has no place in Shari’ah or the vision of the Islamic economic system. The Banking Council welcomes the ulama and experts who will design ever more conflated instruments that support their usurious capitalist masters.

Fundamentally Islamic finance is just another banking product, where competing banks vie with each other to lock in surplus Muslim capital. The entire discourse on “Islamic” finance is about semantics rather than substance. We understand banking in itself to be a usurious institution serving a greater end than just mere financing or as a depository. Secondly the mechanics of the money system as it exists currently is itself usurious since it represents intangibility at every level of what would qualify a medium of exchange as money.

What the discourse further ignores is a study of natural trading principles as a measure of wealth creation and how this functioned within the Islamic ethos and beyond. Trade was generated by a social compact, the mechanics of which was embodied in numerous forms of partnership and rental contracts. However the mechanics was part of a greater engineering project, the project being equity and not profit. For equity is a greater guarantor of wealth creation than profit. The logic of profit as the sole arbiter of trade leads to wealth retention (hoarding) and a decrease in the velocity of transactions (monopoly). Banking serves the interests of the latter two forms. However the form of the social compact within the Islamic ethos can be found in the guilds, the markets and the laws that governed them legislatively as well as behaviourally.

The criminality inherent in the current discourse is firstly the need to prefix the word “Islam” to the concept of banking. To prefix Islam to uncharacteristic institutions or ideals such as banking, democracy etc. would make it a misnomer. Secondly the entire nature of how money is loaned or borrowed cannot be substantiated within the principles of Islamic trading or partnership contracts as the requirement for transparency is absent. By this we mean the investors are composed of anonymous depositors. The bank is owned anonymously. The borrower remains an anonymous entity to the investors. The nature of the borrower’s transaction is not known by the investor. The exact profit or loss accrued as a result of the borrower’s transaction is not known by the investor is guaranteed a fixed return for his investment, and so forth. Finally, those involved in the discourse of “Islamic” Banking have no understanding of the historicity of the evolution of banking. Furthermore, they have no clue of the epistemology of either how usurious finance came into being and for what purpose. Nor do they have any idea of the epistemology of Islamic trading principles in its existential form. Even if they do know all of this, they choose to ignore it and adulterate it to suit their immediate usurious end. This therefore makes them true criminals.

It is telling that at the South African Conference, in spite of the global economic slump, there were no presentations on Islamic economics and the viability of the Islamic system to redress the ills of humanity. Clearly macro-economics is not on the agenda because the status co suits the participants.

True Muslim scholars are able to see the farce for what it is: A stop-plug that has now become the real thing. Packaged as “Islamic Finance”, it is about “financing” and it is the profits that accrue from this venture that is king. “Islamic Banks” and commercial banks who have smelled the sweet nectar have all taken ownership of traditional fiqhi instruments of the production of wealth such as mudarabah and musharakah (profit-sharing and partnerships) and have made it so complicated that the ordinary farmer has no access to the flowers. None of the institutions want the “client” to be the real investor and take no real risk.

Participants were clearly impressed by the fact that for the first time all the major players were around one table. There was clearly enough nectar to go around. With their sticky hands no one can really make a viable contribution to the implementation of the Islamic economic system as a viable alternative at the service of mankind.

18 July 2019

The Status of Non-Muslims in Islamic History – Professor Hussein Solomon


The Status of Non-Muslims in Islamic History

By Hussein Solomon

Volume 7 (2019), Number 10 (July 2019)

In recent years, the African continent has witnessed a resurgence of religious hatred from the discrimination Coptic Christians experience in Egypt to the genocidal violence in the Central African Republic and to the burning of churches and murder of Christians in Nigeria. Muslim voices often explain that this does not represent true Islam and that militant Islamists like Boko Haram do not represent the authentic tradition of peace in the Islamic faith. This begs the question of the status of non-Muslims in Islamic history.

