The Dynamics of Christian-Muslim Relations in South Africa (circa 1960-2000):

From Exclusivism to Pluralism[1]


Drs. Muhammed Haron





South Africa like many other nation states in sub-Saharan Africa has been a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious state for more than a century. This mosaic character of the South African society stimulated the Respected Rev. Dr. Desmond Tutu to aptly describe it as ‘the rainbow nation.’ South Africa’s rainbow nation is in the region of 46m, and is predominantly Christian. Other members of this nation adhere to numerous other religious traditions; amongst them are those who are adherents of Islam and who roughly form approximately 2% (+1m) of the total population. Despite the small figure, the Muslims have played a prominent role in various sectors of the South African society before and throughout the 20th century, and their relationship with the majority Christian society, particularly within the African, Coloured and Indian communities, may generally be described as cordial.


The purpose of this paper is to critically assess, via a socio-historical approach, the fluid relationship between the Christians and Muslims particularly from the 1960s onwards until 2000. When assessing the relationship between the Christians and Muslims in the 20th century, one must take into account that South Africans were divided along distinct racial lines – namely Whites, Indians, Coloureds & Africans, which affected and impacted upon their day-to-day relations with one another. Because of these classifications, the first part of the paper will address Christian-Muslim relations from two different angles. From the one, it will closely look at the White Christian missionary activities amongst Coloured/Indian Muslims (Zwemer 1914; Davids 1992; Haron 1999), and from another it will closely scrutinize the relationship between Coloured/Indian Christians and Coloured/Indian Muslims. This is clearly reflected in the efforts of groups such as the Arabic Study Circle (est. 1950) that were deeply involved in interfaith meetings during the 1950s and 1960s. It will also be demonstrated how these inter-faith forums steered clear from getting embroiled in unnecessary polemical debates aired by the NGK/Anglican Christian missionaries, and the Muslim missionary organizations such as the Durban based Islamic Propagation Centre (est. 1957) led by Messrs. Ahmad Deedat and Ghoolam Vanker (Poston 1992; Sadouni 1998). The approach will tangibly show that when comparing the two sets of relationships and studying the available literature such as the NGK’s Die Kerkbode (Kritzinger 1981; Kitshoff 1994; Haron 1999) that there was a conspicuous difference between them; in the first case the relationship was one of confrontation, and in the other the relationship was one of cooperation (Zebiri 1997). The paper will highlight how and why these two sets of relationships came to exist side-by-side and differ from one another, and will thus undertake a brief comparative study of the two.


And the second part of the paper will - before moving on to discuss the cooperative spirit that came about - take into cognisance those voices, namely John Gilchrist (1977), Gerhard Nehls (1999) and Maulana Sadeq Desai and The Majlis (Haron 2003), that remained steadfast in their opposition to any forms of cooperation and dialogue. It will then go on to argue, via the socio-historical developments and textual sources, why and how these sets of relationships were transformed and eventually merged as the socio-political and economic circumstances changed during the latter part of the 20th century. Four factors may be identified that led to a fruitful and blossoming relationship between Christians and Muslims: (a) the one was working together under the United Democratic Front (est. 1983) to achieve the common political goal of breaking and bringing down the South African apartheid system, (b) the second was participating in the formation of the South African Chapter of the World Council of Religion and Peace, which was spearheaded by Rev. Gerrie Lubbe (1985, 1986, 1987, 1993) and Maulana Farid Esack (1988, 1989), and taking into account their  scholarly contributions that laid the foundations for inter-faith cooperation for positive change in South Africa, (c) the third was their all out support for the 1985 historical Kairos Document (Omar 1987), and (d) the fourth was their united stand against the White NGK Synod’s findings in 1986 that ‘Islam was a false religion.’ (Crafford 1986, 1987; Naude 1986; Esack 1988; Jeppie 1990).


The last part of the paper will record the nature and challenges of Christian and Muslim relations during the final decade of the 20th century, which also signify the end of apartheid and the ushering in of a democratic system on 27th April 1994. And it will thereafter highlight the relevant clauses in the new constitution that guaranteed the South African rainbow nation ‘religious freedom’ and their right to ‘freedom of expression.’ And it will finally reflect upon three events in which Christian and Muslims once again showed their willingness and preparedness to cooperate and vigorously pursue dialogue: (a) their support for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1995-1997) as a significant mechanism for reconciliation and nation building (De Gruchy & Cochrane 1997; Kayser 1999; Haron 2002), (b) their cooperation in ‘People against Gangsterism and Drugs’ (Clohessey 1999), and (c) the inputs made by Christians and Muslims at the PWR/WCRP-SA forum that took place in Cape Town in December 1999.


1. Introduction the Dynamics of Christian-Muslim Relations:


During the second half of the 20th century the socio-political landscape of South Africa underwent a radical transformation; it changed from being a pariah state before the 1960s to a democratic one by the mid 1990s. These changes also affected the socio-religious and cultural developments within the state. The apartheid government’s political philosophy was rooted and embedded in its Christian Dutch Reform Church (hereafter NGK) religious tenets that biblically justified the government’s practice of racial segregation.


The NGK theological arguments were the motivating force behind the White Afrikaner politicians’ thinking; these political architects under the leadership of Dr. H.F. Verwoerd constructed the notion of baasskap, which literally and figuratively meant their dominant control and management of their own affairs and those who came under them. They cultivated a philosophy, which they blindly believed in and faithfully followed, without critically questioning its implications and how it would affect those whom they classed as second class citizens. Since they regarded themselves to be superior in all respects, all the non-Whites (Africans, Coloured and Indians) were viewed as peoples who were racially and intellectually inferior. And because of their warped thinking and arrogant attitude towards others, they adopted and forcefully implemented a policy that clearly discriminated amongst the different ethnic/racial groups. In fact, their policies of racial discrimination were theologically justified way back in 1857 when NGK Synod agreed on a policy to divide its congregants along distinct racial lines. As a result, the Synod structured separate Churches for the Whites, Coloured, Indians and Africans; the NGK as the mother Church served the Whites in general, the NG Sendings Kerk was created for the Coloured congregants, the Reformed Church was structured for its Indian congregants and NGK Afrika for the Africans. This policy had a tremendous impact and effect upon the church, the congregants and the state[2].


