Imperialism, state formation and the establishment of a Muslim community at the Cape of Good Hope, 1770-1840 : a study in urban resistance

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

One of the most significant and yet least studied developments of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Cape Town is the emergence and growth of a muslim community. So dramatic was this process, that by the end of the period of slavery, well over two thirds of the town's non-European population were considered to be members of this community. Yet this process has largely been regarded, in such studies as do exist, as one of only marginal significance to the unfolding pattern of struggles that characterise this turbulent and brutal period of Cape Town's history. This lack of serious research stems largely from the nature of prevailing conceptions, which have tended to characterise both Islam and the muslim community as ostensibly cultural phenomena; culture being defined in its narrowest sense. Denied its political and ideological significance, the process of Islamisation is reduced to the point where it is regarded only as a quaint and colourful anachronism, adding a touch of spice to the cosmopolitan nature of the town. This thesis, however, takes as its point of departure the rejection of the notion that the development of Islam in Cape Town can be meaningfully understood in these terms.

Includes bibliography.