ROEDEAN AND THE MUJAHIDEEN
5 DECEMBER 2023
Last week, Roedean in Johannesburg sent out an email to the parents of its junior school. Signed by the Acting Head, Mrs Annabel Roberts, it states as follows:
In the spirit of promoting true inclusivity and a sense of belonging for all pupils within our school, Roedean is appointing Ummah Heart as an external service provider for our Muslim community. They will be offering a “tailor-made” curriculum for Roedean pupils which includes holistic Islamic enrichment. These classes will be part of the new integrated school day forming part of the integrated timetable and will take the same slot as Choir, Hymn Singing and Chapel.
For those who are interested, further communication will be sent out regarding fee structure and additional details. Kindly complete the form and return by Monday 4 December to assist us in assessing attendance.
Many thanks and kind regards
Acting Head of the Junior School”
The trouble with Ummah Heart
Ummah Heart is a madrassah (an Islamic school) headquartered in Crosby, Johannesburg. According to its website, it has established ten campuses across Gauteng and had a total of 700 enrolled students in 2020. Of course, there is nothing wrong with being Muslim or running a madrassah. However, I did some basic desktop research into this specific organisation and was concerned by what I discovered.
Ummah Heart's Instagram page indicates that it has provided full and unequivocal support to Hamas over the past two months. One post calls for Allah to help the Mujahideen (the Jihadi militia) gain victory over the enemies of Islam.
Another post calls for Allah to “put our enemy to rout and help us in overpowering them”.
Ummah Heart has also glorified martyrdom, stating that “For [the western world] death is defeat, for us death with Imam is victory”.
Finally, Ummah Heart has endorsed “conquering Al-Quds” (Jerusalem):
In each instance, an image of a paraglider is prominently displayed alongside the Palestinian flag. The paraglider image has been used globally as a symbol of the recent attack by Hamas in southern Israel.
Hamas’ attack on Israel has received extensive publicity, but the volume of information over the past two months has been so great and many of the details are so sickening that it can be difficult to take it all in and to appreciate the true horror of what occurred. Accordingly, it is worth providing a precis of the salient facts.
Early on the morning of 7 October 2023, approximately 2,900 fighters from Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades breached the Gaza-Israel border and attacked Israeli towns and kibbutzim. A total of 859 Israeli civilians and 458 Israeli soldiers and policemen were killed in a single day in what was the worst act of violence perpetrated against Jews since the Holocaust.
Hamas made no distinction between Israeli soldiers and civilians, or between men and women, or between adults and children. Their objective was simply to rape, torture and kill as many Jews as possible. In one sickening incident, a baby was found burned to death in an oven, both parents having been murdered in the same house. In another incident, a pregnant Israeli woman was disemboweled whilst still alive, with her unborn foetus being wrenched from her uterus and stabbed it in front of her before she was shot in the head. Hamas’ barbarism has easily matched every horror committed by its sister organisations, Islamic State and Al Qaeda, with much of the torture, rape and murder being broadcast live on social media websites.
That Roedean could even consider partnering with an organisation that is aligned with Hamas is, frankly, so appalling that it is difficult to find words to adequately describe it. I cannot understand how any Roedean parents can view the following images of an Israeli woman who had just been raped and abducted by Hamas fighters – blood staining her pyjama pants – and feel any sense of contentment when dropping their girls off at the gates of the school.
The incompatibility of religious fundamentalism with classical liberal education
Mrs Roberts claims that Ummah Heart will be providing Muslim girls with “holistic Islamic enrichment”. What might that include? Fundamentalist strains of Islam are not known for being supportive of women’s rights. In Islamic theocracies such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and, indeed, Gaza, women face a number of legal and cultural restrictions with respect to driving vehicles, standing for elective office, obtaining a divorce, testifying in court or owning immovable property.
Last year, three women were flogged in a football stadium in Afghanistan after being accused of various “moral crimes”. In Iran, a woman called Mahsa Amini died from head injuries sustained whilst being beaten and tortured by the country’s “religious morality police”. Her alleged “crime” was not wearing the hijab in accordance with government standards. In Gaza in 2021, a Hamas-run Islamic court ruled that women require the permission of a male guardian in order to travel. In countries which practice Sharia, girls usually receive an inferior education – if they receive any education at all.
How does all of this square with Roedean’s views on women’s empowerment? And how would fundamentalist Islam’s views on sexuality fit with the school’s attempts to be welcoming to lesbian and gay staff and students?