It was thus observed that religion played a crucial role in the way the White NGK community constructed their lives, considered their own positions at the expense of others, and interpreted their scriptures in such a prejudiced manner that only they firmly and truly believed that they were following an exclusively true path; a path they categorically argued had been charted out for them according to the divine plan! And since this was for them God’s grand plan, no-one had the right to question their interpretation; not even their co-religionists had the right to raise critical questions. This trend continued from the mid 19th century until beyond the middle of the 20th century; and during these times they articulated the view that there were three dangers that challenged them: die swart gevaar (the black threat), die rooi (communist) gevaar, and die slamse (Muslim) gevaar. In addition, they also considered the Roman Catholic Church also a threat; however, since their numbers were small, they were considered a minor threat. The NGK teachings and practices were moreover only closely scrutinised and questioned during the latter part of the 20th century when the non-White oppressed communities became acutely aware of the extent of the discrimination, and the manner in which the sacred text was linguistically manipulated to suite their understanding. And this resulted in the emergence of oppositional voices such as those of Dr. Rev. Beyers Naudé and Dr. Rev. Allan Boesak (from within the NGK ranks) who questioned and demanded that the NGK radically transforms from within and from the outside, and also adopt a more pluralist position towards other religious traditions.


This essay captures the dynamics of Christian-Muslim relations from the early 1960s through to the close of the 20th century. Each decade from the 1960s onwards is treated separately; and within each of these historical periods the essay shows how the relations between the Christians and Muslims changed. Since specific socio-political and theological transformations took place during the 40 years, an attempt is made to demonstrate why and how these changes occurred and to what extent it affected their mutual relations. Prior to outlining, highlighting and discussing this rich socio-political and theological history so that we may gain an overall view of and insight into the various developments, the essay constructs a theoretical framework within which to analyse it; And, in addition, it provides a simple background sketch of the socio-historical, political and theological developments that took place before the 1960s in order to place it within a particular context. 


2. Constructing a Framework for Understanding this Dynamics:


Before telling the story of the nature of the dynamic relationship between the Christian and Muslims in this part of the African continent, we wish to appropriate a theoretical framework that would assist us in providing a better insight into and overall understanding of how these two religious communities related, reacted and responded to one another, and how the relationship unfolded from an attitude of aggression at one historical moment to one of cooperation during the latter part of the 20th century.  The theoretical concepts that are being used are those that have been proposed by theologians and philosophers of religion; the first is the exclusivist position, the second is the inclusivist stance and the third is the religious pluralist standpoint. According to Kate Zebiri[3], these three concepts follow a logical continuum in the manner in which they had been conceptualised and constructed. This is indeed the case, since Professor John Hick[4], who vociferously and passionately advocated, the last mentioned concept developed it in relation to the first two; these two concepts have however been explained, debated and defended by other scholars such Alvin Platinga[5] and Raimondo Panikkar[6]. Let us first turn to the first concept along the continuum and then move to the two that follow.


Although Panikkar proposed four positions, we confine ourselves to the first two that deal specifically with exclusivism and inclusivism as understood within Christianity. In summary Panikkar argued that the exclusivist holds the view that only his/her religious tradition contains the ‘absolute truth’, in other words a valid ‘truth claim’ and that all other existing and previously existing ones do not possess valid and legitimate ‘truth claims’. This claim he argued has “a certain built-in claim tom exclusivity.” This is supported by the view expressed by Crafford who said that “the exclusivist position holds that salvation is only possible through confession and surrender to God in Christ… and the basis for this position is that humankind is fundamentally sinful after the fall and therefore opposed to the will of God.”[7] Westerlund however put it more simply; he stated that “exclusivism denotes the idea that only one religion or religious denomination is true and that that beliefs and practices in other religions therefore are false to the extent that they are in conflict with this religion.”[8] Panikkar, however, also raised the difficulties that exclusivism contains.


The inclusivist position differs from the exclusivist stance in that it supports the notion that his/her religious tradition contains ‘a truth claim,’ but it also acknowledges the existence of some form of ‘truth claim’ in others. Panikkar described this attitude as magnanimous in that “you can follow your own path and do not need to condemn the other… you can be concrete in your allegiances and universal in your outlook.” However, according to some Christian theologians, inherent in this attitude is the fact that adherents of other religious traditions will eventually find their way to salvation via Christ. Kimball quoted Reverend Alan Race[9] who argued that “to be inclusive is to believe that all non-Christian religious truth belongs ultimately to Christ …”. This attitude, according to Panikkar, also has its inherent difficulties; one of these is the difficulty of an almost “alogical conception of truth and a built-in inner contradiction when the attitude is spelt out in theory and praxis.”


In contrast to the mentioned two positions, Hick advocated the idea of a pluralist position; a position that accepted the understanding that all truth claims are valid and therefore should be given equal respect and space in the contemporary world. Hick developed his philosophy during the time he spent in Birmingham where there was racial inequality and where the need existed to develop a sense of pluralism. He thus theologised deeply about the concept of religious pluralism and made the point that the acceptance of this position does not mean that the believer has to reject his beliefs in his own religious tradition; it only means that the Christian has to accept the fact that the traditions of others, namely Muslims. Jews, Hindus etc., also contain valid truth claims, which cannot be denied and rejected. These valid ‘truth claims’ must be respected because others have the right to exercise and express their beliefs the way they want and wish.


