Big Love: Appropriating Feminism in Advocating Polygamy

Stories about polygamy tend to surge and ebb in the media, but they never fail to intrigue people. Recently in South Africa, a Zulu man married four women–all at once–making the most popular story on the BBC news website (you can watch the clip here). In the video, a male wedding guest gives a thumbs-up to the marriage(s), claiming that the "world" suffers from monogamous marriage breakdowns as a result of adultery. Later, the narrator serves up a classic: with all those wives, what man will hav … [Read more...]

Women’s Day in South Africa

Since 1994, South Africa celebrates National Women's Day every year on the 9th of August, and more generally the whole month has become one in which the woes of women are highlighted and tribute is paid to their outstanding achievements. The occasion marks a march led by a 20,000-strong gathering of women on August 9, 1956, in protest against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act (which curtailed the movement of non-whites in urban areas and allowed them only 72 hours without … [Read more...]

Tariq Ramadan Speaks to South African Women

Last weekend, my husband and I made the six hour drive to the coastal city of Durban, to attend a series of lectures and seminars by Professor Tariq Ramadan. In an earlier post, I reviewed Ramadan's latest book, Radical Reform. I certainly appreciate Ramadan's work, and feels he is one of the very few contemporary egalitarian Islamic scholars.One evening of the conference was dedicated especially to women's issues, as the rather simplistic poster advertisement points out. "To work or not to … [Read more...]

A Marriage made in Parliament: South Africa’s Muslim Personal Law Bill, Part 2

This is part two of our series on Muslim Personal Law in South Africa. Today, we will analyze media coverage of the bill. Check out part one here.Several mainstream newspapers across South Africa have been reporting on the MPL matter. How have Muslim women been portrayed in these articles?The Cape Argus article, for one, opens with a shocking statement: Justice bosses are rushing through laws that will stop Muslim women from being treated as second-class citizens. This startled me. I … [Read more...]

A Marriage made in Parliament: South Africa’s Muslim Personal Law Bill, Part 1

This is the first of a two-series post on South Africa's Muslim Personal Law bill. Today's post will cover the history of the bill.The issue of Muslim Personal Law (MPL) in South Africa, which has been under scrutiny in the media recently, is a contentious one, with a volatile history that spans over two decades, a revolution, and four government changes. The ongoing debate has sparked controversy in the Muslim and non-Muslim media alike.The MPL Bill defines its own aims as: To make … [Read more...]

Al Huda – Guidance for a disunited community?

Her confidence overshadowed the edginess in her voice, when she proclaimed, live, on a very orthodox community radio station, "I want this magazine to represent ALL Muslims, regardless of their socio-political affiliations." This might seem insignificant at first glance, but let me put it in perspective. The South African Muslim community is one beset by many problems, amongst them  racism, classicism, sectarianism and of course, sexism. For a Muslim women (gasp) to say that she wishes to bridge … [Read more...]