The gruesome attack on a KwaZulu-Natal mosque, in which an imam had his throat slit and two others were viciously stabbed, should not be used as an excuse for the Muslim community to take the law into its own hands, nor should it disrupt the peaceful co-existence of Muslims with other religious groups.
Shaykh Isgaak Taliep, secretary-general of the Muslim Judicial Council, expressed his organisation’s shock at the attack late yesterday afternoon, but was at pains to make this appeal, saying police should be allowed to do their work.
Two men were seriously injured during yesterday’s attack on the Imam Hussain Mosque on Old Main Road, in Ottawa, Verulam. The imam died after having his throat slit.
According to Prem Balram, spokesperson for a security company, Reaction Unit South Africa, their call centre received a report of a “terrorist attack” at the Verulam mosque at 2.39pm yesterday.
On arrival, they found two men in the mosque’s forecourt, bleeding profusely. They contacted emergency services and were then alerted to smoke emanating from the rear of the building.
“While attending to the fire, a third victim, who is believed to have fallen from the second floor, was found with his throat slit,” Balram told The Citizen, while still at the scene of the attack yesterday afternoon.
A bloody knife was found beside the third victim. This third victim, who turned out to be an imam, died despite emergency services’ attempts to stabilise him.
“According to eyewitnesses, three Egyptian males, armed with knives and guns, fled the scene in a white Hyundai without number plates.”
Some reports alleged the attackers wore balaclavas.
Taliep said rumours had already begun circulating on possible motives for the attack. But he appealed for people not to speculate about the attack and jump to conclusions, which may lead to tempers flaring within the community.
“While we condemn this heinous attack in the strongest terms, we call on all parties to remain calm, and allow the police and intelligence to do their work,” Taliep pleaded. “We call on society to allow the law to take its course, so the perpetrators can be brought to book.
“The South African Muslim community has always lived harmoniously with all other religions and ethnic groups. I can think of no reason for this heinous crime. This attack should not be the cause for that harmony to end.”
Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele confirmed they were looking for three suspects. The victims were all transported to local hospitals.