Regarding Muslims: From Slavery to Post-Apartheid by Gabeba Baderoon

01 Jun 2014
Regarding Muslims

How do Muslims fit into South Africa’s well-known narratives of colonialism, apartheid and post-apartheid?

South Africa is notorious for apartheid, but this system of institutionalised racism was first shaped by 176 years of slavery and its brutality. Slaves from East Africa, India and South-East Asia, many of whom were Muslim, constituted the majority of the population of the initial Cape Colony.

Regarding Muslims argues that the 350-year archive of images documenting Muslims in South Africa is central to understanding the development of concepts of race, sexuality and belonging. Baderoon explores an extensive repertoire of picturesque Muslim figures in South African popular culture, a set of images whose instability is revealed when more disquieting images burst into prominence during moments of crisis.

Popular culture, visual art, jokes, bodily practices, oral narratives and rich seams of literature reveal the complexity and subtlety of contributions brought to the South African narrative by Muslims, especially in the post-apartheid period, in which artists and writers reclaim and subvert the gaze, and opt for intricacy and open-endedness as alternatives to the themes of extremism and alienation that dominate Western portrayals of Muslims.

Carefully researched, intimate and devastating by turns, Regarding Muslims analyses the role of Muslims from South Africa’s founding moments to the contemporary period, and points to the resonance of this analysis for other communities across the globe.

Date of Publication: June 2014
ISBN: 978-1-86814-769-4
Publisher: Wits University Press
Reviews: “Drawing on the by now extensive scholarship on slavery at the Cape, Gabeba Baderoon guides us through the labyrinth of racial and cultural stereotyping which for centuries minimised Islam and obscured Muslims as actors in South African history. Intellectually sophisticated in its explorations of material culture, of iconography, and of media rhetoric, yet lively in style and engagingly personal in presentation, Regarding Muslims is a welcome contribution to the larger revisionist project under way in South Africa.” – JM Coetzee, Nobel Laureate for Literature, 2003.

“This is the book we have all been waiting for – Baderoon mainstreams Islam in South African cultural history and produces a dazzling array of re-readings and re-alignments. This deeply original book inserts Islamicate intellectual traditions back into South African public life and makes us re-envision both. Written with the lucidity and imagination of a poet, this book helps us appreciate the multiple inheritances of South Africa and the intellectual riches that result from taking these seriously.” – Isabel Hofmeyr, Professor of African Literature at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and Visiting Global Distinguished Professor, New York University.

“Casting an incisive if unsettling analytical eye on the representations of Muslims in South Africa, Gabeba Baderoon’s Regarding Muslims is an extraordinary book. Baderoon starkly reveals the intersecting forms of public and intimate violence defining colonial slave history. This innovative work of interdisciplinary analyses contributes significantly to broader debates in postcolonial scholarship, adding nuanced and textured insights into questions of race, slavery, sexuality, religion and representation drawn from the South African context. Regarding Muslims is a pioneering work of enormous intellectual creativity.” – Sa’diyya Shaikh, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Cape Town and author of Sufi Narratives of Intimacy: Ibn ‘Arabi, Gender, and Sexuality.