Muslim women’s identities in South Africa: A Zanzibari perspective in KwaZulu-Natal.

11 December 2014

This article examines how Zanzibari women in KwaZulu-Natal are negotiating their identities within the context of local and global realities. In South Africa, while the post-apartheid period gave birth to non-racial democracy, South Africa is haunted by high unemployment, widespread poverty and poor service delivery. Globally, this period has witnessed increased conflict since the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and the subsequent War on Terror which has led some to suggest that the irreconcilable fault lines of religion and culture have ushered in a clash of civilisations. This article examines the identities of Zanzibari women in the context of these rapidly changing local, national and international conditions. It also speaks to the local context of apartheid race engineering as the Zanzibari experience underscores the contingent nature of race as a category of identity. The article argues that while religion is important in the lives of the women, their identities are shaped by the complex interplay between religion, politics, class, race, language, community, and geography. An analysis based solely on religious laws and “race” deflects from a nuanced one that takes into account social and economic conditions when it comes to historicising identity