The iconic South African anti-apartheid activist, 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, archbishop, and theologian Desmond “Mpilo” Tutu has died at the age of 90. The late rights campaigner had been suffering from prostate cancer and spent his final days at the Oasis Frail Care Centre in Cape Town. His passing this last Saturday – corresponding to 26 December 2021 – has left a large void in the hearts of many South Africans, as well as supporters around the globe. Tutu’s death follows that of fellow anti-apartheid campaigner Nelson Mandela, who died in December 2013 at the age of 95. Notably, Tutu had campaigned for not only an end to South African apartheid, but also that of Palestine. In addition, The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu had fought vehemently against the 2003 Iraq War. Furthermore, in August 2017, he landed sharp criticism on then Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, for her blatant inaction concerning the genocidal actions of the country’s military against the majority Muslim Rohingya people.    
The Muslim Judicial Council of South Africa (MJC-SA) delivered a fitting parting message to Tutu, who was, in their words, “an international icon, anti-apartheid and human rights activist and freedom fighter, who [gave] his life selflessly to the struggle and freedom of all South Africans”. The MJC, which was founded in 1945 and is currently led by Shaykh Irafaan Abrahams, expressed its gratitude to the late Christian leader for his unwavering support of the Palestinians during their ongoing struggle against Israeli apartheid.  
In a press release published soon after Tutu’s passing, the MJC said:
“The Muslim community of South Africa will remember him as one of the strongest voices and critics of Apartheid Israel. He is remembered for saying, ‘I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children by members of the Israeli security forces’. He also said in a statement, ‘Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government’.” 
Further expressing the organisation’s condolences to family members of Archbishop Tutu, the press release went on to say:
“Bishop Tutu was a critical and moral voice during the struggle and post-apartheid democracy. He was a voice for the oppressed of this world and today we pay homage to this servant of humanity, a mighty warrior, and an inspiration to those who fight the cause of humanity. May his legacy and life live on in the hearts of all South Africans. We express our sincere condolences to his beloved wife, Nomalizo Leah Tutu, his family and the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation. Indeed to Allah we belong and unto Him is our return.” 
Archbishop Desmond Tutu was born on 7 October 1931 in the town of Klerksdorp, which lies approximately 93 miles southwest of Johannesburg. His father was a teacher, while his mother was employed as a domestic worker and cook. He grew up in relative poverty, and went on to seek an education as a teacher. He had four children with his wife Nomalizo Leah, and was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1960. Tutu spent a number of years studying abroad, including King’s College London between the years 1962 and 1966. This was followed by a study stint of two months in East Jerusalem, where he learnt Arabic and Greek at St. George’s College. In 1965, he graduated with a degree in Theology, and followed this up with a master’s in the same field. Most interestingly, as part of his master’s degree studies between October 1965 and September 1966, Tutu completed his dissertation on Islam in West Africa.   
Tutu was also renowned for his anti-apartheid and reconciliation work with Nelson Mandela. The pair worked together following Mandela’s 1990 release from prison by President F. W. de Klerk. Collectively, Tutu and Mandela led negotiations and discussions in order to bring an end to the apartheid regime, with Tutu being selected by then President Mandela in 1994 to preside over the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In this role, the late Archbishop led investigations concerning past human rights violations which were perpetrated by both pro- and anti-apartheid organisations.
In 2014, Tutu strongly criticised the Israeli government for its actions towards the Palestinians. The Nobel Peace laureate sharply condemned the actions of the Israeli state, and labelled them as being “humiliating” towards the Palestinians. Furthermore, he added that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement was an effective tool in the fight against the persistence of this abuse of power.
The late Archbishop stated in early 2014:
“In South Africa, we could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the apartheid regime.
“The same issues of inequality and injustice today motivate the divestment movement trying to end Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory and the unfair and prejudicial treatment of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government ruling over them.
“Those who turn a blind eye to injustice actually perpetuate injustice. If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. It doesn’t matter where we worship or live. We are members of one family, the human family, God’s family.” 
Moreover, in August 2009, Archbishop Tutu and former US President and fellow Nobel Peace Laureate (of 2002) Jimmy Carter – who is widely praised for his post-presidency humanitarian work around the world – travelled to East Jerusalem. During their time in the illegally occupied city, the pair met and spoke with Palestinian families who had been forcibly evicted from their homes by the Israeli government. Carter said of those whom he met during the trip:
“It’s a political issue, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. It’s an attempt by Israel to take over east Jerusalem which is part of Palestine. They’ve been living here 55 years, three families living here legally 55 years. There are 17 members in the family, they’ve all been forced out of their homes, they’ve been taken over by Israeli settlers, and of course, the only appeal they have legally is to the Israeli court system. I am not condemning anybody but it is obviously a matter of injustice and human rights.” 
During this historic visit, Tutu also remarked that the example of those he met was eerily reminiscent of what happened rampantly in his home country during apartheid rule:
“It reminds me so much of what used to happen in South Africa where people who were evicted from their homes, and their homes were taken over by whites and you would see someone say ‘You see that house, that used to be my home’, but they are no longer allowed to be there. But the point is that happened and now freedom has come to South Africa and we want to say to you that justice will prevail in your own situation as it has prevailed in other situations and that you should not give up hope that you will be able to live securely in your homeland.” 
 Gish, Steven D. (2004). Desmond Tutu: A Biography. Westport, Connecticut and London: Greenwood Press, p.28, p.35, & p.39
Shaheer is a regular contributor for Islam21c. He maintains a strong interest in current affairs, as well as the changing global conditions of Muslim populations. Prior to joining Islam21c, he developed a number of years’ experience in the health and social care sector and has previously volunteered at the Muslim Youth Helpline.