Cape Malays…

and their Heritage

Imam Gassan Solomon

Posted by tahirfarrath on November 25, 2014


Click on photo or here to see full video of Imam on Minbar 


The African National Congress

“Imam Solomon contributed his life to the struggle for a fairer, better, more compassionate world. He was a Muslim leader who transcended religious boundaries; a community leader who crossed geographic borders; and an ANC activist who went into exile and returned to become an MP.”

Desmond Tutu

“There was a time not so long ago when South Africans were forced to live separate lives. This institutionalised separation extended into every facet of our existence. Even our places of worship were divided.

In the mid-1980s, after my appointment as Archbishop of Cape Town, a group of us, religious leaders from the different faith groups, recognising that we had more in common than the apartheid rulers dared to concede, established an Interfaith Movement to challenge the iniquitous system.

One of our leaders was a Muslim cleric from the Claremont Main Road Mosque, an Imam who preached stridently for equal rights, justice and a more compassionate society. He was responsible for mobilising a new generation of young people to act against apartheid.

We marched together, worked together in the UDF, overcame many anxieties and shared many disappointments.

Imam Gassan Solomon was a highly principled and an inspirational human being. When he appeared at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, representing the Muslim Judicial Council, he concluded his input by quoting from the Koran: “And say truth has arrived and falsehood has perished for indeed falsehood is by its nature perishing.”

Imam Solomon understood the value of truth. One of the jewels of the Western Cape has left us for a higher place. He will be sorely missed,

May his soul rest in peace.”

Jacob Zuma

“Parliament has lost a dedicated representative of the people, we have lost a committed leader and stalwart.

“His track record in fighting for liberation and human rights is well-known, his sterling contribution will forever remain etched in our memories,”

Kgalema Motlanthe

On Wednesday 28 October 2009, Imam Gassan Solomon passed away following a protracted battle with prostate cancer. He fought his cancer as bravely as he fought apartheid and later poverty. This was the death of a struggle hero, a Muslim Imam, Member of Parliament, a cadre of the ANC, and a decent human being.

As news of his passing away spread, and his funeral arranged according to the traditions of Islam, the tributes and condolences poured in. Every message pieced together a chronicle of his life that soon was a chronicle of an entire community’s history – the story of Muslims of South Africa, and their struggle over 300 years.

And as this story of a man and the community that produced him unfolded, the mission and purpose of the African National Congress was retold and affirmed. It is correct that the ANC is a broad church because it was this distinctive combination of traits that allowed a unique cadre and his people to find rest in the ANC’s inclusivity after centuries of slavery, exile, criminalisation and oppression – as people, blacks and Muslims.

It is correct that the ANC has chosen a path of non-racism as both a goal and a method of struggle so that Imam Solomon and all Muslims, Coloured, Malays, Indians, etc could reconcile the values of justice, equality and peace with the values of the ANC that has had the historic mission of National liberation and the establishment of a non-racial democracy.

The death of Imam Solomon and the history of the Muslim community causes us to pause and reflect on why he joined the ANC as his political house. Here was a man, at the age of 19, a victim of the Apartheid Group Areas Act that removed his entire extended family in 1964 from the family land in Constantia, which had been bought by his grandfather in 1902.

His political consciousness was further shaped in 1969 when the Claremont Imam, Abdullah Haron, was murdered in detention giving direction to an entire generation of young Muslims, but effectively shocking the older generation – including the clergy – into silence, preferring a retreat into the rituals rather than the activism of Islam.

From among the younger generation of Muslims, Imam Gassan Solomon was thrust with the leadership of the Claremont Main Rd Mosque, and the Mosque became the lodestar for the politicised Muslim youth who experienced the 1976 uprisings. From the pulpit Imam Solomon interpreted the Quran in ways that simplified Muslim Liberation Theology and he quoted the chapter that declares that the true heretic is the one who prays to God but does not fight for the basic needs of the people.

