World: How ISIS is recruiting in South Africa

‘It‘s naive to think South Africa is immune. We are part of a global community’

for now, Islamic State‘s (IS) focus on South Africa is not to bring bloodshed to the country.

Instead, it involves “careful propaganda programmes using deception to recruit the country‘s youth to fight in a misguided war against the enemies of Islam”.

This is the message by South African Islamic scholars and academics days after a 15-year-old schoolgirl was pulled off a British Airways flight from Cape Town.

The girl, from Cape Town‘s southern suburb of Kenwyn — whose residents are both Muslim and Christian — ran away from home on Sunday, boarding the flight to Johannesburg with an onwards ticket to Saudi Arabia “to presumably join IS”.

Kenwyn community leader Hanif Loonat said yesterday that residents of some of Cape Town‘s sprawling settlements had told him their communities were being turned into recruiting areas.

One such area, Loonat said, is Blikkiesdorp, where Somalia‘s Islamic terror group al-Shabab last year allegedly tried to recruit fighters.

“A resident told me how a man, allegedly part of al-Shabab, tried to get people to fight for them. He was targeting the youth.

“Recently, a father told me how his son disappeared 18 months ago after leaving their Cape Town home for the Middle East for work. He fears he‘s involved in war.”

Loonat said IS, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram were not Islamic.

“They are cowards using their greed for power to attract recruits. Parents must take responsibility for their children.”

His warning comes as the State Security ministry spokesman, Brian Dube, said: “Several investigations are under way, not only into this recruitment, but also other possible recruitments.”

He said although this was the first confirmed case of IS recruiting a South African, it was following up reports of others being lured by the organisation, including a Port Elizabeth family.

“It‘s naive to think South Africa is immune. We are part of a global community. Everyone fears IS, especially around the recruitment of one‘s citizens.”

Shabbir Ahmed Saloojee, Gauteng‘s Zakariyya Park Madressa principal, said there was a need to educate the youth.

“IS‘s misuse of Islam must be exposed.”

Saloojee said IS has no credibility among South Africa‘s recognised Muslim organisations.

Andre Roux, Institute for Security Studies defence conflict management consultant, said: “South Africa has been a rear base for radical fundamentalists for years.

“One of IS‘s strengths is its social media propaganda machine. Fortunately for now, we don‘t have hundreds of returning jihadists — a powerful recruitment tool.”

This article first appeared in The Times