These three interconnected concepts are reflected when applying them to the South African context. They fit neatly into the relationship that existed between the Christians and Muslims throughout the 20th century and particularly between 1960 until the ushering in of the 21st century. If we apply them to the South African situation, it may be stated that the Christianity espoused by the White NGK held firmly to an exclusivist position, and because of this position the NGK categorically expressed the view that all other traditions are false; however, when we scan the periods beyond the 1960s we observe that the exclusivist position held by the NGK and Anglican Churches respectively was slowly being replaced by an inclusivist one as demonstrated by certain individuals and groups within Christianity; and this, in turn, made space for the pluralist position that was espoused by those who fully supported interfaith dialogue and cooperation from the mid 1980s onwards. These positions may be graphically represented as follows:



Theological Positions

Patterns of Mission

Types of Theologies




Historical Period








1910- 1960








1961- 1970
















1981- 1990








1991- 2000


Whilst the borders between the different positions need not be strictly applied within the historical time-frame that has been outlined, the developments within the spheres of theology more-or-less coincide with these time-frames. It is thus noted that the NGK Afrikaner Christians adopted - for most of the 20th century - an exclusivist position; and other religious traditions including the Roman Catholic Church were never given equal respect and recognition by the NGK, and because of this exclusivist attitude it resulted in one of aggression and confrontation. These patterns were however only replaced by patterns of accommodation and that of dialogue during the years of the struggle against apartheid; these have particularly been so amongst the oppressed masses in the mid 1980s. And when the 1990s ushered in we note that they shifted from mere dialogue and partial cooperation to one of full cooperation in different spheres[10].


With the frames in place, it may now be useful to back-track historically and to trace the socio-historical, theological and political developments in South Africa since 1910s. The main purpose for this is to contextualise the discussion that focuses on the latter part of the 20th century with special reference to the relationship between the Christians and Muslims.


3. Socio-Historical, Theological and Political Developments, circa 1910-1960:


For us to have an overall understanding of the dynamics of Christian – Muslim relations we have to retrace our steps to the early part of the 20th century where the foundations for the late 20th century developments were laid. Here we may begin with the time when South Africa was formerly recognized as a Union in 1910; this year coincided with the ‘First International Mission Conference’ that took place in Edinburgh. During these times the Africans felt agitated and the need to form an organization that would work in their interest and on their behalf. They therefore formed the All African People’s Convention, which later became the African National Congress in 1912. Since then they took up the struggle to abolish the Land Act of 1913, which deprived them of a large percentage of the arable land that was forcefully taken away from them by the Smuts government; despite their unsuccessful attempts they continued with their struggle against similar and many other acts in the years that followed. During these times the Christian missionaries were very active and stepped up their activities to convert the ‘natives’ (i.e. the Africans), and ‘others’ such as the Muslims to Christianity. It was at this time when the NGK General Commission appointed Ds. G.B.A Gerdener to work amongst the Muslims; he was active from 1913 until 1917. Based upon his intimate experiences and interactions with the Muslims, he wrote a short seven page NGK guide for the missionaries entitled Onder de Slamsen in de Kaapstad: Afval en Strijd in which he noted the attitude Muslims adopted towards Christianity, and the method missionaries need to use to combat the Muslim growth. Dr. Samuel Zwemer, a well known missionary, also contributed on the same subject when he printed ‘The Moslem menace in South Africa,’[11] in which he advised the threatening position of the South African Muslims during the 1910s, and suggested ways of combating their spread. The Muslim community grew at a steady pace and, according to Zwemer, had an influential status in South Africa and particularly at the Cape at that time. The NGK Synod General Commission held in meeting in 1919 to review the work amongst Muslims in particular and appointed Ds. A.J. Liebenberg to undertake a new strategy of house to house calls.



In the 1920s the Muslim community published the Moslem Outlook, which favoured Dr. Abdurahman - who had spearheaded the African People’s Organization (est. 1903) at the Cape – as opposed to Mr. Arshad Gamiet – who headed the Cape Malay Association (est. 1923). The paper reported on developments within and outside the Muslim community; amongst the reports were the protests by the South African Muslims against the abolishment of the Turkish Empire by Kemal Ataturk and another highlighted the visit in 1926 of Lord Headley, who had embraced Islam, and Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, the Imam of the Woking mosque in Britain[12]. Coincidently, Zwemer published two more articles on the status of the Muslims in South Africa; in the first article he undertook ‘A survey of Islam in South Africa’[13] in which he reported on his visit to South Africa and commented on the linguistic, cultural and social dimensions of the Muslims in the different South African cities, and in the second he described ‘Islam at Cape Town.’[14] Zwemer’s first hand experience of the presence of the Muslims in South Africa thus helped him to construct a more informed picture about this religious community for the missionaries; in fact, his description and understanding assisted the NGK and Anglicans who were hard at work to attract the Muslims to Christianity. Zwemer’s articles were complimented by the texts of Ds. A.J. Liebenberg who produced a 1925 article entitled ‘Mohammedanisme in Zuid-Afrika’[15], which formed part of a larger work that appeared in 1926 under the titled Die Slams. Liebenberg’s advice contained in these works as well as in his lengthier tract Mohammedane en Mohammedanisme to the NGK missionaries was very similar to the advice given by A.W. Blaxall, the Anglican parishioner. The latter’s An Outpost of Islam publication was circulated in 1927 at the Cape, and in it he discussed the past attempts to bring the Muslims to Christianity and suggested methods that need to be followed in order to be more successful. And by 1934, Rev. A.R. Hampson wrote about his experiences regarding ‘The Mission to Moslems in Cape Town’[16].  During these years Dr. Izak du Plessies, who later became an administrator in the government, had been studying the culture of the Cape Malays and began to record many articles and books about them since the mid 1930s; he, for example, completed Die bydraes van die Kaapse Maleier tot die Afrikaanse volklied in 1935, Die Maleise samelewing aan die Kaap in 1939[17] and in 1944 The Cape Malays[18]; the latter are considered his well known texts. It was also during these times that the Nationalist Party gained political strength and power; and the party took over the government in 1948. Their political take over coincided with the first edition of Alan Paton’s novel, Cry, The Beloved Country, which depicted the harsh realities of racial discrimination, and it was also in 1948 when the World Council of Churches was established.


