To the southern tip of the African continent lies the beautiful country of South Africa. This beautiful country is one true multiethnic society, what with the wide variety of languages, cultures and religions to be found. When one speaks of South Africa, two things pop to mind, much as they are intertwined, Apartheid and Nelson Mandela, but regardless of its bleak past, South Africa has risen out of the ashes to become one of the most talked about countries in Africa, especially in terms of tourism. South Africa offers a special diversity to its visitors, from the beautiful savannas, to the snow-capped mountains and deserts, in addition to nine provinces to choose from and eleven national languages inclusive of Swazi, Northern Sotho, Ndebele, English, Afrikaans, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Xhosa, Venda and Zulu.
In terms of religion in South Africa, Christians account for over 79.8% of the population followed by Muslims covering 1.5% of the population. The number may be small, but the Muslim community in South Africa stands tall and proud, with a claim of having a fast growing rate of conversion especially among the black Muslims, the figure is given of 74,700 Muslims as of 2004 as opposed to only 12,000 in 1991.
Everywhere you look in this beautiful country, you will be amazed with the rich diversity it offers. The Muslim Community is one area that offers a special diversity, with two phases of Muslims to the country. The first phase was brought in involuntarily because they were criminals from Africa and Asia, political prisoners and slaves. The other phase was of immigrants from Madagascar, West Africa and East Africa in addition to the arrival of Indian Muslims following the abolition of slavery. Though presenting a small percentage, the Muslim community in South Africa has managed to grow as a result of emphasis on literacy and education, the purchase of slaves by free Muslims, conversion, intermarriage and adoption.
A visit to South Africa will present you with over 500 mosques, 408 educational institutes, Muslim private schools, colleges, religious instruction centers, as well as, colleges of Islamic sciences, you will find that a number of universities offer, as part of their academic curriculum, Arabic and Islamic studies. With the education attained, it is no surprise that you will find a number of Muslims in every profession and field of endeavor.
Muslims played a significant role during the anti-apartheid struggle, as well as, in the post-apartheid government. Nearly every province with a significant number of Muslims has a private radio station that broadcasts to them, not forgetting the Islamic newspapers that play a role of enlightenment to the Muslim community about various issues.
In terms of humanitarian needs, a number of local Muslim organizations have undertaken the role of helping the country in times of natural disasters, conflicts, as well as, political upheaval. When it comes down to gender, the Muslim women are not far behind their counterparts, due to the fact that through the formation of their own associations, they have been able to render valuable services to the community with a true Islamic spirit. The youth has not been left out as Islamic societies, and associations have been formed by them in some of the most important secondary and tertiary educational institutes in the country. In addition, the South African Muslim women are greatly respected and treated with high appreciation, it is a common sight to find a domestic worker provided for by the Muslim husband to his wife so that she can get some time off to pursue an education, spend quality time with the family or just to get time off for herself.
Not everything is bright, however, for the Muslim Community in South Africa because much like any other religion, they also face a number of challenges. Following the 9/11 attacks on the world trade center, Islamophobic behavior showed an increment, with people fearing and getting suspicious of Muslims. The country faces some sort of Urban terrorism in Western Cape which is committed by the PAGAD (People Against Gangsterism and Drugs).
As a whole, the Muslim Community in South Africa has been blessed with the freedom to practice Islam, even during the apartheid period. As a result, the Muslim community in the country continues to thrive, with a number of indigenous Africans embracing Islam. Though they may come from different cultural traditions, the South African Muslims all unite under one nation, which strives to create a better life for all.
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