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Abdullah Haron (Posthumous)

The Order of Luthuli in

Abdullah Haron (Posthumous) Awarded for:
His exceptional contribution to raising awareness of political injustices. His legacy remains that of a man who stood for truth and justice.
Profile of Abdullah Haron

Abdullah Haron was born in Newlands, Cape Town, on 8 February 1923. In Cape Town he studied Islamic theology under several leading Imams and Sheikhs, especially Sheikh Ismail Ganief Edwards, who encouraged him to participate in community activities. In 1955, at the age of 33, he was appointed to serve as the Imam of the Al Jaami’ah mosque in Claremont, Cape Town.

Gradually his political awareness grew, and many young Muslims found a place where their faith could be accommodated with their activism. The Group Areas Act loomed large over the community. This period is marked with forced removals of people not classified as “white” from Claremont and other suburbs, to more distant sectors of the city. Then came the threat to the mosque itself, and this prompted the Imam to declare boldly that the Quranic law laid down that “the precincts of the mosque are inviolable and the building sacred forever. No mosque can be sold or destroyed.” Eventually the State backed down.

However, the apartheid system continued to spread its tentacles to all aspects of society. He began to seek ways in which to obtain bursaries and other support for the studies of the youth. He also became more involved in discussions with members of political organisations – the Unity Movement, the Coloured People’s Congress and then the Congress Alliance under the banner of the African National Congress (ANC). This was the time of his growing friendship with Barney Desai, who eventually was forced into exile.

The Sharpeville massacre, where police shot and killed 69 unarmed people and injured many more who had been protesting against the Pass Laws, was a terrible shock. He joined many others in speaking out against the Government’s actions, and in seeking to alleviate the hardships experienced mainly by African people. From then on his involvement grew, and recognition of his leadership spread. He became more aware of socio-political problems, and was attracted to the ideas of the Teachers League of South Africa and the Non- European Movement.

When the famous 1960 Pan Africanist Congress-led march took place in Cape Town, the Imam delivered a significant Friday sermon emphasising the concept of human brotherhood in Islam and urging Muslims to support Africans who were the worst affected by the racist system. By this time he had formed close contacts with African people in Langa, Nyanga and Gugulethu.

On 28 May 1969, he was arrested and detained in terms of Section 6 of Act 83 of 1967, referred to as the Terrorism Act.

He was tortured to death in police custody on 27 September 1969. The huge crowds who attended his funeral were evidence of the high regard in which he was held, and his religious and political teachings influenced the student generation of 1976 and after.