During these years the NGK church strengthened its position by moving closer towards the politicians; this shift meant that they became more influential theologically. After the end of a three day conference on ‘Christian Principles on a Multi-Racial South Africa’ that was organized by the Federal Mission Council of the NGK during 1953, the Afrikaners - despite the resistance from the English speaking churches – firmly established an Apartheid theology; a theology that became the state theology[19]. Armed with this theological support that was based upon their interpretation and translation of the Bible, the state’s conscience was clear as far as its apartheid policies were concerned; these were theologically justified, formulated and legislated to bring into reality separate development that was mooted by the NGK Synod in 1857. Their resolve to translate their political philosophy, which was theologically justified, into practice became a reality as the apartheid parliament was fully occupied in formulating and legislating these racial acts. Despite the many protest meetings and rallies, the government continued unabated. Representatives of the oppressed masses, namely the ANC and other congresses, met in 1955 at Kliptown in the Transvaal (now Gauteng) where they drafted the famous ‘Freedom Charter’ as a road map for the future[20]. And this was the same year when Ds. Lukes Haasbroek completed his MA thesis at the University of Stellenbosch on Die Sending onder Mohammedane in Kaapstad; in this thesis he assessed the mission work that was undertaken amongst the Muslims and in his concluding part lamented the fact that little work was being done to convert the Muslims to Christianity.


The Nationalist government, however, was aware of the historical meeting at Kliptown and the Freedom Charter that was drafted; it however ignored the event as unimportant and of no consequence. This event only seemed to have spurred the Nationalist apartheid government on to pursue their goal of separate development with greater vigour; they drafted the new laws and legislation to not only curb freedom of movement amongst the oppressed masses but to also remove them from places that had been earmarked for the whites. The government thus crafted the Group Areas Act to fulfil this particular goal; and many others such as the Bantu Education Act and the Mixed Marriages Act were drafted to achieve other apartheid objectives; these were gradually implemented in the 1950s and were tangibly witnessed and experienced throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. The government maintained these laws until the time it was forced to establish a government of national unity immediately after the first democratic elections took place at the end of April in 1994.


In response to these harsh legislations that were being enforced Christian individuals protested and some wrote against the racial discrimination that was being legally implemented; amongst those who wrote against these was Rev. Trevor Huddleston. The latter penned his famous work Naught for your Comfort, which - along with Alan Paton’s book mentioned earlier – recorded and described how the racial policies affected the lives of the oppressed. By the end of the 1950s, many individual Christians and small Muslim organizations protested against these legislations; it was also then that the ANC had to accept the emergence of the break away group under the leadership of Robert Sobukwe, who had been a lay priest and a lecturer in African languages at the University of Witwatersrand. The latter felt that the ANC adopted a passive and soft approach instead of responding aggressively towards the apartheid policies; the Pan African Congress membership came from the African Independent Churches; and because of the PAC’s Africanist philosophy (i.e Africa for the Africans), it also supported the tailoring of an exclusive Africanist theology.



On the 21st March 1960 the PAC organized a peaceful protest march against the pass system and all the other discriminatory policies, the marchers were shot at from close range and many innocent protesters were killed; this became known as the Sharpeville massacre. In response to this event, the World Council of Churches hurriedly arranged a meeting with the NGK at Cottesloe in Johannesburg; the purpose was to draft a statement rejecting racism and speaking out against the acts of the Apartheid government. This statement was severely criticised by Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd, the then prime minister South Africa[21]; since the NGK members were in full support of their Nationalist government, except for a handful who disagreed, the NGK withdrew its support for the statement. The only member, who remained a signatory to the statement, was Dr. Rev. Beyers Naude; he was one of the key members of the NGK whose membership was subsequently withdrawn and who later denounced his Broederbond membership. He was, since then, despised and ostracised by his community; but despite their actions against him he never gave up, and in the latter part of the 1960s went on to establish the Christian Institute that played an important role against the apartheid regime[22].    


4. The Exclusivists: The NGK & Anglican Missionaries vis-à-vis Deedat et al


The background sketched in the afore-mentioned paragraphs assist in providing the necessary understanding of the events and developments of the 1960s. However, before addressing the respective NGK and Anglican Diocese missions, a few words about developments pertaining to the position of the Christians in general would give some added insights regarding the situation.


By 1961 the NGK had withdrawn its membership from the WCC after the important Cottesloe meeting in 1960, and at the same time affirmed its membership with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. And in 1961 the Nationalist government changed the status of South Africa from that of a ‘union’ to that of a ‘republic’; and because of the pressure exerted upon it by other world governments against its racial policies, it lost its coveted seat in the United Nations. South Africa, since then, began to travel a lonely path into the years ahead, ignoring the international outcry against its internal apartheid policies, and expressing the view other governments have been meddling in its sovereignty and thus undermined it as an independent state.


The Muslims, despite their minority status as a religious group and being part of the larger majority of oppressed, also added their voices against the apartheid policies of the South African state. During March it produced the famous Call of Islam pamphlet[23] in which the signatories condemned the policies from an Islamic standpoint. Amongst those who signed the Cape circulated pamphlet was Imam Abdullah Haron;[24] the latter was active in the African townships and was among those who always spoke out against the injustices of the state in his weekly sermons. The Imam and his small organization, namely then Claremont Muslim Youth Association (est. 1958), had been amongst the few Muslim groups that invited speakers from different religious backgrounds and various political persuasions to address them at the mosque from which they operated in Claremont located in the southern suburbs of Cape Town. It was within this repressive socio-political atmosphere that the missionaries continued to operate and conduct mission amongst the non-whites.



