Ebrahim Rasool born on July 15, 1962, in Capetown, South Africa, is currently South Africa’s ambassador to the United States. Prior to his present position at the Embassy, Rasool held a wide range of positions and enjoyed a lengthy political career, including Special Advisor to the State President of the Republic of South Africa and Premier, Member of the Parliament in the National Assembly and posts in various governmental departments, including the departments of health, welfare, and economic development.
Growing up, Rasool lived under the harsh conditions of the Apartheid, as his family was forcibly removed from his home in District Six, as it was decided to be a white only area by the Apartheid government. After graduating from Livingstone High School in 1980, Rasool went on to receive a Bachelor of Arts in 1983 and a Higher Diploma in Education in 1984 from the University of Cape Town before taking a teaching position at a high school for a year in 1985. However, his experience of growing up under the Apartheid never drifted too far from him, and he soon joined the anti-apartheid movement. He has held leadership positions with the United Democratic Front (UDF), a group which was vital to the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s. He also assumed leadership positions in the African National Congress (ANC), and endured periods of house arrest and jail time for his political involvement.
Rasool’s political, as well as social involvement has always been catalyzed by his faith alongside his experiences. He has been a steadfast supporter of the Islamic Movement and the Interfaith Movement and was very active in helping Muslims, as well as individuals of other faiths, to gain deeper understanding of their faiths under the conditions of the Apartheid. He continues to do so now. Regarding the role that religion plays in politics, he once wrote that it was troubling to him that, especially following the September 11 attacks, the role of religion in politics has been seen as a negative one. “This is very difficult for people of my generation,” he wrote, stating that as politicians, many people of his time were able to find “a comfortable intersection between religion and politics.” He also added that “Religion asserts values; it asks questions of right and wrong, of practical implementation, of fulfilling God’s command. Religion, for example, consults the Scripture on our role in persuading those who have, to share and those who have not, to be patient until the sharing starts taking effect.”
More importantly, he wrote that “it is the absence of a theology of transformation that creates an intellectual gap in our society. We have to be self-critical as people who are activists in religion as well, because all of the discourses that play out at the macro-level in society in South Africa are also a challenge to religion.” He has also stated the importance of advocating moderate Islam in South Africa, and believes himself to be both, a non-fundamentalist revolutionary and a non-extremist radical.
Moreover, Rasool has also taken deliberate and direct steps in order to deter the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in South Africa. According to him, when he took over as the Premier of Western Cape in 2004, he helped in the drafting and delivering of sermons that denounced extremism in every mosque in Western Cape.
For his general contributions to his home country of South Africa, Rasool has received a number of leadership awards. In 2005, the London Financial Times awarded Rasool the Foreign Direct Investment Africa Personality of the Year Award, and before that, in 1998, Rasool was a recipient of the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights. Most recently, in 2008, Rasool was awarded the Visionary Leadership and Public Goods Award from the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists, and the Commitment and Leadership in the Fight Against Crime award from Business Against Crime.