I’ve decided to focus on women in Islam outside the Somali community in Mayfair. Although that was the bulk of what we got to experience about Mayfair, I know there is more to the area. Also, I believe there is not one way to be a muslim woman and that should be thoroughly explored, mostly because people’s perceptions toward muslim women are so skewed in South Africa. And these are my own experiences.
Muslim women are not oppressed and are not confined into one identity. What interests me is that although Islam is the over-arching religion in the area. It is the religion that most of the residents practice, and because of the nature of the islamic religion, it often feeds into your lifestyle, giving it cultural significance as well. But within the framework of a predominantly muslim community, there are ways in which people express their own cultures differently.
Islam is a religion and yes it is a way of life. It seeps into every part of a muslim life and dictate the choices that muslimah make in their own personal capacity. A muslim will make a decision about their lives by following muslim laws and traditions.
In my opinion Islam has been able to feed across different races and different histories all over the world because it is a religion that one can easily assimilate into without discarding other parts of your identity. You don’t have to stop being black to be muslim. You don’t have to have money to be muslim. You don’t have to wear a scarf all day every day to be a muslim. Islam accepts everyone and unites people under one belief.
This to me is fascinating because people their differences into their lives and make it part of an islamic culture. In masjied I sit next to Turkish, Lebanese, Indian, Somali, South African people and when we pray, we stand shoulder to shoulder because we are all muslim. There is a community there connected under one umbrella which I think is amazing.
In the Cape Malay culture especially, there are things that are distinctly Cape Malay that the Indian community for example, does ascribe to, but is still closely tied to the Cape Malay people’s religious beliefs and Islamic routes in South Africa. I’m hoping I can look at this more closely and compare it to the ways that Indian women in particular are distinct in their own cultural and religious practices, something that goes beyond food.