An emotional and personal farewell from the Terminal B of the OR Tambo International Airport. Station Manager Shamsheer Khan and reporter Hasan Isilow escort me like a celebrity. Hasan causes many heads to roll with the amount of pictures of me he takes. Shamsheer impresses on me the great responsibility that lays on my shoulders and how my reporting can bring to light a Gaza that is hidden from the world. Perform Salaah with my family at the Airport Jamaat Khana, exchange farewells and head for security and immigration. Once out, discover that boarding gates are a good 10 minute walk from where I am currently stationed. In a puff, I haphazardly run through the duty free shops and succesfully reach my destination in half the time. As I hand my boarding pass over, an announcement goes off warning the 3 remaining passengers to board in the next 5 minutes or risk not flying. It was a close call. Now on the airport bus, am pleasantly surprised to discover that 2 of my co-passengers are senior members of the MJC who have also been despatched to conduct awareness programmes in Zambia. They are Sheikh Ahmed Sedick, Acting President of the MJC and Sheikh Abdul Fattar Carr. A friendly Irish couple exchange some words with us about religious harmony. If you think you religious strife in other parts of the world is bad, you certainly don’t know about Ireland, they say.
2 hours later, Flight SA66 lands in Zambia and I walk into what, at least on face value, looks like a police state. Stern uniformed airport police march around the arrivals area with searching eyes. And almost expectedly, there is an airport official close to customs already asking me for a bribe. Our hosts in Zambia live in a formerly rural area called Makene, a few minutes distance from Lusaka. Brother Rashid Limbada opens his home up to us for a late night reception. I realise it is the same bubbly man I’ve interacted with regularly in the past to obtain contact numbers of Zambian Hujaaj. The few community members assembled talk of the frustration of not knowing exactly when the convoy would arrive. They also inform us that there are no real experts on the Palestinian issue in Zambia and thus require inspiration from their counterparts in South Africa. Talking of counterparts, there is hardly anyone present in the gathering who is not linked to South Africa in some way-from recent expats to those having married in South Africa or Zambia.
The informal chat is highly educating in its content. Moulana Abdul Fataar shares with us an insight he has read about the positions of the 3 major Masaajid in Islam. Masjidul Haram, he says should remind us of the Glory and Grandeur of the Almighty; Masjidun Nabawi brings us closer to our master, Mohammed SAW, and Masjidul Aqsa symbolises the Ummah-its strength and weaknesses.