4.1 NGK & Anglican Mission to Muslims


The Muslims, being part of the non-white oppressed society, were preyed upon by the missionaries, who were operating ‘over-time,’ to lure them and others to Christianity. Both the NGK and the Anglican Diocese have been concerned with the Muslim presence and thus have been working hard to attract them away from Islam. During 1960 the Anglican Diocese advised and led by its white missionaries continued relentlessly to preach to the Muslims. The old Hadjie Abdoellah (sic) story[25], which was published and circulated by the Anglican Diocese in the late 1870s[26], was reproduced and circulated by the NGK with the hope that one Muslim or a group of Muslims will positively respond to the Christian Call[27]. At that time, the chief Imam, known in the newspapers as the ‘chief Moslem priest,’ was the knowledgeable Shaykh Ahmad Behardien; in his capacity as the president of the Muslim Judicial Council (est. 1945), he critically responded to the publication. The Muslim News also came in support of the shaykh’s stand and added their rebuttal to the Anglican dean[28]. The shaykh penned a 69 page text entitled A Reply to Reverend A.R. Hampson and the members of the Anglican Church of the Province of South Africa in February 1960 regarding their ‘Mission to Moslem’ campaign; herein he highlighted the differences between Christianity and Islam with respect to the concept of God. In addition to the NGK and Anglican committees that continued their work amongst the Muslims, individuals evangelical groups also targeted the Muslims through pamphleteering and publications; the Evangelical Mission Press in Cape Town produced a series of pamphlets under the title ‘Al-Hidayah: Right Guidance.’ This series was circulated widely and commented upon by the Young Men Muslims Association of Port Elizabeth; the 4th pamphlet of the Evangelical Mission Press was reprinted in the Muslin News and discussed the theory of abrogation as understood within the theological context and related this to the position of the Bible and the Quran respectively. It also made reference to three other issues, namely qurban, Sabbath and circumcision. The YMMA replied by raising certain critical questions regarding the manner in which the concept of abrogation was raised and pointing out the ‘cunning’ approach that it approached towards the Muslims[29].


4.2 Deedat – The Confrontationist Muslim Missionary


And whilst the Anglican Diocese was trying its utmost to succeed, it was supported and assisted by the White missionaries in the NGK who, by then, had been challenged in public by the young emerging Muslim da’wah worker, Mr. Ahmed Deedat[30]; the latter, who along with his life-long friend, Mr. Goolam Hussein Vanker, established the Islamic Propagation Centre[31] at As-Salam (now Educational Centre) in Braemer along the South coast of KwaZulu Natal province in 1958 with the sole objective of countering the missionary activities; on the day when the centre’s foundation was laid, Rev. Joost de Blank, the archbishop of  Cape Town, remarked that “Islam was a danger to Christianity.”[32] Despite the fact that these two were together targeting the missionaries, Mr. Vanker’s approach differed markedly from that of Deedat. The former adopted a more argumentative and intellectual approach, and steering clear of a debating and ‘mudslinging’ style that came to characterise the latter’s approach. Although supporters of Deedat argued that he did not adopt a confrontationist approach but a dialogical one, one cannot fully agree with this since he had touched the sensitivities of the Christians and Hindus in a confrontationist manner[33]. Before passing any form of severe judgement on Deedat, it should be clarified that Deedat felt that this hard approach vis-à-vis the soft approach had to be adopted since the missionaries showed no respect for the Islamic tradition and its adherents.


When Deedat went on his Cape tour in July 1961, many came to listen to him. At the Green Point Stadium in the Cape he attracted 20,000 people when he debated in public with Ds. Dawie Pypers, the representative from the NGK[34]. This open gathering was attended by Christian and Muslims, and in the following month the Anglican Diocese rejected an offer to participate in a similar symposium that was proposed by the Muslims; the latter represented by the MJC and other interested Muslim organizations argued that a symposium would allow for a measure of serious theological debate that would counter the idea of creating a theological contest and squabbles in order for the one to score points against the other[35]. During August 1961 the earlier mentioned Hadjie Abdoellah booklet was once again circulated by the NGK missionaries as a way of blunting the counter attack of the Muslims led by Deedat, and also questioned why these missionaries did not have the courage to argue graciously[36]. However, by September Professor Adrianus van Selms, a theologian at the University of Pretoria and Dr. W.F. Nkomo, another theologian, rejected the contents of the booklet[37]; both were praised by the Muslims for their stand against the missionary activities of their co-religionists. They were, in fact, invited by the Pretoria based Universal Truth Movement to celebrate the ‘birth of the prophet Muhammad;’ this particular event was attended by Christians and Muslims.


On the whole, the Muslims gave Deedat a warm reception because they identified with his concerns and held the view that these missionaries had to be dealt with in a harsh manner; and as far as they were concerned Deedat was leading the way and setting the example of how to deal with missionaries when they try to drag the Muslim away from his religion. He learnt these lessons when he worked in a shop that was located in the vicinity of Adam’s College in the greater Durban area; at this college missionaries were trained in the art of debate and giving the message of Christ. Deedat and his fellow workers had no idea about their own religious tradition and he was thus spurred on to enquire; according to his interview, he came across a text entitled Izhar ul-Haqq, which was written by Rahmatullah Kayranwi[38] who had refuted Christianity during the 19th century on the sub-continent, and it also provided some guidelines as to how to deal with the missionaries. From then onwards, Deedat considered it an important challenge to become familiar with the work of the missionaries. He started off by memorizing passages of the Bible particularly those verses and chapters that had a direct bearing on the Islamic message and Christianity[39].  He, since then, wrote numerous texts; in fact, in the mid 1980s one of these tracts were have been upheld for distribution by the Directorate of Publications Section 47 (2) (b) of the Act that contended that the contents of the publication, Cruci-fixion or Crucifiction, were ‘blasphemous’ and ‘offensive’ to the religious convictions of others[40].