This clarity of vision was allied to a practical strategy that understood that the Muslim masses needed to be mobilised and the key to this was to engender a vision and to inculcate courage into the clergy. It was this strategy that brought people like Gassan Solomon and Faried Essack into the Muslim Judicial Council.

The fruits were immediately apparent as the MJC declared in 1983, in response to attempts to co-opt minorities into the apartheid system: The MJC “…believes that it cannot divorce itself from the rest of the oppressed and those with the same ideals in the formation of a united democratic front, to oppose a system of apartheid in South Africa.”

This opened the floodgates for Muslim participation in the anti-apartheid struggle, through the United Democratic Front (UDF). Imam Solomon and others immediately understood the need for a vehicle to harness this moment, and in 1984, The Call of Islam was born with Imam Solomon as Amir (President) at a rally of 8000 people in a mosque on the Cape Flats. Imam Gassan inspired Muslims with his oratory into mass action against apartheid that was evident in the way in which mosques, schools and the streets of the Cape Flats reverberated with chants of both Amandla and Allahu Akbar!

But while at a mass level the battle was won by The Call of Islam – now a UDF affiliate – there was intense theological, intellectual and theoretical contestation within the Muslim leadership about whether a democratic state or an Islamic state should be a goal, and about whether Muslims can participate with communists and non-Muslims, and many others. Again The Call of Islam prevailed.

By 1985 the apartheid state understood the Muslim capacity for Martyrdom and sacrifice and acted to deal with the leadership by detaining, threatening, exiling and vilifying them. Imam Solomon went into exile in Saudi Arabia and returned to help build the New South Africa. But the legacy had been established as Muslims swelled the ranks of the UDF’s mass base, the ANC’s underground and Umkhonto we Sizwe, driven by the simple removal of any contradiction between Islam and the ANC as the premier Liberation organisation.

Imam Solomon understood that the ANC cadre carries many responsibilities to win the confidence of the masses. It is this that made him a driving force in the Zakaah Fund that distributes food to the destitute, the Voice of the Cape Radio Station and many other organisations of the people. He was an excellent constituency worker in Grassy Park and a committed Parliamentarian.

Imam Gassan Solomon has done his ancestor, Tuan Guru, proud. He completed a struggle started by Tuan Guru, an exile from Indonesia in Cape Town because of his fight against Dutch colonialism, one of the first prisoners on Robben Island, a man who established the first Mosque and Madrassa in South Africa, a unifier of all the oppressed: slaves from Malaya, the West Coast of Africa, and from among the indigenous people of the Cape. Today, they are all fused into one single community that produced Imam Gassan Solomon.

The ANC mourns with his family. Their loss is our loss. His legacy will not be lost. The ANC is proud that we were able to be his home. His death has shone a light on the values and principles that has made the ANC the home for all South Africans committed to an equal, democratic and non-racial society. We recommit ourselves to these.

Pick up his spear!

>> Kgalema Motlanthe is the ANC Deputy President and Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa


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Book: Regarding Muslims From slavery to post-apartheid

Posted by tahirfarrath on October 30, 2014

Regarding_MuslimsLR-180x260By Gabeba Baderoon

How do Muslims fit into South Africa’s well-known narrative of colonialism, apartheid and postapartheid?

South Africa is infamous for apartheid, but the country’s foundation was laid by 176 years of slavery from 1658 to 1834, which formed a crucible of war, genocide and systemic sexual violence that continues to haunt the country today. Enslaved people from East Africa, India and South East Asia, many of whom were Muslim, would eventually constitute the majority of the population of the Cape Colony, the first of the colonial territories that would eventually form South Africa.

Drawing on an extensive popular and official archive, Regarding Muslims analyses the role of Muslims from South Africa’s founding moments to the contemporary period and points to the resonance of these discussions beyond South Africa. It argues that the 350-year archive of images documenting the presence of Muslims in South Africa is central to understanding the formation of concepts of race, sexuality and belonging.

