“…people trust NGOs before they trust governments…” Maulana Hashiem Cassiem, opening address 2017 SANZAF fund-raising dinner, Cape Town.
“Let’s strike a blow for justice…let’s strike a blow for our youth…” Former Ambassador, Ebrahim Rasool, in his keynote address.
“We have to teach the youth not only to fish, but to change the fishing industry…” Yasmina Francke, SANZAF General Manager.
THE 2017 annual SANZAF fund-raising dinner was not only a glittering function, held at Islamia College in Cape Town, and attended by an array of prominent community figures, but a thought-provoking evening with its focus on the youth.
Maulana Cassiem’s opening statement (reflected above) threw into immediate focus, the heavy responsibility that NGOs, such as SANZAF, have to bear – particularly in developing societies with a massive youth bulge such as South Africa.
Keynote speaker, former SA ambassador in the US, Ebrahim Rasool, said that as one of the most admired ummahs in the world, because of our civic freedoms, we had a duty in South Africa to remember the youth.
He drew on his apartheid era prison experiences to emphasise the importance of mentorship and guidance, mentioning the unsung role of Maulana Hashiem, who used to visit him in Pollsmoor prison during his detention in the 1980s, and help him with the Qur’an.
Rasool said he had returned to South Africa to try and help to re-establish the dignity of our country after the shocking scandals of the Zuma presidency. “Tonight is the future,” he said, “what country are we going to give to our youth?”
He went to compare the plight of the Seven Companions of the cave in Surat ul-Kahf to that of youth today. The verses in the Qur’an spoke of truth to young people. They rejected old beliefs that took their parents away from righteousness, and embraced a new one – monotheism and morality.
“These young men were anchored by a simple truth,” he said. Despite their hardships and challenges, they were bolstered with courage and had sabr – true resilience. Their centuries’ long sleep protected them from fasad, enabling them to enjoy the opportunity of redemption: “…and the ability to absorb, but to push back” and to remain who they were, in spite of things.
SANZAF, added Rasool, was here to build the youth. Allah, the Almighty, gave us – and especially the youth – potentiality for redemption, renewal and hope. The bulwark of this was through education. Lack of education was a ‘poverty sentence’ for young people.
“We should imbue our young people with resilience, the notion that they can redeem themselves if they err (because of their inexperience),” he said, commenting that adults become captive to (petty) details. The question was whether we were striking a blow for youth, for justice.
The first revelation in the Qur’an, said Rasool, was in reality, a ‘war’ against illiteracy, ignorance and stupidity. That 52% of the ummah, world-wide, was illiterate (especially women) was a sad indictment on us.
“We have to read, write and research…how is it that we have fallen to where we are now, more eloquent in fighting each other than fighting ignorance? We need to connect with the civilisational impulse that came with the Qur’an’s first revelation,” said Rasool.
Young people, he concluded, had to take up the cudgels in the post-Zuma era.
SANZAF General Manager, Yasmina Francke, told the audience that SANZAF’s Development and Empowerment Development programme (SEED) had expanded more than three times its original size in recent years to service 15 institutions, with massive potential to empower and enable even more young people, if given the chance.
She said the key to mentoring in youth programmes was to ensure that its beneficiaries received consistent and holistic support, from the early years to Grade 12, which could deal with all the concentration impeding distractions and issues.
“ We have to invest in the youth. We have to teach the youth not only to fish, but to change the fishing industry,” she said.