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Can I just be black and Muslim in South Africa?

by Salaamedia

Hawa Mayere | Salaamedia – Opinion | 20 February 2016

Black Muslims living in South Africa face a lot of criticism. Especially if you are living in a non-Muslim dominated community where people lack knowledge about Islam as a religion. For me there’s a feeling of being isolated when wearing my hijab or head covering. Ever-so-often I’ll be asked if I’m married to a South African of Indian decent or a non-South African all together (which by the way, is not a bad thing).

But can’t I just be black and Muslim without any additional title?

Some would go to the extent of saying that, “you have joined the evil religion whose members of the church are murderers”. It tends to get more difficult and painful when people around the townships look at you as if you are mad or have been possessed by demons. They question why are you following other gods? Why are you following Indian culture? Why do you dress the way you do, even if it’s hot? What went wrong in your life to such an extent that you ended up being a “Muslim”?

It even reached a stage where I was told that Muslim women have guns hidden under their headgear. But its not just us simple black Muslims who happen to be the subject of curiosity and at times despise by fellow blacks. Well known politician, Mandla Mandela, and grandson to Nelson Mandela tied the knot on Saturday, 6 February 2016, to Muslim bride, Rabia Clarke. The traditional chief of the Mveso clan has been deemed as a traitor and one who has lost all respect of his ancestors because of his religious change and subsequent marriage.

Has South Africa been able to really accept freedom of religion as an intrinsic human right?

It’s been said that Mandla’s ancestors will be angry with him and nothing good will follow his path, that he can no longer be a leader of his clan simply because he changed religion. With all these questions that Mandla and the black Muslim face every day, do you think they are welcomed by their own people?

What happened to freedom of expression if you’re afraid of being attacked for wearing the hijab? Zahra, a friend of mine and new revert to Islam had this to say: “There is no name that I haven’t been called – Al- Shabaab, Boko Haraam , terrorist. Family members will make things worse by saying you have forgotten where you come from, which is discouraging as a revert to Islam. This makes it very hard to practice the religion and do things that you need to do as a Muslim.”

Despite the negativity and hatred towards the religion, one has to admit that the Mandla Mandela situation has made it clear that Islam has no race and it doesn’t belong to a certain group of people. We are determined to chose and live by our own choices.

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