In contrast to the themes of extremism and alienation that dominate Western portrayals of Muslims, Regarding Muslims explores an extensive repertoire of picturesque Muslim figures in South African popular culture, which oscillates with more disquieting images that occasionally burst into prominence during moments of crisis. This pattern is illustrated through analyses of etymology, popular culture, visual art, jokes, bodily practices, oral narratives and literature. The book ends with the complex vision of Islam conveyed in the postapartheid period.

About the author: Gabeba Baderoon received a PhD in English from the University of Cape Town. She is also a poet and author of the collections The Dream in the Next Body and A hundred silences. She is an Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies and African Studies at Pennsylvania State University and is an Extraordinary Professor of English at Stellenbosch University.


Foreword Rustum Kozain

Preface Introduction Beginnings in South Africa Chapter

1. Ambiguous Visibility: Islam and the Making of a South African Visuality Chapter

2. “Kitchen Language”: Islam and the Culture of Food in South Africa Chapter

3. “The Sea Inside Us”: Parallel Universalism and Homemade Cosmopolitanism in the African Oceans Chapter

4. Sexual Geographies: Slavery, Race and Sexual Violence Chapter

5. Regarding Islam: Pagad, Masked Men and Veiled Women Chapter

6. “The Trees Sway North-North-East”: South African Visions of Islam



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Reading Ancient Tombstones: Tracing the Cape Malayu Heritage in South Africa

Posted by tahirfarrath on September 30, 2014


The Eastern Cape Malayo Cultural Society helped launch a New book in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Reading Ancient Tombstones: Tracing the Cape Malayu Heritage in South Africa and its link with South Africa

(By the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in Cape Town, South Africa)

According to the Consul General of the Republic of Indonesia in Cape Town, Sugie Harijadi, the main purpose of the book is to assist the Cape Malayu Community/Indonesian descendants in unveiling the origin of their forefathers. She said that “Learning about our own heritage is important and valuable. It will shape our future and will allow us to know more about our identity”.


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Book: Religion and Ethical shadows – Sheikh Yusuf Al-Makassari

Posted by tahirfarrath on August 31, 2014


Author: Dr. Mustafa Mustari
Reformation of Indonesia had to face a much bigger challenge, both national issues and from abroad. Various crisis was engulfing this country. Starting from the economic crisis, politics, nationalism and morality are far more threatening the tranquility and peace of the nation and state. The tendency of ruling parties to advance personal or group needs, further increasing public distrust of the authorities. As a result, a variety of actions, even actions illegal participating public life would lead to national instability.

This condition is a major concern as well as uncertainty for Dr. Mustari Mustafa, an educator who spends himself in Makassar Alauddin State Islamic University. Lifting ideas from prominent Sheikh Yusuf Al-Makassari not be separated from its role as an ulema, preachers, Sufis, a congregation, and penjuang the master and the teachings of Islam in kafah. Kecendekiawan Shaykh Yusuf content explored more deeply, developed, and may be a new lesson for the next generation. The authors are also preachers, saw the figure Sheikh Yusuf as an exemplary figure who can not be ignored, and the role of services in the intellectual development of Islam in Indonesia, both for the past and for the future.

This book tells the story of Shaykh Yusuf (1626-1699) starting from the time before he was born, he was a period of growth and development, a period he studied, his crush Dutch colonial occupation in the country, to the days he was exiled to South Africa and spent the end of life his life there. Although Shaykh Yusuf was born and raised in the kingdom which is very convenient, but he does not necessarily accept that life. Indeed Shaykh Yusuf to work harder (gain knowledge) to enforce Islam, defend and advance their communities, as well as against the Dutch colonial time in Makassar.

Way of life Sheikh Yusuf spent most of his life abroad as in Yemen, Hijaz, Syrians, Turkey and ending in Cape Town South Africa. Sheik Yusuf also studied and traveled in Makkah and Madinah. During the long journey, he met and studied with great characters, phenomenal, the Sufis, the famous sheikh in Islam. Of all the learning that Shaykh Yusuf had produced great works that have more to do with the Shari’a. An understanding of the congregation and Sufism is also an important point that was developed by Shaikh Yusuf at the time.