4.3 Ahmedis and Bahais – Contributors towards internal Muslim Conflict:


Twice during the 1960s he went to the Cape and spoke at the Cape Town Drill Hall where he openly and brazenly challenged the missionaries, and was ‘thumping’ them in their so-to-speak own backyard bearing in mind that the Cape was the stronghold amongst the whites and coloureds[41] and where the missionaries had been fairly active. During these times the Muslims got embroiled with two other ‘internal heretical’ groups, namely the Ahmedis and the Bahais; they started to rear their heads at the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s. It was well known by then that the Ahmedis was seen by the Christian missionaries as a thorn in their flesh because they adopted a very aggressive approach in their ‘Muslim’ mission towards Christianity[42]; however, the Muslims were also concerned with the beliefs of this group from the theological point of view since their founder, namely Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, claimed that he was a prophet. The Ahmedis defended their founder’s position by saying that he was a reformist and not a prophet. That aside, the Muslims led by the MJC did not accept their position and outlawed them from all their mosques by 1964[43]; subsequent to this period the issue reared its head again in the 1980s when the Ahmedis took the Muslims represented by the MJC to court[44].


4.4 Mission Texts and Responses


Whilst the Muslims were responding to internal threats from the Ahmedis and Bahais, they had to also be on their guard regarding the external attacks from the missionaries. In 1964 the Anglican Diocese produced another booklet entitled Cross and the Crescent to defend the Christian faith and attack the Muslim doctrines and beliefs as they did in many earlier works[45]. During 1965 Ben J. Marais wrote an article entitled ‘Die Kerk and die Islam in Afrika’[46] in which he evaluated the role of the Church and the presence of Islam in Africa in general and in South Africa in particular; he was concerned with the fact that if Christian communion did not reach the heathen in South Africa then they would fall prey to the communists, nationalists and Islam. During this same year two other Transvaal missionaries, namely David Newington and Hubert C. Phillips published one of their Fellowship Missionary books entitled The Shape of Power in Africa in which they described Islam as “the secret weapon of Satan” and also alleged that it entered “through back-door to world domination.” It was aimed at the African Christians whom they felt were being targeted by the Muslims[47]. In response to their allegations with the sole intention of discrediting Islam and Muslims, Mr. A.S.K Joomal, the controversial editor of Al-Balaagh, provided a lengthy reply without denigrating the authors of their religious beliefs. In fact, Mr. Joomal has been in the vanguard amongst those who have been defending Islam in the region and has also been among those who advocated dialogue.


4.5 Deedat’s Negative Impact on Christian-Muslim Relations in ‘Townships’:


Deedat’s inputs and contributions however slowly undermined the relationship between the coloured Christians/ Indian Christians and Muslims[48]; these religious communities had a cordial relationship during all the years they lived next to one another in the Cape’s District Six and Claremont areas, Port Elizabeth’s South End, and Johannesburg’s Fietas and Vrededorp. Here we refer to the 1950s when the Group Areas Act was formulated and implemented. Deedat seemed to have been oblivious of or rather overlooked the cordial relationships that existed in these areas; this might be because he was living among predominantly Indian Christian and Hindu communities in Durban and surrounding areas. However, even if he was conscious of this, he then ignored these relations and was very adamant in pursuing his method of ‘Muslim mission’ that was not approved by all Muslim individuals and organizations. The detractors of Deedat were not a large group, however; they existed and used all avenues to show him up in terms of his knowledge of the Biblical text, or those that had influenced him or pinning him down on some flimsy argument whenever the opportunity arose. Those detractors who continuously haggled him were mainly from Durban where he lived; at the head of this team was Mr. Makki who had been editing the Muslim Digest since the 1950s, and the latter’s ardent follower, namely Mr. Adam Peerbhai, who had been a regular contributor to the latter Durban-based publication and an author of a few small Islamic tracts. During 1964 Mr. Makki indicted Deedat by accusing him of being influenced by the Bahai, namely Mr. Joseph Perdue, and also by Ahmedi ideas. He, of course, responded negatively to these influences and was vindicated after he could prove that[49]; however, Mr. Makki and later Mr. Peerbhai were not satisfied and took up the issue again in the mid 1980s[50].


4.6 Other Muslim Missionaries:


The work of Deedat in the KwaZulu Natal region was complemented by the work of the Islamic Missionary Society in Johannesburg. This organization was led by Mr. Mohamed S. Laher and his group of missionaries. His approach was more in line with that of Mr. Ghoolam Vanker in that he debated intellectually with Christian missionaries. The organization also produced the Muslim Africa publication to reflect upon Islam and Muslims in Southern Africa. He also used pamphleteering as another strategy of making da’wah and responding to the missionary onslaught in South Africa. In 1963 he wrote and printed The Position of Muslims and the Role of Islam in South Africa; the small publication highlighted the religious position of the Muslims and the important role Islam could play in South Africa. He, in fact, was not so much concerned with the white missionaries and churches as he was with the Africans, and issue that some missionaries expressed their concern about.


At the same time when Laher was undertaking his missionary work in the Transvaal and surrounding areas, the Arabic Study Circle (est. 1950) had been deeply involved in dialogue with other religious groups in the greater Durban region; this has been a trend, which they followed since the early 1950s. In fact, at the beginning of the 1960s the members inadvertently came under the influence of Mr. Joseph Perdue, the leading Bahai member, who was quite knowledgeable and who had been employed by the circle.[51] They were indirectly influenced by his openness to adopt a dialogical approach with others without realising that he was fostering his own personal agenda. When they found out that he was not a Muslim, the immediately expelled him, and they could not contain their embarrassment for not having known much about this mysterious figure. They were of course criticised by individuals such as Mr. Makki and Mr. Peerbhai for having been gullible and for having allowed him into the organization without scrutinizing his background; these two critics were the same ones that had locked horns with Deedat.


