RADIA Razack is an accomplished professional with a career as environmental lawyer. But she has a story to tell, disturbing in its detail yet astonishingly inspiring in its approaching finale. Our reporter, MAHMOOD SANGLAY, spoke to her.
Radia’s story is one of near-closure. It is a sustained, present continuous narrative for 47 years about child abuse, a startling first-marriage drama, rape by a sports coach, a second marriage to an Arab assassin, followed by a dramatic escape from her second husband in Kenya and back to South Africa.
She spoke to Muslim Views about these encounters that shaped the milestones of her life.
The first was the invasion, at age six, by a paedophile adult in the family.
The offender is an uncle, now in his seventies. He studied the Quran at a renowned darul uloom in India in the early eighties and returned as hafidh.
In 1985, he commenced teaching hifdh at a leading darul uloom in Gauteng. And he is still teaching there, after 35 years.
Radia’s first marriage ended after a year-and-a-half mainly because it was bereft of any spirituality.
She sought the comfort and certitude of faith in her Muslim spouse but he offered none, hence she ended it.
The rape incident brought her to confront a dilemma: asserting the experience of rape while rejecting the label of victimhood.
Her second marriage was an awesome adventure of an escape from almost certain death at the hands of a man whose true character emerged soon after she married him and travelled with him into north Africa.
He spoke of people he killed and certainly seemed to fit the profile of a terrorist, assassin or just a murderer. This dramatic episode ended the marriage of less than a year.
However, it was as a child that she experienced the premature imposition of sexuality on her by a dominating male figure within her family. Her uncle (her mother’s cousin) exposed himself to her and touched her in an overtly sexual way.
The experience bewildered the six-year-old and imprinted on her psyche a lifelong aversion for aspects of intimacy that are ordinarily embraced by married couples.
It was at once the corruption of her innocence and her childhood through fear and shame, and the destabilisation of her natural inclination to trust adults, especially men.
In the years that followed, her perception of, and her way of responding to men had been altered almost permanently. The spectre of the first violation of her person remains indelibly etched in her consciousness.
However, 29 years later, in 2002, something wondrous occurred that liberated Radia from anger and resentment towards her childhood abuser.
At the time, she was in her third marriage and blessed with a good husband and two children. It was an extraordinary turning point in her life when she met her abuser at a funeral, years after he had lost his young son in a drowning accident.
Radia recalled, before meeting him at the funeral, how she had told herself that ‘he hurt other people’s children and now God took his child away’. However, a transformation occurred when she approached him at the funeral. He shared with her news of a ‘laat lammertjie’ (a child born many years after its siblings).
She recalls thinking that God took from him a loved one and gave him another loved one. His face beamed with a mild glow. She realised that it was time he makes his own peace. It was an admonishment in compassion and a way to forgiveness. The resentment in her dissipated.
‘I felt the flood of forgiveness wash over me like a gentle waterfall. I felt an emotional release that was almost physical… I no longer wished to see him punished. His accountability is to his Creator, as is mine.’
Radia had not seen or spoken to him since their last encounter in 2002, and had relocated and lost contact with that side of the family.
However, Muslim Views located him and contacted him to ascertain his response to the allegation against him of sexual abuse that had occurred in 1973, and his position today, 47 years after the fact.
It is a matter of concern that he is still teaching children, and that his classes may include young girls. It is also important to probe him on Radia’s account of multiple instances of sexual abuse involving other children in the family.
Another compelling part of Radia’s story is what her uncle shared with her, in later years, of accounts of bestiality at the darul uloom in India.
On December 7, the Gauteng darul uloom teacher answered my phone call. He confirmed his identity, his tenure at the institution and his blood relationship to Radia. Soon after I disclosed the purpose of my enquiry, he ended the call. He did not respond to further calls, and he blocked my WhatsApp messages.
Radia hopes to reach out to him in forgiveness but realises that he may choose not to take her call. He may never choose to join her in making her journey ahead ‘a light and not a darkness’ in her quest to finally reach closure.
- This article was first published in the December 2020 print edition of Muslim Views. It has also been updated with reference to the period of Radia Razack’s second marriage.