Shaykh Yusuf thoughts could not be released from the fusion of ancient Greek philosophers interpreted by Islamic leaders before Sheikh Yusuf was born. The combination is even more colorful when the era of Sheikh Yusuf and after his time. Shaykh Yusuf emphasized how the position of Islam in different ages, so that the teachings of Islam are not only developed but also to grow and thrive in a pluralistic and modern society as it is today. One of them, how the teachings of Islam acceptable to the social status of people who are different from one another. Education level, income level, and residence perpengaruh greatly to the degree of understanding one’s Islam. Shaykh Yusuf looked at all of these are not mediocre, it is a big problem that could potentially lead to a tricky situation if not handled properly.

In the hands of the author, the book Religion and Ethical shadows Sheikh Yusuf Al-Makassari has become so important to understand the present condition as well as trying to find a way out (way out), which is much more meaningful and intellectual. The language is simple and easy to understand makes the book suitable as a leisure read. Happy reading!


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Tribute to Faldela Williams, author of Cape Malay Cooking

Posted by tahirfarrath on July 30, 2014






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Book: Sheikh Yusuf Al-Makassary – His Life Story

Posted by tahirfarrath on June 30, 2014

Sheikh Yusuf


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Book: The Killing of the Imam (Haron)

Posted by tahirfarrath on May 30, 2014

Haroon Book


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The 2nd International Maori-Melayu-Polynesian Ancestral Nations Conference, New Zealand

Posted by tahirfarrath on April 12, 2014

Revitalising Maori-Malay world relations

By Dr. A. Murad Merican
April 8, 2014

CHIEF Matutaera Te Nana Clendon, president of the Maori Malay Polynesian Society Inc, while sending me off at Auckland Airport recently, reminded that the past is our future. I retorted “you know what time is”.

He resonated with an approving smile. We both know what that implies.

For the duration that I was in Waitangi and Auckland attending the Second International Maori Melayu Polynesian Conference late last month, I encountered a consciousness in the Maoris — a heightened manifestation of ethnicity and identity. There was the presence of a transnational relations beyond Aotearoa, the Maori name for New Zealand.

It was resisting the Pakeha — the Maori label for the Europeans — the other White Man.

The 80-year-old Chief Matu perhaps represents that consciousness — for, unbeknown to him then, he has been to his tanah air (homeland) more than 50 years ago defending Malaysia against the communists.

Many like him who first landed in Malaya/Malaysia as New Zealand servicemen in the 1960s later realised that it was a journey to the past, linking them to their origins in the Malay archipelago.

The Maoris, 600,000 of them, forming 15 per cent of New Zealand’s population, are part of the Malay world stretching from Madagascar to Rapanui (Easter islands) and from Hawaii to Aotearoa. They belong to the Austronesian linguistic group with some 371 million souls — a large market as an economic community as I reminded the conference during the resolution session.

Western writers described the Maoris, as the “Vikings of the Orient”. But the Atlantic, as the Maori responded, was just a pond compared with the Pacific.

In presenting my paper later in the day titled “Early European/Pakeha Discourses on Melayu-Polynesian Identity”, I initially reflected that the meeting between the peoples of Southeast Asia and the Maori at the conference strongly signified a counter-narrative to mainstream Eurocentric view of the world.

There was a predominant manifestation of reasserting and re-establishing indigenous and endogenous views of the world and oneself from the discussions and papers presented.

It evoked Kupe, the earliest explorer who discovered Aotearoa in the 10th century. Later, a participant from Manahiki, an island in the Cook Islands (named after Captain James Cook) fairly located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, whose inhabitants are a close kin of the Maoris, suggested dropping the name “Cook” to the group of islands.

Kupe was there first.

The second conference was themed “Strengthening Cultural, Educational, Trade and Tourism Networks among the Melayu-Polynesian Ancestral Nations”.

While there was a sense of urgency in translating the many resolutions, I cannot help but assume the continuous relevance of the theme from the first conference, held in Seremban, Negri Sembilan in July of 2012, which was “Reestablishing and Revitalising Melayu-Polynesian Cultural Grounds and Global Relations”.