The historical record pertaining to the treatment of non-Muslims in Islamic states is mixed. Islamically, Christians and Jews are fellow People of the Book and may not be forced to convert. As people who worshipped earlier revelations from the same God, Jews and Christians had to be protected by Muslim rulers, who also allowed them to be governed by their own rules and by their own leadership. This was one of the major reasons for the spread of Islam. Jews, for instance, rejoiced and welcomed Muslims when they wrested control of Jerusalem from the Byzantines. Byzantine Christians had desecrated Jewish religious sites, using Jewish places of worship as garbage dumps. With the capture of the City of David in 638 CE, Muslim conquerors welcomed Jews back and restored religious places of worship. In Christian Spain, meanwhile, Jews experiencing persecution called on the Muslims of Morocco to alleviate their yoke of suffering. An alliance was then entered into in which Jews and Muslims militarily wrested control of Spain in 711 CE. Recognizing that governance of their vast empire needed talented bureaucrats, irrespective of their faith, early Muslim rulers also appointed Christians and Jews into senior diplomatic and military posts, as court physicians and bankers.

This, however, is not the whole story. As Yahya Cholil Staquf, the Secretary-General of the 50 million strong Indonesian NadhlatulUlama has asserted within the classical tradition, there is also a relationship of segregation and enmity between Muslims and non-Muslims. For instance, Christians and Jews have to pay a poll tax, which Muslims were exempt from paying. This poll tax was institutionalized in the shari’a. Interestingly Abdullah and Keshavjee believe this practice was borrowed from the pagan Romans. Historical evidence also strongly supports the view that such discrimination against Christians and Jews was institutionalized. Irshad Manji reminds us that under the reign of Caliph Umar, a document entitled the “Pact of Umar” appeared which decreed that:

  • Non-Muslims stand when any Muslim wishes to be seated
  • Non-Muslims must watch their houses of worship deteriorate without being allowed to renovate them, and that a
  • Muslim’s testimony in court is superior to that offered by a non-Muslim. Implicit here is the assumption that Muslims are truthful, non-Muslims are not.

This system of discrimination was further developed by ninth century Islamic legal scholars who advised Muslim governors that their Christian and Jewish subjects should not occupy the middle of a road or seats at a market; that they wear a girdle over their clothes and that they should distinguish themselves from Muslims.The implications of this apartheid system was felt across Africa and the Middle East as Irshad Manji makes clear:

In North Africa, Jews and Christians wore shoulder patches with pictures of pigs and monkeys, respectively. They had to slap these symbols on the doors of their homes, too. In Baghdad, seat of Islamic enlightenment, the dhimmi peoples dressed in clothes bearing yellow symbols – a marker resuscitated by the Nazis”.

More recently, following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, an anti-Semitic backlash against Jews in Muslim countries resulting in 900,000 Jews being forced to leave their homes and seek refuge elsewhere. The majority of these fled to Israel. Between 1948 and 2012 the number of Jews in these countries plummeted: in Algeria from 140,000 to 0; in Egypt from 75,000 to 5; in Iraq from 135,000 to less than 10; in Libya from 38,000 to 0; in Morocco from 265,000 to 3,000; in Syria from 30,000 to 22; in Tunisia from 105,000 to 1,500; and from Yemen from 63,000 to less than 200.

Throughout the Muslim world, non-Muslims live a precarious existence. In Egypt, Coptic Christians are periodically attacked and their places of worship set ablaze. Fundamentalist Muslims have also attacked churches in Pakistan and Indonesia and Christians have been killed in both countries. In northern Nigeria, too, Christians and their places of worship have been repeatedly targeted by the Islamist militant of Boko Haram. Indeed, between March 2018 and March 2019, at least 500 Christians were killed in Nigeria’s Middle Belt not only by Boko Haram but also by Muslims Fulani herdsmen. Meanwhile, in the birthplace of Islam, in Saudi Arabia, no churches or synagogues are allowed and Christians and Jews are not allowed to celebrate their religious holidays. All this suggests that the Islamist juggernaut represented by the likes of Al Shabaab, Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, Boko Haram and Islamic State are not aberrations. They have their origins in Islamic history and Muslims need to engage in some critical introspection.

