If the United States is right about Junaid Dockrat, the South African dentist is helping al-Qaida wage a holy war when he is not filling root canals.
South Africa’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday confirmed a newspaper report that Junaid and his cleric cousin Farhad Dockrat were put on a U.N. list of terror suspects because of alleged ties to al-Qaida.
Papers submitted by the United States to the U.N. Security Council alleged Junaid is an al-Qaida financier, recruiter and facilitator who coordinated the travel of South Africans to Pakistan to train with the group.
Both men denied the allegations made by Washington, which says al-Qaida operatives are in Somalia, Sudan and North Africa, while fundraising and recruiting have become a serious worry in South Africa, Nigeria and the trans-Sahara region.
Police officials have declined to comment on whether al-Qaida is a serious threat in South Africa or whether they have been conducting surveillance on suspects or mosques.
Anneli Botha, senior researcher on terrorism at the Institute for Security Studies, said it is difficult to gauge al-Qaida’s presence among South Africa’s minority Muslim population.
“There may be some sympathy in the Muslim community, which is very active, in terms of it seeing the war on terror as a war on Islam,” she said.
“And there may be some individuals who may want to participate in the al-Qaida network. But how can you tell a supporter from a sympathizer from an active member?”
It is not clear how the South African government will respond to the allegations made against the Dockrat cousins.
Asked if South Africa would take action against them, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said: “We are in contact with the Americans on this issue and we are still waiting for directives from the minister of foreign affairs.”
Family of dentists
Junaid’s father Ismail suspects he was put on a U.S. list of al-Qaida suspects because of his “harmless” ties to Zubair Ismail and surgeon Feroz Ganchi, who were arrested in Pakistan in 2004 and later released.
The pair was caught with senior al-Qaida operative Ahmed Ghailani, a Tanzanian who was a conspirator in the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam that killed 224 people.
“Junaid knew Zubair. They went to school together. He also knew Dr. Ganchi well. But that does not mean he is guilty,” he told Reuters.
“The Americans just decide someone is guilty and they go after him. Junaid is a good man. Now our home is like a funeral parlor because everyone is so upset.”
Junaid, 35, his father and brother-in-law Mohammed are dental surgeons who share a practice in Mayfair, a middle-class Johannesburg neighborhood that is home to other Muslim families.
Patients on the first floor of their building ranged from a woman in a head-to-toe Niqaab veil to an elderly man with white hair. A sign instructed people to leave a deposit for dentures.
Ismail said his son had been under surveillance by the South African authorities for some time.
“I remember we were flying to Mecca and suddenly someone pulled Junaid aside and searched his suitcase in front of everyone on the tarmac. Some of the people were his patients. He was humiliated.”
Aside from his dental business, Junaid also owns a camouflage clothing company called Sniper Africa, which promises buyers they will be comfortable stalking when hunting.
Standing near fishing rods and reels, Junaid’s brother Suleiman dismissed the al-Qaida allegations and said the business had no ties to Pakistan or the Taliban in Afghanistan.
“We export to neighboring countries. Botswana and Zambia and we have sold items to the United States,” he said.
“Look around do you see anything strange? People see long beards like mine and they are immediately suspicious.”