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HUMSS - Margherita Picchi

Dr. Margherita Picchi

Islamic Studies

University of Cape Town

Khutba activism in South Africa: A history of the Claremont Main Road Mosque’s community tafsir
When May 30, 2022
from 03:00 PM to 04:00 PM
Where Hybrid format: Onsite at FRIAS & online via Zoom
Contact Name
Attendees Universitätsoffen / open to university members
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Khutba activism in South Africa: A history of the Claremont Main Road Mosque’s community tafsir

Founded in 1854, Cape Town’s Claremont Main Road Mosque has since the early 1980s established itself as a key platform in South Africa for the elaboration of a progressivist and liberationist Muslim discourse.

Under the leadership of Imam Hassan Solomon (1980-1986) and later of Imam Abdul Rashied Omar (1986-), the pulpit (minbar) became the medium of a systematic political communication performed through Friday and Eid sermons (khutba), by the imams and guest preachers alike.

The 1994 democratic turn determined a slow but neat shift in the mosque’s discourse from a confrontational political message based on a “us vs. them” rhetoric, toward an inclusivist socially engaged message centered on human rights, ethics and pluralism. This shift is perhaps best exemplified by the Board of Governors’ 2014 decision to define the mosque as a “critical traditionalist” space instead of a “progressive” one, as they did before.

This intervention will briefly retrace the history of the Claremont Main Road Mosque and its congregation, and then explore how two core hermeneutical keys of modern political Islam, namely jihad [“the (armed) struggle”] and al-mustad‘afun fi-l-ard  [“the wretched of the earth”], have been re-elaborated by the preachers in their sermons to legitimize the mosque’s mission in post-Apartheid South Africa.