This, however, does not have to be the norm.  There is a more tolerant strand of Islam which Muslims need to fiercely is co-existence is the goal we seek. In Islam, non-Muslims are expected to practice their own faiths freely and to apply their own laws in civil matters. Moreover, Muslim husbands are expected to allow their Christian and Jewish spouses to practice their respective faiths freely. The Qur’an is quite explicit in urging Muslims to enter into contracts with non-Muslim thereby allowing each to obey the other’s religious beliefs. In another verse, still, the holy book urges Muslims not to argue with non-Muslims, but rather to state, “We believe in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, as well as that which has been bestowed upon you; for our God and your God is one and the same, and it is unto him that we [all] surrender ourselves”.As Islamists claim to revere the traditions of the Prophet and seek to emulate him, it would be perhaps useful to note that he married a Jewish woman, that he attended the funeral of a Jewish man and that he left his armour with his Jewish neighbour for safe-keeping – the latter being symbolic of the utmost trust he had in his neighbour.

Moreover, in keeping with the verses from the Qur’an mentioned earlier to make formal treaties with non-Muslims, the Prophet made several of these with non-Muslim tribes in Tabale, Jarash, Adhruh, Maqna, Khaybar, Najran and Ayla. Given the ongoing tensions between Muslims and people of other faiths, it is imperative for Muslims to restore the essential humanity of the Qur’an. Implicit in the verses of the Qur’an and the examples in the Prophet’s life is that there is one God, despite the fact that the paths to the Divine are many. In the early 1990s, Fethullah Gulen recognized this and wrote of the importance of interfaith dialogues:

The goal of dialogue among world religions is not simply to destroy scientific materialism and the destructive materialistic worldview; the very nature of religion demands this dialogue. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and even Hinduism and other world religions accept the same source for themselves, and, including Buddhism share the same goal. As a Muslim, I accept all Prophets and Books sent to different peoples and throughout history, and regard belief in them as an essential principle of being Muslim. A Muslim is a true follower of Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus and other Prophets. Not believing in one Prophet or Book means that one is not a Muslim. Thus we acknowledge the oneness and basic unity of religion, which is a symphony of God’s blessings and mercy, and the universality of belief in religion. So, religion is a system of belief embracing all races and all beliefs, a road bringing everyone together in brotherhood …. Regardless of how their adherents implement their faith in their daily lives, such generally accepted values as love, respect, tolerance, forgiveness, mercy, human rights, peace, brotherhood and freedom, by religion. Most of them are accorded the highest precedence in the messages brought by Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, as well as in the messages of Buddha and even Zarathustra, Lao-Tzu, Confucius, and the Hindu prophets…”

From this perspective, there can be no “othering” and no discrimination against non-Muslim citizens in a Muslim-majority polity. Gulen’s approach rejects exclusivist interpretations of faith and embraces pluralism, diversity and tolerance. In the process, inclusive governance is practiced and leads to a more stable polity.

The Islamic State in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: what does it mean? – Dr. Barend Prinsloo


The Islamic State in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: what does it mean?

By Barend Prinsloo

Head of the Security Studies programme at North West University in South Africa

Volume 7 (2019), Number 9 (June 2019)

For the second time in 2019, the Islamic State (ISIS) took responsibility for attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The first attack occurred on 18 April 2019 and the second on 30 May 2019. The media attributed these attacks to MONUSCO and the Military of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC), to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) which has extensive roots in Uganda’s Islamist circles. ISIS’ complicity is so far only anecdotal and the ADF has often been accused of working with other extremist groups around the world.  If these attacks were carried out by ISIS in conjunction with the ADF, it would imply that the former Syrian caliphate is again expanding its territory and influence further south on the African continent. This article will look into the evidence and implications of ISIS involvement.


