There are 11 mosques within the 500m radius of Bokop. This is not a sight you will find everywhere in South Africa. The community in which these mosques survive are 90% Muslim but are also highly and happily integrated between Muslims, Jews, and Christians. During the districting under the Group Areas Act this community was created and formed a tight knit, supportive group of people who deeply respected each other’s cultural differences.
The Claremont Mosque exists on the opposite side of Cape Town and was established before the Group Areas Act was enacted. At the time of the Group Areas segregation, many of the Muslims belonging to the Claremont faith community were relocated to Bokop. Today, the mosque has a congregation of about 300 people. Claremont and its congregation are what we would consider a “progressive” mosque. One of their primary focuses is the Gender Jihad. To Claremont this means seeking acknowledgement within the Muslim community of the equality between men and women. This is essentially feminism. At Claremont, women and men not only pray in the same room together (which is progressive in its own right), they pray alongside each other. Jaamia, one of the women at Claremont and the mosque’s Secretary of Citizen Outreach, even leads certain faith ceremonies. While there are still some restrictions on what she can do because she cannot become an Imam, her role in the mosque challenges many of the gender traditions in traditional and extremist Islam. The Muslims at Claremont have been very accepting of feminism which is a combination of the Imam’s own values of Islamic and Western influence. Imam Dr. Rashied Omar grew up in two worlds as both a student of the apartheid system and as a faithful man within the Muslim community. He became an anti-apartheid fighter and used his own pacifist ideology to guide him and his congregation in this ever evolving world. Our visit to Claremont was most hospitable as our hosts kindly and openly explained their religious world to us as outsiders. We spoke about the religious interpretations of jihad as it relates to extremist activity and the desire of Muslims, such as those at Claremont, who want to fight the heretic ideology of groups like ISIS. Additionally, we were joined by UCT students from Tennessee at the mosque and their professor Dr. Saul. We went up on Signal Hill as a big group and looked at the beautiful scenery of Cape Town and Table Bay while we visited the Karamat which is a sacred burial site of one of the Muslim founders in South Africa.