Most alarming of all – how will Jewish children and staff fare in an environment in which a significant number of children are exposed to daily indoctrination by a group which is aligned with Hamas? Hamas is resolutely and unequivocally committed to the destruction of Israel and the extermination of Jews in the Middle East. These objectives are written into the 1988 Hamas Charter, the group’s founding document, which states:
"The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: 'Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,' except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews."
Hamas is not interested in a two-state solution nor in any other mediated peace agreement, declaring that “There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are a waste of time and a farce.” Will Ummah Heart’s “holistic Islamic enrichment” include the virulent anti-Semitism and anti-Western propaganda that is commonplace in madrassahs across territories which Hamas controls?
More fundamentally, there is a basic failure of logic here. Of course, children of all backgrounds should be welcome (and, indeed, are welcome) at Roedean. But if a family specifically desires for its daughter to receive an Islamic fundamentalist education, why not just send her to a madrassah? Why not enroll her at Ummah Heart in Crosby? Why choose to go to Roedean – a school that is ostensibly classically liberal and Anglican Christian in its orientation – and then seek to have the girls segregated by religion so that some girls can attend a madrassah inside an Anglican Christian school?
It is important to emphasise that the concern here is of a general nature. It would be equally unacceptable if Roedean were to partner with an organisation that is aligned with a Catholic fundamentalist organisation such as the Irish Republican Army; or a Protestant fundamentalist organisation such as the Ulster Volunteer Force; or a Jewish fundamentalist organisation such as the Jewish Defence League; or a Hindu fundamentalist organisation such as the Vishva Hindu Parishad – especially if that organisation glorifies violence.
How Woke terminology is used to promote religious fundamentalism
The most interesting feature of this story is how Woke terminology has been used to spread regressive ideology.
Woke activists are masters at twisting the meaning of words so that they come to mean the exact opposite of their original definition. For example, over the past 20 years, the term “non-racialism” in South Africa’s Constitution has been re-interpreted in a way that not only permits but actually mandates Verwoerdian-defined race quotas in virtually every aspect of life. In academia and the corporate world, both in South Africa and abroad, the mantra of “diversity, equity and inclusion” has, in practice, been used to promote division, exclusion and indoctrination into Marxist ideology.
This tendency is on full display at Roedean. In her email, Mrs Roberts tells parents that the Ummah Heart initiative is about promoting “true inclusivity and a sense of belonging” at Roedean. This is a strange way to describe segregating children according to their religion and then inviting a Hamas-aligned madrassah to implement a separate curriculum for the Muslim group of girls. Nor will this generate a sense of belonging, for Muslim children will likely be made to feel different from the other children whilst being cut off from important administrative information that is shared in daily chapel services.
There is a lot that can and, at least in my opinion, should be done to make schools open and welcoming to families of all faiths. Awareness of important holidays (such as Eid or Hannukah or Diwali) can help ensure that tests and sporting events are scheduled in a way that is respectful and accommodating to all. Children can be taught about other faiths, and perhaps some families can host cultural events at which those who are interested can experience different foods, music and understandings of spirituality.
The key point is that participation in these initiatives should be voluntary, and the ideological and religious foundations of the school in question should remain unchanged. Ultimately, there is a world of difference between making a school more receptive to people of various faiths as opposed to doing what Roedean proposes, which is to segregate girls according to their religion and to sub-contract the curriculum that Muslim girls learn to a Hamas-aligned madrassah.
And, make no mistake, the links between Woke activism and Islamist totalitarianism run deep. It is not at all surprising that numerous chapters of Black Lives Matter have endorsed Hamas for, ultimately, these organisations share the common objective of dismantling and, in the words of the Wokes, “decolonising” Western civilisation.
A pattern of ignorance, naivety and poor judgment
What all of this indicates is that South African universities and schools are operating in a dangerous and complex geopolitical environment. The leaders of these institutions need to be a lot sharper and more streetwise when deciding who should be permitted access to their schools and who should be invited to shape school policy.
Unfortunately, the signs in this area are not promising. I have previously written about how a radical American author named Robin DiAngelo played a major role in training and developing a cohort of South African diversity consultants – people such as Lovelyn Nwadeyi and Asanda Ngoasheng – who have gone on to promote Critical Race Theory in dozens of South African schools. Both of these individuals have played a prominent role at Roedean in recent years.
Lovelyn was brought in to run a series of diversity workshops for teachers and children and, I am told by a source, assisted with developing the school's "anti-discrimination" policy. (Lovelyn did not respond to my email requesting confirmation of this.) Earlier this year I published an essay entitled The Trouble with Roedean's Woke Anti-Discrimination Policy in which I explained how the heavy influence of Critical Race Theory on the policy had made the school virtually unusable by anyone who desires to teach or to receive a classical, liberal education.