By February 2019, military losses have forced ISIS to relinquish the idea of ruling a geographical “caliphate”, but the group retained the long-term aspiration and continues to proclaim it online. ISIS was reported to still control between 14,000 and 18,000 militants in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, including up to 3,000 foreign terrorist fighters.[1] As widely reported in the media, ISIS officially declared that it still has a presence in the following countries and regions: Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, “Khorasan” (the Afghanistan-Pakistan region), “the Caucasus”, “East Asia” (mostly active in the Philippines), Somalia, and “West Africa” (mostly active in Nigeria).[2]Not known by many, ISIS has divided Africa into several different provinces or wilayah (some smaller ISIS provinces are not included in this discussion):

  • The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) with an estimated 100 to 400 fighters that combined its efforts with the Al-Qaida affiliated Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam Wa al-Muslimin (JNIM)and is connected to transnational crime.[3][4]
  • In West Africa, ISIS’ grouping is called the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). ISWAP was born from Boko Haram when it pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and ISIS; five days later, Baghdadi recognized the pledge. Thus, at least on paper, Boko Haram ostensibly ceased to exist. In its place, the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) was set up[5]. Beginning in May 2019, ISIS began to attribute insurgent activities in the Mali-Burkina Faso-Niger tri-border area to ISWAP.[6]
  • In video released by al-Furqan media on 29 April 2019, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in his first appearance for five years, was seen handling documents about some global affiliates, including one entitled “Wilayah Central Africa”[7] or the Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP).[8] Although ISIS only formally recognised ISCAP in April 2019, the Central African province was previously mentioned by Baghdadi in an August 2018 speech, implying ISCAP had existed for almost a year before ISIS first publicly attributed an attack to the wilayah.[9]

In the aftermath of the 30 May 2019 attack on MONUSCO and FARDC, ISIS claimed responsibility – even though FARDC stated that the ADF lost 26 soldiers (some say 23 soldiers) without any linkage to ISIS.[10] Nonetheless, the link between ISIS and ADF has been a longstanding likelihood:

  • In 2017, the ADF in DRC began to emerge as a new destination for would-be ISIS recruits in Africa. Though ISIS certainly does not regard the ADF as part of its Caliphate, some ADF members expressed support for ISIS, and ISIS could well see the advantage in having a territorial foothold in sub-Saharan Africa.[11]
  • In a video that surfaced online in October 2017, an Arabic-speaking ADF militant appeared to pledge allegiance to ISIS and called on individuals to join them in DRC. The speaker stated “I swear to God that this is Dar al-Islam [House of Islam] of the Islamic State in Central Africa.” The video featured the MTM name and the newer ISIS flag. It did not feature any of the group’s high-ranking Ugandan leadership, nor was it officially recognized by ISIS in any form, so it cannot be viewed as an official pledge of allegiance, or bayat, by the group. It does however show further support for ISIS within the ADF. The video was also popular among ISIS supporters, and was widely shared by pro-ISIS media.[12]
  • The author has reviewed photos published by ISIS of ISCAP fighters as well as unpublished documents and could identify at least three ISIS/ISCAP fighters with a high degree of certainty as well as several of their weapons to be among the deceased fighters. It is thus highly likely that ISIS/ISCAP have formal ties with the ADF at the moment.


A formal acknowledgement of cooperation between the ADF and ISIS is still nowhere to be found. However, ISIS appears to model its wilayats on the administrative systems of the Ottoman Empire and Abbasid Dynasty.  This would imply that they would continue to seek contiguous boundaries of influence. It would make sense for them to work with other extremist groups and expand some of their smaller provinces in Somalia to Tanzania and Mozambique. South Africa could find themselves the crosshairs in more ways than one: many media reports have singled out the South African contribution to MONUSCO’s effective response on 30 May 2019.  ISIS have also noted this fact.