A Hero We Will Never Forget

The world is still mourning the loss of Ahmed Kathrada, the anti-apartheid hero and humanitarian from South Africa – A Hero We Will Never Forget. Fondly known as “Uncle Kathy”, Kathrada was an adored figure around the world for his resistance against the oppressive apartheid regime.

Born in 1929, Kathrada was of Muslim Indian descent whose parents immigrated to South Africa. He grew up affected by the racist policies of the ruling regime. In his youth, Kathrada became active in political movements and defied the oppressive laws of the government, being arrested for civil disobedience as many as 18 times. In 1964, he was sentenced to life imprisonment during the infamous Rivonia Trial along with comrades Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisula, and other revolutionaries. He was finally released in 1989.


Mr. Kathrada at his former prion cell on Robben Island located off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa.

In 2009, Mr. Kathrada was the keynote speaker at Zakat Foundation of America’s (Zakat Foundation of America) first Solidarity Banquet. Mr. Halil Demir, Executive Director of Zakat Foundation of America, was ecstatic to meet one of his personal heroes. “One of the first questions I asked him was his thoughts about his struggle after being freed,” says Mr. Demir.

Well,” he said, “I will do it all over again if the same circumstances occur. We stand for justice, human dignity, equality and against racism. I will do it again!”

He also recognized the humanitarian impact of Zakat Foundation of America across Africa.

“Zakat Foundation is a pioneer in toppling poverty in Africa and elsewhere.”

Mr. Halil Demir (left) and Mr. Ahmed Kathrada (right) at the Zakat Foundation Solidarity Banquet (May, 2009).

“In my life, I have met many great leaders,” added Mr. Demir. “I must say Ahmed Kathrada was one of the most exceptional individuals. Humanity lost a great man, a man of honor, dignity and principle.”

Although admired around the world, many Muslims are unfamiliar with Mr. Kathrada’s work. This is unfortunate because there is plenty to learn from his lifetime struggle towards social justice for all. His resilience, patience, and courage remain profound lessons for contemporary Muslims currently facing systematic oppression in their countries or communities. May we continue to honor Ahmed Katharda by working in solidarity for the liberation of all marginalized peoples in the corners of the world.