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Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Iftaar dinner of The Greater Athlone parliamentary constituency office

Programme Director,
President of the Muslim Judicial Council, Shaykh Irfaan Abrahams,
President of the United Ulama Council of South Africa, Shaykh Igsaan Taliep,
Ministers,
Auntie Farida Omar, the wife of late Dullah Omar, 
Uncle Solly Noor,
Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, 
Honourable Mr Faiez Jacobs, MP,
Religious leaders present,
Representatives of civil society and community organisations,
Our Muslim brothers and sisters here this evening and across our country and our continent,
Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
It is a great honour to have been invited to share in the breaking of the fast this evening.
 
Thank you to the organisers who have prepared such a splendid iftaar dinner for us.
 
Ramadan is a sacred month with deep spiritual significance for our Muslim community and for the more than 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. 
 
It is a month of prayer, discipline and sacrifice, when Muslims affirm and renew their commitment to their faith. 
 
But it is also a month of solidarity, charity and empathy with those less fortunate. 
 
This is my second iftaar here in Cape Town. 
 
And as it was the first time, I feel deeply enriched both spiritually and mentally by my engagement with members of the community this evening.
 
I am also particularly glad to be here in Athlone, and in a community that has played such an significant role in our history.
 
During our struggle for liberation, Athlone was an important site of resistance politics, particularly among the student and civic movements. 
 
Athlone was an active centre for the United Democratic Front and many of our leaders from the Muslim community were in its structures. 
 
We know that this community paid a heavy price for its resistance, but, despite this, stood firm. 
 
Islam has a rich and proud history in South Africa. 
 
Acknowledging this contribution is key to having an inclusive history. 
 
Our children must be taught about the bravery and heroism of all our communities and their leaders. 
 
It gives a sense of belonging. 
 
It reminds us that just as we struggled together and all shared in the victory over apartheid, we must also overcome today’s challenges together. 
 
Our history affirms the integral place of Muslims, and indeed of all faith communities, in the rich cultural tapestry that makes South Africa the great country that it is. 
 
It is a country of religious freedom, of cultural diversity, and, above all, a country that belongs to all who live in it.
 
Our history affirms the struggles of this community against intolerance of centuries-old traditions; against disrespect for customs; and against the onslaught of crime and disorder. 
 
I remember how deeply touched I was by an image I saw of demonstrators outside Claremont Main Road Mosque at the height of the global Black Lives Matter protests. 
 
They were holding placards reading ‘Bonteheuwel Lives Matter’, ‘Valhalla Park Lives Matter’, and ‘Cape Flats Lives Matter’.
 
They matter a great deal. Every single life affected by the many scourges that continue to plague our communities, matters. 
 
It was the Prophet Muhammad, Peace be upon Him, who said: “No one of you is a true believer until he desires for his brother and sister what he desires for himself.”
 
Caring for the needy and showing empathy with one’s fellow man and woman are important tenets of Islam. 
 
The Muslim community in South Africa is known for its contribution to community upliftment, to helping the poor, and for working to overcome poverty, inequality and under-development.
 
This is a tradition of charity that has been maintained regardless of the faith or non-faith of those in need.
 
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live. 
 
At a time when there was so much fear and uncertainty, the Muslim community, working with other faith communities, joined hands with us as government.
 
I want to salute the leaders who played such a pivotal role in mobilising communities, in raising awareness around the regulations, and in providing much needed moral support. 
 
I want to thank our religious leaders who put health and safety first and made the extremely difficult decision to keep places of worship closed during the early days of the lockdown, and to comply with regulations in subsequent months.
 
I want to salute the ordinary men, women and children from this community whose actions brought comfort to those who needed it most. 
 
I speak of the many soup kitchens opened, the food parcels distributed, and the water provided to destitute communities.
 
But I also speak of the community members who gathered outside hospitals in the city to offer prayers and songs of support to the patients inside. 
 
And of the religious scholars who have been holding open-air devotional prayers in crime-affected areas in Cape Town to try to bring peace.
 
We know as the South African people that the spirit of selflessness and service is not confined to Ramadan, it is a defining feature of this community, for which we are eternally grateful.
 
Brothers and Sisters,
 
A time will come when COVID-19 has passed, and we will be able to return to our lives. 
 
But we know the many ills that preceded the pandemic remain. 
 
We have a monumental task to rebuild our country, and at the same time deal with the enduring legacy of our past. 
 
We have to advance the cause of social justice, because the injustices of our past continue to be felt daily in the lives of our people, including in the Muslim community.
 
Ramadan is a time in which Muslims engage in the higher matters of the spirit. But it is also a time of cooperation, solidarity and unity.
 
This is a country that has been bestowed with much, and her greatest asset is her people. 
 
The apartheid regime sought to make us enemies of each other, of African against coloured, of coloured against Indian, and of black against black. 
 
Years later, we still have to contend with those who seek to pit us against each other and sow divisions.
 
But we were brought together by democracy, and we still stand together. 
 
As this sacred month draws to a close, I want to call on the Muslim community to join hands with us in the national recovery and reconstruction effort. 
 
I call on our community and its leaders to continue to be part of the moral regeneration of our society so we can free ourselves from of vice, from crime, from violence, from corruption, and from ignorance and discrimination.
 
We must continue to be champions of gender justice and inclusion of women in our communities in everything we do.
 
We must take a firm stand against all forms of gender-based violence and gender discrimination; we must stand firmly for justice, even if it is against our parents, our relatives, or our very selves. 
 
In just five months from now, we will hold our sixth local government elections. 
 
The vote is the most potent weapon in the hands of all who aspire to a better society that is more compassionate, that is kinder to the suffering and the needy, that is more equal, and that respects the fundamental rights and freedoms of all. 
 
It is a society that the illustrious anti-apartheid leaders from the Muslim community fought for, and it is our responsibility to uphold this legacy.
 
We are one nation that is united in its diversity.
 
We can only build South Africa if we each play our part. 
 
Not as Muslim people or as Christian people. Not as any other grouping, but just as South Africans who love this country.
 
May the cherished values of peace, charity and solidarity that characterise Ramadan continue to prevail, and is spread around.
 
Just as the kramats in the mountains and hills form a protective ring around the city and its people, let us hold firmly to the rope of unity, for it is our strongest shield.
 
Let us keep our eyes fixed on the common goal of a better South Africa and a better life for all.
 
Shukran. I thank you.