Muslim leaders in South Africa have protested against President Barack Obama’s visit to that country in late June and early July, calling him “as morally bankrupt as any of his predecessors,” local news sources report.
While South Africa’s Muslim community is culturally and politically diverse, its leaders often adopt a radical anti-American line.
The protest was sparked by an effort by the City of Cape Town to award Obama and the First Lady with the “freedom of the city.” The Obamas would be the first foreigners to receive the distinction.
The Cape Town-based Muslim Judicial Council blasted the award when it was first suggested last year, citing President Obama’s drone policy, mocking U.S. Memorial Day, and invoking antisemitic accusations about “financial beneficiaries” that were supposedly urging the city to honor the American president:
He has not brought the world any closer to peace, as the US Memorial Day suggests. Instead he has continued on the path of retaining the mantra of ‘permanent war’ accompanied by zero accountability.
Obama’s intimate role in authorizing US drone attacks overseas is a cold-blooded account of how he and his disciples in Washington decide on who will live and who must die. Innocent Pakistani, Yemeni, Somali and Afghani civilians have lost their lives or have suffered traumatic injuries that have changed their lives forever. This is in clear violation of the due process of the law, which is a corner stone of any civilized society.
In 2011, the Council also criticized the U.S. for killing Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden: “”The US had ample time before to carry out the raid. We are questioning why they decided to act now,” a representative said.
In a bizarre twist, South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), has joined the protest against Cape Town’s award, calling on President Obama to reject it. Cape Town is governed by the opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, which tends to favor free market policies over the ANC’s redistributionist philosophy.
The Obama administration has not yet confirmed that Cape Town will be on his itinerary.
South African President Jacob Zuma was one of the few world leaders to speak out against President Obama during the war against Muammar Gaddhafi’s regime in Libya in 2011. Gaddhafi had supported the ANC in its exile years, and had been a patron of pan-African political movements until his removal from power and death.
Full disclosure: the author worked for the Democratic Alliance in Cape Town from 2002 to 2006.