Three significant resolutions, among others, were the establishment of the Melayu-Maori-Polynesian Chamber of Commerce Business Council, and a university based in Auckland tentatively named as the Nusa Melayu-Polynesia International University. The other was revising history — resonating the oft repeated phrase in the conference — “The past is our future”.

In my paper, I articulated that for us to know ourselves, our identity and origins, we also have to know how we were constructed by others over the centuries. We have to internalise ourselves from within, we have to represent ourselves, and be conscious of our own voice and expressions of our being. I revisited two works relevant and much critical to the discourse.

One was Syed Hussein Alatas’ Myth of the Lazy Native: A Study of the Image of the Malays, Filipinos and Javanese from the 16th to the 20th Century and its Function in the Ideology of Colonial Capitalism published in 1977; and the other Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples by Maori educationist and scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith, published 22 years later in 1999.

While Syed Hussein adopts the sociology and philosophy of colonialism in the Asian setting and the concept of ideology as the system within which the representation of identity operates, Tuhiwai Smith holds no reservations on the Pakeha.

She advocated for a rewriting and rerighting “our position in history.” Writing history and theory are key sites in which Western research of the indigenous world have come together.

“Research” is inextricably linked to European imperialism and colonialism. According to Tuhiwai Smith, it is probably one of the dirtiest words in the indigenous world’s vocabulary.

History and theory evoke emotions. Being Maori was also ridiculed and condemned in academic and popular discourses.

In the Maori, we see outside of ourselves, that the production of knowledge is not always direct and neutral process. Even identifying ourselves as the Melayu-Polynesian rumpun (cluster) is not value free.

A pertinent example is the text of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. The Maori language text was signed by 45 rangatira (leaders) on Feb 6. No rangatira had signed the English language text.

There are some five versions of the Treaty in English, which, according to the Maoris, have conflicting translations and interpretations that are still being debated today.

The coloniser and the colonised, in Frantz Fanon’s words “…know each other well” — perhaps much too close for comfort.


See also Maori TV clip:


Patron of the World Melayu-Polynesian Organisation, His Highness Prince – Yang Amat Mulia Tunku Zain Al-‘Abidin ibni Tuanku Muhriz  (left) – more popularly known as Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz, the son of Sultan, Yang di-Pertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan (Malaysia), Tuanku Muhriz ibni Almarhum Tuanku Munawir.  Part of the Malaysian group with the Hon. Minister of Maori Affairs, Peter Sharples (3rd from left).


Concurrent sessions: Toyer Farrath meeting the first arrivals, Prof Dato Nik Hassan Shuhaimi (Malaysia), Rawson Wright (Chairman of Taitokerau Forests Ltd, New Zealand) and presenter Mohd Yusof Abdullah (Director of Negeri Terengganau Museum, Malaysia).


Expat, Toyer Farrath, delivering his paper on Globalisation and Multiculturalism: Working together on strengths, not Differences


Toyer Farrath and Nuruniesah Farrath with Prof Dato Kamarudin Kachar (Malaysia), President of The World Melayu-Polynesia Organisation.


Toyer Farrath with the Maori members of the Maori-Malay-Polynesian Society – organisers of the The 2nd International Maori-Melayu-Polynesian Ancestral Nations Conference (Waitangi, New Zealand).

See more at:


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Three Abdullahs: A Genealogy of Resistance

Posted by tahirfarrath on March 13, 2014

Tuan Guru (Imam Abdullah Qadi Abdus Salam), Imam Abdullah Haron and musician Abdullah Ibrahim share a first name but also a firm grounding in Islam. Together they have plotted a course of resistance to colonialism and Apartheid with Islam as their vehicle. The three Abdullahs lives have become salient points within the trajectory both of Islam in South Africa and in the story of South Africa itself.

