Image copyright
The Imam Haron Foundation

Relations and pals of an imam who died 50 years ago whereas opposing racism in South Africa are quiet traumatised by his loss of life, writes the BBC’s Penny Dale.

Two momentous occasions happened in Cape City in South Africa on 29 September 1969.

The essential was as soon as a extensive funeral march – some 40,000 folks carried the coffin of Imam Abdullah Haron for about 10km (six miles) to his closing resting field in Mowbray Muslim Cemetery.

And at evening a rare and large earthquake shook the earth.

For those who attended the funeral these two occasions are indelibly linked – they are saying the loss of life of the pioneering 45-year-aged South African imam was as soon as so painful and so frightful.

Imam Haron died in a police cell on 27 September, after 123 days of solitary confinement and day-to-day interrogations about his involvement within the fight against the racist system of apartheid, which ended in 1994 with the election of Nelson Mandela as South Africa’s first murky president.

Imam Haron was as soon as the first cleric of any faith to die in custody underneath the apartheid regime. His loss of life signalled that even men of God had been no longer safe from an increasingly more repressive, white-supremacist state.

The artist named after the imam

His loss of life prompted worldwide outrage, and he grew to become the first Muslim to be venerated at the notorious St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

The safety police acknowledged he died after falling down a flight of stairs.

They acknowledged the 2 broken ribs and 27 bruises on Imam Haron’s physique had nothing to web with them, despite their notoriety for the exercise of torture and beatings.

The imam’s family sing they web no longer web „that lie“, and are annoying a fresh inquest to designate 50 years of his loss of life.

The funeral procession of Imam Haron in Cape Town, 1969Image copyright
The Imam Haron Foundation

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Tens of thousands of folks attended the imam’s funeral despite the possibility of being arrested

Backing the campaign is visible artist Haroon Gunn-Salie – who’s named in honour of the imam and has made quite a lot of work works memorialising his lifestyles and loss of life.

Gunn-Salie’s most modern work, Crying for Justice, is an set up within the grounds of the Fortress of Just loyal Hope in Cape City – a symbolic burial ground of 118 unmarked graves, one for every of the parents who he says died in detention ultimately of apartheid, including Imam Haron.

They had been all held without trial – and the police acknowledged they fell down stairs, slipped in showers, or took it upon themselves to jump out of windows.

‚A snort to the courts‘

No-one has ever been held accountable for any of these deaths in detention,and it be a sore, launch effort for the families.

When accomplished, considered from the castle ramparts, the graves Gunn-Salie has dug will spell out the note: Justice?

„The work is as mighty as a snort to the heavens as a snort to the courts,“ says Gunn-Salie.

„It be a public observation asking, barely literally, to unbury the past, to dig up the data, to dig up the proof, and elevate closure to the families.“

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You would even be drawn to:

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Sadly, his 93-year-aged widow Galiema Haron died on Sunday, exactly 50 years after her husband’s funeral, without reaching closure.

In a tribute to her, governing African Nationwide Congress MP Faiez Jacobs acknowledged: „Widowed by what looked to were a deliberate killing, she raised her young folks alone, continuously wondering how her cherished husband had died.

„If the apartheid rulers idea they’ll also cancel her spirit, they had been monstrous. She stood immense, defiant and principled.“

Imam Haron was as soon as judicious one of the youngest imams in South Africa – supreme 32 when he was as soon as appointed in 1955 to e-book the congregation at the Stegmann Street Mosque in Cape City.

He was as soon as a pioneer in Cape City’s largely conservative mixed-escape Muslim community.

Imam Haron's widow and FatiemaImage copyright
The Imam Haron Foundation

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Imam’s Haron’s widow, Galiema, was as soon as left to love their young folks, including Fatiema

He introduced adult training lessons, dialogue groups where the topics had been chosen by young folks and inspired females to acquire segment. And he invited young folks to take a seat down at the entrance of the mosque, barely the abet, and to e-book prayers.

He moreover invited folks from outside the Muslim community – including exchange unionists and liberal politicians – to plot and search the recommendation of with the young folks about what was as soon as going down in South Africa.

„He did now not match the sample of the Muslim clergy which was as soon as barely ritualistic,“ says Aneez Salie, a journalist, long-established member of the ANC’s armed fly and father of the artist Gunn-Salie.

„He was as soon as very innovative, away ahead of his time,“ Mr Salie, who at 13 attended the imam’s funeral, told the BBC.

‚James Bond fan‘

Fatiema Haron-Masoet – the youngest of Imam Haron’s three young folks – was as soon as nearly six when her father died.

„He had a light soul, he was as soon as very type and loving and extremely emotionally accommodating,“ she told the BBC.

The imam’s son Muhammed Haron, now a theology professor in Botswana, was as soon as 12 when his father died.

He remembers his father as a deeply non secular man who had fasted twice a week since he was as soon as a teen – and that wherever he went he wore a murky kafiya, the ragged Arabic scarf, or fez.

„That is his identity – a theological man, a man from the Muslim tradition.“

Surfacing installation by artist Haroon Gunn-SalieImage copyright
Goodman Gallery

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The Muslim prayer hats characterize mourners at the imam’s funeral, on this work by Haroon Gunn-Salie

Nonetheless he was as soon as moreover a „socialite“ and „a man better than lifestyles“ – effectively-dressed, suave, with a sweet tooth, and a ardour for rugby, cricket and the cinema.

