Regressive Redemption in CII’s Ramadan Serial

Channel Islam International, often considered to be the “more progressive” Muslim community radio station in Johannesburg, is broadcasting a radio drama series for the month of Ramadan. The show is titled “Redemption Road,” and aims to be a representation of South African Indian Muslim society and its idiosyncrasies while reminding listeners to their often-forgotten purpose in life.

While the show does deal with important issues like wife neglect/abuse and teen problems, it is severely stereotypical of Muslim women in a number of aspects.

The issue of women praying in mosques is used as a scapegoat for one teenager’s nightly escapades. This stance is corroborated in the drama by claims that allowing women in mosques would provide them with “a smokescreen to conduct their nefarious activities,” as a friend put it.

The constant references to women and young girls using the pretext of attending the mosque to perform their prayers but then engaging in dubious activities is extremely problematic in a community where the notion of women’s attendance at the mosque is thought of as evil and prohibited. This severely undermines the struggles of many Muslim women for integration into their communities via the mosque.

“Redemption Road” represents women in a many other negative lights. Women who leave home to work and study abroad are portrayed as “up to no good.” Wives are are either nagging/incessantly obedient/suspicious, and daughters are wayward.

I understand that the drama is a work of fiction, and a good depiction of South African Indian Muslim community at that. I also admit that some of the incidents may very well happen in real life. But it still perpetuates the stereotype that women in mosques can only lead to trouble, and that no good can come out of their participation in sacred spaces. The drama also presupposes that all listeners agree with the particular Islamic school of law in South Africa that bars female participation in the mosque.

Let me reiterate that there are many positive aspects of the “Redemption Road,” especially in its exploration of relationships, organizational politics and especially for driving home the message that women are not duty-bound to the kitchen, especially in Ramadan.

However, it is important to realize how even subtle jabs at certain actions (like women attending mosques) ostracize women who fight hard for this very Islamic right and subconsciously cement existing misconceptions.  Perhaps the “Redemption Road” could have balanced this bad representation with a positive one, with women who are active and in mosque participation and the better for it.

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  • Imraan Ismail

    Jazaakumullah for the feedback, after all Channel Islam international more then appreciates feedback, and thanks for highlighting and picking up the good points in the drama.

    I would have appreciated if you would’ve emailed me slightly earlier (at the end of every episode it mentions all feedback to be sent to, during the first few days of Ramadhaan- as the scenes which you are referring to happened in the first and second episode – as the necessary changes would’ve been made in the later episodes.

    But nevertheless, we at Channel Islam International are constantly rapidly improving in order to provide our respected listeners with nothing short of a cutting edge leading Islamic listening experience, and thus we deeply appreciate your feedback, it means a lot.

    May Allah always keep our intentions pure.


    Imraan Ismail
    Director and Producer of Redemption Road

  • sister

    salaams,I was involved in the making of Redemption Road and I do agree that women are Not banned from the musjid but Unfortunately most of our young girls who attend dont utilise their time there correctly,this being something I witnessed repeatedly.The smokescreen /Taraweeh issue was touched on in only a single episode. At no time did we say it is wrong,just Preferable that Salaah be read at home, as for the other issues which portrayed women in a negative light,we will correct that Insha’ALLAH n future episodes,jazakALLAH for bringing it to light,We also have men depicted in a negative light and a neglected wife’s plight is explored. JazakALLAH for your comments on our drama we appreciate feedback always

  • Safiyyah

    slms Imran and “sister”.

    I’d just like to reiterate that this is a media watch website, and that critiquing how Muslim women are represented in any media, is what we do … we do not email or give feedback personally, as the idea to make people aware of subtle prejudice or positive representation on a public forum, but I thank you for your feedback.

    I think that to say “most of our girls who attend dont use their time there correctly” is a generalization and just like the episode, entrenches the belief and women and mosques = trouble. Perhaps by depicting how women can make the best out of the masaajid would be more productive – as I highly doubt that the millions of women the world over who participate it mosque life are up to no good.

    and yes, you have portrayed men in a negative light too, but this a forum for Muslimahs. I’m not suggesting that a drama should not have any female antagonists – that would be silly – just that it could be more nuanced, life is not made up of good and bad people, there are many shades of grey in between – and it is slightly clichéd to have the girl who went to madrassah as the only good/virtuous female whilst the others are not good enough – it perpetuates a stereotype, which is what we at MMW are here to point out :)

  • Azad Essa

    Good stuff Safiyya.

    People need to understand how subtle nuances in our media can influence the way we interpret and follow traditions. These stories need to be told. But in conjunction with others, and in a society is specifically struggling to better women’s rights – there should be an effort to push stories that further that goal.

    Good on the Producer for commenting constructively and getting in touch. I don’t think you needed to email him directly; this is public broadcasting so your response can be public. Its great that they have shown a willingness to listen.

    Keep up the good work Safs.. As always.

  • redemption road no:1 fan

    U should try listning wid an ear to take
    Lessons& not 2 critisize den u wil c
    Why every1 is raving bout rr & find
    Benifit in it we need 2 face da facts
    Dese tins r happenin in our society
    Do urself a favour find out in from
    Sahee ahadeeth we’re Nabi s.a.w liked
    Women to perform salaah
    Redemption road keep up da amazin work
    Remember urll doin great work dats why