Three Abdullahs: A Genealogy of resistance celebrated and reflected on this history by examining the visual representation of these figures in the public imagination through an exhibition format. UCT Honours in Curatorship student, Justin Davy, invited Weaam Williams, Igshaan Adams and Haroon Gunn-Salie, as artists, who deal with the theme of resistance in their work, to respond individually to the archive of the Three Abdullahs with new and existing works.

Weaam Williams presented Medora: Ancestral Omega, a performative installation which centres around the practice of pinning a Medora – a turban-like headdress – onto a Muslim brides head on her wedding day. The practice of crafting and pinning Medoras is closely linked to the history of Weaam’s family, her great-grandmother at one stage being the only person in Cape Town able to make a Medora. Furthermore, the work embraces women’s stories and responds to a male dominated history including that of the Three Abdullahs.

Fresh from a solo show entitled Have you seen Him? at Blank Projects, Igshaan Adams presented a ritualistic performance in response to the idea of legacy or “what we leave behind when we die”.

Haroon Gunn-Salie is a 2013 Sasol New Signatures finalist. He described being named after Imam Abdullah Haron as a “narrative he has been coming to terms with throughout his life”. Gunn-Salie will be digging deeper into the Haron archive and simultaneously adding to it through the course of the exhibition.

Special Guest James Matthews, the acclaimed poet and icon of the struggle against Apartheid, will collaborate with Haroon Gunn-Salie on a performative piece conceived for the exhibition.

It was hels at:  Centre for African Studies Gallery  Harry Oppenheimer Institute Building  Engineering Mall Road  University of Cape Town  Upper Campus  Rondebosch, Cape Town

The exhibition ran till 18 November, Monday to Friday between 12 and 4pm. By appointment only.

For more information or to arrange a visit after the opening event please contact Justin Davy on 0832120702

The exhibition is curated by Justin Davy in fulfilment of the requirements of the Honours in Curatorship Course at the Centre for Curating the Archive, Michaelis, UCT.


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Khoi-San: Abolish the term ‘coloured’

Posted by tahirfarrath on February 2, 2014

By Thamsanqa Magubane

The Witness


Pietermaritzburg – The word “coloured” is a derogatory term that should be abolished like all other offensive terms, says the Khoi and San community in KwaZulu-Natal.

The leader of the Khoi-San in KwaZulu-Natal, Raymond Trollip, said members of the coloured community should be referred to by their different tribes such as the Khoi, San, Nama, Khorana and the Grique.

“The word ‘coloured’ must be removed like all the other names that have been removed. It is similar to the offensive K word.”

He said it had been coined by the “Dutchman to classify us from human beings to nothing”.

“Those who do not like to be referred to by these [tribe] names, they should simply be referred to as the ‘descendants’.”


Trollip was addressing delegates at a workshop organised by the department of rural development and land reform in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday.

The event is aimed at collecting the views of coloured people about the possible reopening of the land claims process.

Their forefathers were dispossessed of their land in the 1800s and the current generation could not file land claims with the government because they lost their land before the 1913 cut-off date.

Trollip said that in their efforts not only to abolish the classifications of the past, the communities were also fighting to regain their culture and identity and were already looking at teaching one of their original languages, Nama, in schools in the province.

“We have identified the Nama language that should be taught in schools. It is an African language and would be easy to learn and would simply fall on the tongue,” he said.

“Right now our children are being taught Zulu and other languages, so the other children should also be taught to speak our language.”


Trollip said much needed to be done to restore the dignity of the “coloured” community.

“We lost too much to even try to explain – our land, our livestock, our culture, language, way of life, our heritage sites and historic landmarks, our forefathers’ farms, our identity and our first-nation status.”

His words were echoed by Gabriel Marais, representative of the National Khoi and San in KwaZulu-Natal, who said it was important that their culture, language and heritage be revived.

Advocate Bheki Mbili of the department said the workshop would look at the concerns raised by the community.

“The Khoi-San indaba will provide the platform for more inputs to the policy document the department is currently developing to the benefit of all exceptional land restitution claims,” Mbili said.

- The Witness


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