Meanwhile, Asanda was contracted to develop a “diversity and social justice curriculum” for the junior school. As the co-founder of the “Decolonising the Curriculum” movement at the Cape University of Technology, Asanda helped drive the decolonisation of the university's journalism curriculum. She has also been involved in decolonising a wide variety of other subjects including architecture and horticulture.
According to Asanda herself, her decolonised course at the Cape University of Technology was so unpopular that a number of parents complained about her teaching to the programme co-ordinator, stating that she was “divisive, racist and not fit to teach.” Chillingly, she has also stated quite openly that “it’s important to note that when developing a curriculum for much younger students the emotional aspect needs to be considered. When I run my workshops, some of the things that young people tell me is that they really feel guilty – especially the white ones.”
This echoes feedback which Lovelyn gave to Herschel Girls School in Cape Town. After running a series of sessions "covering the basics of racial literacy with a specific focus on privilege, microaggressions and normative culture", she reported back - with remarkable candour - that there was "a clear sense of polarisation between the pupils of colour and the white pupils both in terms of who spoke, when they spoke and how they spoke, but also in terms of how they were seated."
Even more concerning is Asanda's 2016 op-ed entitled #FeesMustFall: Understanding the Current Shitstorm. Asanda set out to answer the question of "how [she] can support #FeesMustFall in all its incarnations including the acts of violence." Journalist Ed Herbst provides a succinct overview of the sort of violence that marked the Fees Must Fall movement.
“The 2016 Fees Must Fall campaign, fuelled by ethnic hatred and encouraged by Dr Iqbal Survé, saw one man die, another beaten to a pulp, several attempted murder cases, UCT Vice Chancellor Max Price assaulted, caused campus damage – in which arson was a pervasive element – that would cost in excess of a billion rand to repair, saw private vehicles torched both on and off-campus during the riots, pervasive theft, the media threatened and culminated in the death by his own hand of revered cardiologist Professor Bongani Mayosi.”
Lovelyn herself was a prominent activist in the Fees Must Fall movement at Stellenbosch University, at one point even participating in an incident in which former Western Cape Premier Helen Zille was accosted by students:
My view is that "diversity consultants" who peddle divisive Critical Race Theory do not contribute to happy, cohesive and productive school environments. Their activities in schools should be treated with extra caution if they have participated in or supported violent movements such as Fees Must Fall. That Lovelyn and Asanda gained extraordinary access to Roedean indicates that the school’s vetting procedures are virtually non-existent and that, with the right kind of coercion, the school can easily be infiltrated by people who wish to drive an extremist ideological agenda. In light of this, it is hardly surprising that the proposal to appoint Ummah Heart seems to have raised no concerns amongst the school’s leaders.
The urgent need for Roedean to become a mission-focused, politics-free school
The issues of war and national sovereignty in the Middle East are obviously complex. There is undoubtedly much criticism that can be levelled against Israel. But it is perfectly possible to adopt a strongly anti-Israel and pro-Palestine stance without endorsing or being associated with the barbarism of Hamas. Similarly, saying “no” to Hamas does not imply that you endorse Israel, support Zionism or hold any other political view.
More fundamentally, there is absolutely no reason why a school on the southern tip of Africa should even be involving itself in the politics of a region on the other side of the world. Schools should resolutely avoid taking sides or even commenting on the matter, for the reason that such activity detracts from their core mission. Unfortunately, by partnering with Ummah Heart, Roedean has affiliated itself with an organisation that proudly celebrates and glorifies the events of 7 October.
Ideally, Roedean should revert to its classical liberal roots. However, considering how bad things have become there in recent years, right now it would be sufficient for the school to simply become mission-focused and strictly non-political. By this, I mean that the school should concentrate on achieving academic excellence, maintaining high standards of discipline, and offering a range of stimulating sporting and cultural activities. In other words, the school should just focus on getting the basics right for there is now ample evidence that – quite aside from last week’s Ummah Heart debacle – all is not well at Roedean.
 Articles 13 and 18 of the 1988 Hamas Charter, available here: https://www.memri.org/reports/hamas-charter-%E2%80%93-ideology-behind-massacre
 Article 7 of the 1988 Hamas Charter, available here: https://www.memri.org/reports/hamas-charter-%E2%80%93-ideology-behind-massacre
 Article 13 of the Hamas Charter, available here: https://www.memri.org/reports/hamas-charter-%E2%80%93-ideology-behind-massacre
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNmSCLcM-kY&t=2s at 19:35 to 20:00