The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg (UJ), Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, has warmly welcomed the announcement that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will bestow the Order of Luthuli (Silver) to Professor Farid Esack, for “his brilliant contribution to academic research and to the fight against race, gender, class and religious oppression.” “His body of work” says the citation ”continues to enlighten generations of fledgling and established academics.”
The Chancellor of National Orders, Dr Cassius Lubisi, said that the orders “are the highest awards that our country bestows on our citizens and eminent foreign nationals who have made a meaningful and significant contribution to the struggle for democracy, human rights, nation-building, justice, and peace and conflict resolution.”
Farid Esack, a Professor in the study of Islam came to UJ from Harvard University and led the Department of Religion Studies for a number of years where he is currently based. An internationally renowned scholar, he is arguably the world’s most influential scholar on Islamic Liberation theology. He has been in the top 200 of the University of Georgetown and Amman annual list of the most influential Muslims in the world for the eight years since the inception of this list.
“The Order of Luthuli,” that Esack will receive on the 28th of April at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House in Pretoria is named after Chief Albert Luthuli – Nobel Peace Prize Winner (1960), former President of the ANC, a father of our nation, and a giant in our country’s struggle for liberation. Esack dedicates this award to his late mother and to the brave Palestinians who, on a daily basis resist the theft and illegal occupation of their land with unspeakable courage.
“I am of course grateful that my contribution to scholarship and to the creation of a more just world is being recognised and at the same time feel slightly awkward about it. I always feel a little bit thrown off when recognized as an individual. I too am too aware that whatever I have achieved in life is because of my late mother’s endurance when she suffered to rear me; the likes of Jill Wenman; my teacher at school who brought me food – and books – when we could not afford it; Christian Aid who funded my PhD studies in Birmingham; Achmat Davids who offered me shelter when I was orphaned; my students who inspire and teach me; the activists who organise meetings where I can stand out; the cleaners who ensure that I walk into a clean toilet; the people who work in the shadows of our university’s admin offices and security guard stations who clean up my admin mess and secure the university premises. I am because of you. In the words of Ari Sitas:
what you ascribe to leaders
you take from the people.
Take from the leaders
give to the people
for leaders are colourful flags.
They wave and waver as the wind blows
as people work the bellows
and make the whirlwinds thunder.