During the time Deedat and Laher were pursuing their respective missionary paths, the Group Areas Act had taken its toll on the various communities in the mentioned and many other areas across the country; however, the areas – District Six, Fietas and South End - where the Christians used to live alongside Muslims in relative harmony and peace, were destroyed and these communities were forcibly moved to other far flung underdeveloped areas. They thus were forced to build their lives from scratch; and this in itself was a daunting task. Families, who came from the earlier mentioned areas, had set up new homes next to neighbours that had come from other areas. They had to make a fresh start by forming new bonds and relationships; those coloured Christian families that came from predominantly mono-cultural areas had to familiarise themselves with Muslims whom they had never met and known before. It meant that they had to adjust themselves to the new religio-cultural environment that had the potential to lead to religio-cultural conflicts; this was indeed a difficult effort. The white Christian missionaries were under the impression that that new challenges had emerged because the formation of new communities as a consequence of the notorious Group Areas Act; they worked alongside coloured missionaries in the townships to convert the Muslims. But these efforts were far from successful and they were forced to return to the drawing board to consider other strategies. They did not realise that the new social conditions that were faced by all the low income and middle income coloured/Indian groups also led to other issues being brought onto the agenda of these struggling oppressed communities.



5. An Inclusivist/Pluralist Approach: The Priest and the Imam



By then, new political developments took place amongst the communities. Black consciousness took root and was shaping the thinking of all those living in the non-White areas. These ideas were advocated and promoted by Steve Biko via the Black People’s Convention and numerous other affiliated groups. However, it was also a period when Mr. B.J. Vorster, the then Prime Minister, enforced more discriminatory laws and apprehended whosoever opposed the system. Amongst these individuals was Imam Abdullah Haron. The latter was active assisting families whose breadwinners were either killed by the apartheid regime or had to go into exile. Since he had been under surveillance for more than two years, he was eventually arrested in May 1969 and kept incommunicado until the Security Branch killed him on 27 September 1969. This Imam’s death led to interesting developments; Christian-Muslims and Jews held a special prayer meeting at the Cathedral in London under the leadership of Cannon Collins[52] with whom the Imam had been in touch and who assisted anti-apartheid activists throughout the 1960s. In addition, many Christians sent messages of condolence to the Imam’s family and supported them morally and, occasionally, in kind. However, the most concrete example of positive Christian – Muslim relations was personally exercised by Reverend Bernard Wrankmore in 1971, and it is to this event to which we shall now turn our focus.


When Lubbe penned his article he viewed it as part of the ‘beacon of hope’ events that assisted in providing a healthier attitude adopted by Christians towards Muslim and thus give a positive spin to Christian-Muslim relations in the country[53]; and it also reflected that the nature of Christian-Muslim relations was not always filled with constant conflict as was witnessed in the 1960s. In this case it was the genuine concern of one priest, namely Reverend Bernard Wrankmore, who decided to fast for 40 days as a form of protest against the unjust killing of the Imam during the time of the Imam’s detention, and more importantly to request the prime minister, Mr. B.J. Vorster, to officially open up the case, which had been prematurely closed for ‘unknown’ reasons, and to investigate the actual cause of his death[54].


On the 14th August the priest decided to embark on this project by only taking in liquids. He chose to stay at a Muslim sacred site located on Signal Hill, which is diagonally opposite the famous Table Mountain. Reverend Wrankmore was persuaded not to fast since some were of the view that the fast was a senseless act that would not yield any concrete results. Others considered him eccentric and a crank who wanted popularity, and others gave support to what he decided to do. Amongst those who lambasted him for doing this was Shaykh Omar Gabier, a member of the MJC[55]. The latter felt that it will serve no purpose and also questioned why he had to choose the shrine to embark on his voluntary fast. He seemed to have been supported by certain groups such as the Al-Jihad Movement that even organized a protest meeting at a local cinema in the Cape to forcibly remove the priest from the shrine[56]; this was however only after he had fasted for many weeks. Besides these fringe groupings within the Muslim community, there seem to have been a general acceptance of the priest’s form of protest. Rev. Wrankmore was moreover not disturbed at the individual voices that criticised him and was greatly encouraged by the support of many including the Imam’s widow who admired his courage and gave him full moral support.


When the 40th day was reached a special sermon was held on the Hill and Christian (and Muslim) prayers were read. Many came to listen to his sermon and to his thoughts. Whilst some were not happy with were all the ideas he shared, there was a general positive response to it. He had by then also decided to continue his fast. This he carried out until the 67th day; by then he had reached a point of almost total dehydration and responded to the ‘Lord who had requested that he ends his fast’[57].


This particular event stood out as one of those rare ones where Christians and Muslims were drawn close to one another because of one man’s effort via another man’s tragic death. The event was tangible evidence of how individuals understood the message contained in the sacred text, and how they interpreted it. Although the purpose of the event was to seek justice regarding one man’s death, it was also a clear demonstration of the dynamics of Christian-Muslim relations and thus a subtle response to the Christian missionary activities towards Muslims.




6. The Exclusivist/Inclusivist Stance: Naude, Greyling, Gilchrist, Nehls & Desai


During the 1970s the missionaries had become more sophisticated in their approach in that they embarked upon a serious study of Islam and Muslims in South Africa and elsewhere and also designed courses at universities in the Faculties of Theology within the ‘Mission’ curriculum. From amongst the many who gradually moved along the academic path were Jacobus A. Naude and Chris Greyling; both were members of the NGK and pursued academic careers.



6.1 Naude & Greyling – Academics and their scholarly mission:


Jacobus A. Naude , as far as could be ascertained, was not involved in Christian mission before joining the academia; he seemed to have pursued Semitic studies as his area of specialisation and realised the potential of branching out into Islamic Studies. In his desire to know more about Islam and the Muslims, he embarked upon an academic programme that would eventually lead him to this area. He and two other prominent academics, namely Professor Adrianus van Selms and Professor W.D. Jonker, completed an NGK 1974 publication entitled In Gesprek met Islam oor Moslem Belydenis. Naude wrote the first chapter in which he dealt mainly with the concept of God in his ‘Daar is geen God naas Allah nie’; Van Selms spoke about ‘En Mohammed is die Boodskapper van Allah’ (and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah), and Jonker deliberated about ‘Jesus, meer as n profeet’ (Jesus, more than a prophet); in it he evaluated the concept of God and tried to demonstrate how the Muslims differed in their understanding of God compared to the Christian interpretation. Since our interest is in Naude’s ideas on Christian-Muslim relations, attention will only be given to one of his significant contributions in this regards. Aspects of these are recorded on his lecture Islam in Africa and South Africa, which he delivered at the state sponsored South African Institute of International Affairs in 1978.


