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LIFE LESSONS: Dreaming of a time when we will all be truly equal
10:00am Thursday 26th April 2012 in Columns
Today we talk to DrTaj Hargey, who is Imam of the Oxford Islamic Congregation WHAT I’M CALLED: Non-family people call me either Dr Hargey or Dr Taj. The latter name is commonly used by members of the Oxford Islamic Congregation and by students at the MECO Islamic School and MECO Qur’an seminars.
MY AGE IN YEARS: 52 years and with God’s grace in excellent health and spirits.
WHAT I DO: Other than my academic research and scholarly writing, I also serve as the Imam of the Oxford Islamic Congregation, the most progressive Muslim organisation in the UK. I am also the principal of the MECO Islamic School and director of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford.
WHERE I LIVE: Having lived in Summertown previously, I now live in Headington, near the hospital where my wife works.
WHO I LOVE: My first love is my truly exceptional wife and my second love is the pursuit of universal justice and global understanding.
MY HAPPIEST YEAR: 1994. The momentous year that finally ended more than 300 years of institutionalised racism – apartheid in my native South Africa, when the first fully democratic elections brought Nelson Mandela to power in the Rainbow nation.
MY DARKEST MOMENT: The sudden and unexpected death of my highly respected father while I was at university. Though he was uneducated, my father passed on to me his unrelenting quest for knowledge, justice and self-empowerment.
MY PROUDEST BOAST: A catalyst to inspire students, both Muslims and those of other faiths, to critically think for themselves and to be tolerant of others.
MY BIGGEST REGRET: I have not dedicated sufficient time and effort to promote justice, equity and peace in the land of my birth, although my youthful opposition to apartheid provides some comfort now.
MY WORST WEAKNESS: Impatience and exasperation. But as I become more mature, I realise that Rome was not built in a day and that perseverance, not impassivity, delivers the goods.
BIGGEST LESSON LEARNED: Always finish whatever you begin. Do not invest time, resources and energy into a project unless you intend to bring it to fruition.
DULLEST JOB I’VE HAD: Working on a mindless menial assembly line in a ball-bearing factory in Bavaria, Germany, in the summer before coming to Oxford University to pursue a doctorate in my field.
MY GREATEST SHAME: For conceiving but not starting the first independent anti-apartheid newspaper in Cape Town, to the bitter disappointment of our group of young anti-racist stalwarts.
MY LIFELONG HERO: Out of the pantheon of anti-apartheid fighters, none is more revered than the late Steve Biko who was the father of the Black Consciousness Movement. Before he was killed in police detention, Biko epitomised a non-racial future for all South Africans.
MY OLDEST FRIEND: Beverley Adriaans. We met at primary school in Cape Town more than 40 years ago. Our careers have brought us to the UK, where we maintain a close and rewarding friendship.
PERSON I KNOW WITH THE WIDEST SMILE: Mandla Nkosi, a childhood friend from Durban whose all-engaging smile simply lit up the world. It was a personal tragedy when he was killed in a senseless attack, but Mandla’s lasting memory always brings a smile to my face.
MY FAVOURITE DREAM: This is an updated version of a naive childhood fantasy where I envisaged that everyone in South Africa would be born coffee-coloured, with no whites, no blacks. This idea of justice for all has now transmuted into an abiding dream where there are no haves and have nots.
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