The imam had his web projector – and Muhammed remembers groups of the imam’s pals gathering at the family dwelling where his father would show movies „on the entire beyond hour of darkness on a Friday and Saturday“.

The imam was as soon as a extensive fan of the fictional thought James Bond. Per chance with a twinkle in his peep, he named his dwelling Golden Explore – after the sprawling Jamaican property of Ian Fleming, the creator of 007.

Golden Explore, a double-storey dwelling, had a extensive balcony – and the railings had been designed as musical notes.

„Song was as soon as no longer entirely authorized of theologically by the conservatives,“ Muhammed says.

„Nonetheless my father was as soon as theologically in a field to skirt around most of these points that may perhaps perhaps well were idea of taboo.“

„He had a mighty wider imaginative and prescient of issues barely than a slim thought,“ Muhammed explains.

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What was as soon as apartheid?

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Media captionWhat was as soon as apartheid? A 90-2nd explore abet at decades of injustice
  • Launched in 1948 by the Afrikaner-led Nationwide Occasion govt
  • Dim folks judicious injurious
  • No vote for murky folks in national election
  • Races segregated in all facets of lifestyles
  • Steer clear off murky folks from owning land in mighty of South Africa
  • Reserved most professional jobs for white folks
  • Scrapped in 1994 with the election of Nelson Mandela as first murky president

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Imam Haron’s willingness to forge alliances with folks of a form of races, as effectively as with Christians and communists, made him a particular threat to an increasingly more brutal regime desperate to divide and rule.

Outdated rugby player Yusuf „Jowa“ Abrahams – judicious one of the imam’s college students – remembers how the imam tried to safe consciousness within the Muslim community regarding the injustices of apartheid, especially for these most hit by apartheid’s merciless and racist legal pointers: murky South Africans.

„He acknowledged to us we would like to rupture down racial barriers and work against the future,“ Mr Abrahams told the BBC.

Challenged ‚barbaric‘ legal pointers

The imam practised what he preached, frequently visiting murky communities in townships equivalent to Langa, Gugulethu and Nyanga, where he grew to become fondly is named mfundisi, or priest.

As effectively as being an imam, Haron moreover worked as a salesman for the confectionary firm Wilson Rowntree. This job intended he may perhaps perhaps well even legally pass in and out of the townships – even after the apartheid regime restricted folks’s actions and segregated South Africa along racial traces with legal pointers love the Community Areas Act.

South African police officers aggressively arrest Moses Mayekiso, a prominent trade union leader, during a protest march in Johannesburg, South Africa (archive shot)Image copyright
Getty Photos

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The apartheid regime was as soon as intolerant of dissent

In a public meeting held at Cape City’s Drill Corridor in Could moreover 1961, the imam condemned that law as „inhumane, barbaric and un-Islamic“. Four years later, love millions of a form of South Africans, the imam and his family had been forced out of their web dwelling.

Most a form of imams had been too anxious to keep in touch out – or they had been indifferent, yell to be left alone to look after in peace, believing that it was as soon as no longer their responsibility to withstand a repressive govt.

Nonetheless Imam Haron believed otherwise, and he started taking segment in clandestine anti-apartheid operations.

Hailed as a ‚martyr‘ at St Paul’s

He intentionally kept the details of what exactly he was as soon as all for a secret from his wife and his congregation – in repeat to provide protection to them.

Mr Abrahams believes the imam „died along with his secrets and tactics“.

Nonetheless, he’s critical to love developed shut ties with the then banned ANC and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), each and each of that were waging an armed fight, and the Dim Sash – a non-violent factual and welfare circulation of volunteer white females.

Ambrose Reeves (right), the Bishop of Johannesburg, with Canon John Collins (1905 - 1982, left) in London after being deported from South Africa following his reactions to the Sharpeville Massacre, 12th September 1960Image copyright
Getty Photos

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Canon John Collins (L) paid tribute to Imam Haron at St Paul’s Cathedral

In 1966 and at the cease of 1968, the imam went on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. He moreover secretly travelled to Egypt to fulfill political exiles and the World Islamic Council.

And he went to London, where his oldest daughter Shamela was as soon as studying. There he moreover met Canon John Collins of St Paul’s Cathedral, an Anglican priest who was as soon as elevating money for the destitute families of political activists who had been killed, detained, or forced into exile.

The imam and the priest struck up a deep friendship and Abdullah Haron agreed to smuggle in and distribute money on his return to South Africa.

Nonetheless by the time of his return to South Africa in 1969, the imam knew he was as soon as in anguish. On 28 Could moreover 1969 he was as soon as picked up by the apartheid police and four months later he was as soon as dumb.

At the imam’s funeral, Victor Wessels, a teacher and Marxist, acknowledged: „He died no longer merely for the Muslims. He died for his trigger – the motive within the abet of the oppressed folks.“

A pair of days later, on 6 October 1969, Imam Haron was as soon as venerated in St Paul’s Cathedral. His just loyal friend, Canon Collins, spoke of him as a martyr, signalling the deep appreciate the imam commanded all over non secular and racial traces.

Extra reporting by Audrey Brown

To obtain out more regarding the Imam and the Artist listen to the Documentary Podcast from the BBC.

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