Yacoob Baig says he now fears for his life.
Baig was responding to a social media message where his name was used to incite religious discord. The message calls for “Muslims and people against apartheid to participate in a protest against apartheid and fascism” in reference to events in India.
The post said the protest would be held on January 24 at the Indian Consulate on Kingsmead Avenue in Durban.
The message reads, in part: “Dear Muslim brothers and sisters of South Africa. Please join us for a dynamic protest against India and Hindus in Durban against the new law implemented by Fascist Modi to protect minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan which are getting raped and massacred.
“We strongly believe the minorities must get killed and finished if they don’t convert to Islam, and such kind of protest will create awareness about it in South African Muslims and will teach them how to treat other religions who don’t follow Islam.”
It adds that with the support of “our Pakistani Commander-in-Chief, Salman Khan”, the group would demand a separate country as the “Islamic Republic of PakZulu-Natal where we will implement Sharia”.
The message is signed with Baig’s name as the “Imminent President of the Islamic Republic of PakZulu-Natal”.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, Baig said he had received calls from people who alerted him to the letter.
“I was shocked and immediately called my lawyer to get legal advice on what to do. My lawyer advised me to open a case with the police, which I did,” he said.
Baig described the message, being circulated on WhatsApp, as a plot to undermine his integrity and defame him.
“I emphatically deny any association to its implication. I have always worked well with interfaith organisations and leaders of different religious affiliations. This post serves to divide us and promotes segregation and religious intolerance. I have always worked towards religious unity and harmonious co-existence,” he said.
Baig said he had sent a letter to the SA Maha Sabha and SA Tamil Federation, explaining “the reality of this callous deed”, and approached the provincial police commissioner to prioritise investigations into the matter.
“The irresponsible action of this faceless person is totally unfair to the Indian community. We’ve always enjoyed a harmonious relationship and we would like this to continue unabated,” he said.
Police spokesperson Thembeka Mbele said a case of intimidation was opened at the Sydenham police station for investigation.
Premier Sihle Zikalala condemned the message, saying extremists were agitating for the persecution of Hindus and referring to the people of KwaZulu-Natal in derogatory terms. He said the messages expressed terrorist sentiments against the people of the Hindu faith and KwaZulu-Natal in general.
Zikalala has called for a full investigation into the origin of this “dangerous message that threatens violence against fellow citizens”.
SA Hindu Maha Sabha president Ashwin Trikamjee said he was happy the premier had called for an investigation into the matter so that the person behind the messages could be exposed and punished.