THE BEARDS" VERSUS THE "BARD'S" AMONG INDIAN MUSLIMS IN SOUTH AFRICA: A 21st Century Story of Travelling Cartoons and Protests
This paper examines Indian Muslims in post-apartheid South Africa, with particular respect to the inclination by non-Muslims to view Muslims as a
homogeneous monolith, and the divisions among Muslims over traditions, beliefs, and practices, which run contrary to this wide-held perception. Muslims are divided by race, class, gender, and ethnicity; theologically they run the gamut from orthodox to progressive; and among themselves they are boxed into categories like Tablighi, Deobandi, Modernist, Salafi, and so on; and their cultural identities are cumulative rather than singular. They are also reacting in different ways to changes ushered by the demise of apartheid, globalisation, challenges posed by modernity, and the "War on Terror". At the extremes are those seeking to withdraw into parochial (re)-imagined Islamic identities and those who have wholeheartedly embraced the new, democratic South Africa. In-between are a multiplicity of identities and attitudes. Traditional Ulema ( religious clergy) wield power among Muslims and their views are usually hegemonic. They have the support of the majority of Muslims and seek to sideline recalcitrant voices by declaring their beliefs as "untruths". Dissenting voices are, however, emerging among Muslim intelligentsia, professionals, and gender activists outside the control of the ·Ulema, who are challenging the dominant status quo. Muslim identities will continue to shift and transform n response to changing circumstances in a particularly unstable global and national political context.