The South African (Indian) Muslim-Hindu Divide and the Formation of the State of Israel

Saturday, January 5, 2019
Stevens C Prefunction (Hilton Chicago)
Cacee Hoyer, University of Southern Indiana
Post World War II, South African Indians had conflicting attitudes towards the creation of the State of Israel, which complicated their own anti-apartheid resistance movements, specifically the South African Indian led Passive Resistance Campaign of 1946-47. The small Muslim community in South Africa often supported the Palestinian cause, while many Hindus identified with the persecution of the Jews. Hindu support of the Jewish community, whether in South Africa or Israel, was based around common identities of oppressed racial minorities. For example, many Indians in South Africa could not separate their political position from their religious affiliations. Much of the rhetoric railing against the implementation of the discriminatory Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act (1946) compared the action of the South African government to that of Nazi Germany and Hitler fascism. Considering the racially discriminatory act was nicknamed the ‘Ghetto Act’ and came on the heels of WWII, sympathies for the Jewish community flowed naturally for many Hindus. Evidence of such support was sprinkled throughout the Indian Press. Simultaneously, the small Muslim population was very outspoken in the Indian press in their support for Palestine and condemning Israel and its allies. The intricacies of these relationships, both significant minority populations in South Africa, speak to larger transnational issues of governance, as well as particular issues of identity politics in the post-WWII era. By highlighting the global implications of the formation of the State of Israel, this presentation reveals a divide amongst the South African Indian population that proved detrimental to early anti-apartheid activism. Additionally, by examining how South African Indians allied themselves with other minorities such as the Jewish community of South Africa, I hope to show yet another layer to how South African Indians self-identify under existing global pressures.
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