On the 15th and 16th of October the Cape Muslims community celebrated Eid on two separate days. About two decade ago, for some mysterious reason, a handful of religious leaders decided to re-configure the Eid celebration. This resulted in a majority and a minority opinion. Although the Eid celebration is less important than community unity and harmony, families were split on the basis of what can only be considered as the egos of a few old men. Since then, the vast majority celebrate Eid using the traditional lunar sighting and a minority follows the decree of scholars from Saudi Arabia. Since most of the elders liable for the community’s disunity have died, I have little interest in who is right or wrong and I celebrate both days. In this case there is no Zionist or imperialists to blame.
Councillors unlike other working people have the benefit of time. Councillors are not governed by standard leave or holidays, they work to be re-elected and every day or event is a fresh opportunity.
The two day Eid’s was ironically advantages for my purposes as I attended two mosques and listened to two sermons. Since Cape Town also has two Muslim radio stations I listened to two extra sermons via the radio. In two days I had the privilege of four sermons. At one mosque in the city centre, the demographics were so varied that home-grown Cape Muslims were a minority. North and Central African migrants and Arab students have laid roots in Cape Town.
While most Muslims rightfully regard the two Eid’s unnecessarily frustrating, the multitude of sermons and festivities has led to some unexpected results. The internal community rivalry ironically ensures that the radio stations including those rendering the sermons, attempt to provide a superior quality service. Had there been one radio station or one Eid, product quality, may have suffered.
After Mosque I attended an extended family gathering where I was further surprised. A cousin had recently married a Chinese man; another cousin who had returned from Britain introduced his Scottish wife. An entire generation of youngsters had grown up and married people from across the globe. Their children resembled traditional Cape Malays; others resembled Pakistanis, some had Middle Eastern features while others resembled Europeans.
In my opinion those who seek to hang onto parochial racial, ethnic and cultural identities within the local Muslim community are fast becoming a minority. Muslim identity in Cape Town refuses to be restricted to narrow interpretation. Furthermore, educated Muslim youth refuse to let pettiness dominate their religious and cultural identity. A progressive instinct drives the new generation; there is little energy for myopic racial identities, unwarranted legalistic wrangling and narcissistic triviality.
Religious leaders who hope to lead this community should know that the youth have the world of Islam at their internet fingers. Religious leaders who hope to recruit supporters by creating pedantic division must know that there are those amongst us that are fast growing tired of their divisive tactics.
Cllr Yagyah Adams
Cape Muslim Congress