Naude’s interest in Islam and Muslims therefore became more intense and this led him to motivate and establish the Centre for Islamic Studies at Rand Afrikaans University in Johannesburg during 1979; being its director, he also initiated the production of an annual Journal for Islamic Studies that began in 1981. The centre and the journal gave him an important status within the NGK community in particular and the Afrikaner in general to monitor and write about the Islamic resurgence that had been on the rise throughout the 1970s. When evaluating his ideas contained in the articles, we find that he conducted his academic affairs fairly diplomatically. He, for example, kept close contact with the Jamiát ul-Ulama of the Transvaal (now known as Gauteng est. 1935) to, some extent, keep them informed about the centre and the activities taking place there. Since he edited the journal, he worked on the translation of selected sections of the Quran into Afrikaans; this was not the first translation, however. One article that might be of interest to reflect upon briefly is the one that appeared during the same period when his co-religionists declared Islam ‘a false religion;’ the 1986 article entitled ‘Die Islam as Uitdaging in Kerklike end Staatkundige Perspektief (Islam as a Challenge to the Church and State)’ scrutinized the Church’s view of Islam and Muslims. This was followed by a discussion of the Islamic challenge to the Church and setting forth the reasons for those who had turned to Islam. And he then evaluated the South African Muslims’ response to the state[58]. He lamented the fact that Muslims were not very responsive to forming social bonds between themselves and the ‘whites’ and also do not allow their international visitors to meet the state officials! During July 1988 he organized a conference on ‘Islamic Law in the Modern State’ for which he was severely criticised by activist organizations such as the Muslims Youth Movement and the Call of Islam; the former’s mouthpiece editorially tackled Naude for his unfair treatment of those who had been critical of him[59]. In his position as the professor of the Centre for Islamic Studies, he influenced others to pursue similar positions as a way of understanding Muslims and more importantly of representing the Church at a different level. This is, in fact, what Chris Greyling, to whom we shall now turn, just did after he served in the ministry for a number of years.


Chris Greyling worked as a missionary amongst the Indian community of the Transvaal as early as the 1950s and had continued to do so into the 1960s. He later embarked upon postgraduate studies in which he critically assessed The Influence of (intellectual) Strands within Islam regarding the South African Muslims’ perceptions of Jesus; this doctoral thesis he completed in 1976 at the University of Stellenbosch, which had become the institution for missionary studies. He later took up an academic post in the Faculty of Theology at the University of the Western Cape that had attracted many Muslim students from within the coloured community; however, he did not continue with his mission at the university as such but shared his skills with those students who were pursuing Christian mission as a specialization and who had been trained to work amongst the Muslims. But despite these theological programmes devised and taught by Greyling, there were individuals such as Gilchrist who devoted much of their time in critically studying the Muslim sources. We now shift to Gilchrist and Nehls who have been at the forefront in preaching the message of Jesus to the Muslims.


6.2 Gilchrist & Nehls: The Missionaries with their Crusader Mind-set


Naude and Greyling’s academic and mission work was complemented by those of Gilchrist and Nehls; the latter worked in the Western Cape whilst the former worked in the Transvaal where he had established his ‘Jesus to the Muslims’ organization. In 1977 Gilchrist, a lawyer, produced his work The Challenge of Islam in South Africa in which he provided an overview of the position of Islam and the Muslims with the aim of arming his ‘Jesus to Muslims’ society and others regarding their beliefs and practices. He divided his work into five chapters. In the first he gave an understanding of ‘The Religion of Islam’ and in the second he provided an overview of ‘Islam in South Africa;’ these chapters were followed by a critical evaluation of ‘The Christian Approach to Islam’ and ‘The Challenge in South Africa.’ In the latter chapter he discussed a counter challenge to that of the Muslims and documents how they should be approached. In addition, he inserted ‘A letter to a Muslim’ as well as ‘A Testimony of a Muslim Convert.’ In the last chapter he informed the reader about the ‘Jesus to the Muslims’ organization that he spearheaded. By then it had been five years old and had six sets of publications; they were the Gospel series (eg. The Good Shepard), the General series (eg. Al-Masih: The Messiah), the Controversy series (eg. Was Christ Crucified), the Typology series (eg. The Life of Joseph), the Slide series (eg. The Way of Islam) and the Gospel Booklets (eg. The Way, The Truth, The Life). Gilchrist was and remained active throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s with the hope of making a breakthrough amongst the Muslims and making an impact upon the Christians; he had to some degree succeeded in achieving the latter but continued to struggle with the former.


However, since the launching of websites, he saw it as another avenue to make his ideas and writings known to a wider audience. One of these, entitled The Christian Witness to the Muslim, appeared online at[60] in which he addressed the issue of ‘The Westernized Muslim: Christianity’s New Challenge’, ‘The Effective methods of Witnessing to Muslims’ and ‘Muslim Objections to the Christian Gospel.’ This was followed by Facing the Muslim Challenge: A Handbook of Christian-Muslim Apologetics and printed in 1999 under the auspices of Life Challenge Africa[61]. Gilchrist have, since the 1970s, spend a great deal of time studying the sources of Islam and thus produced his extensive works, namely Jam’ al-Qur’an – The Codification of the Qur’an Text; this text’s main objective was to undermine the Muslim interpretation and acceptance of the Qur’an’s authoritative and divine nature. In addition to these, he brought out ‘The Qur’an and the Bible Series’ and the ‘Christianity and Islam Series.’


Whilst he was hard at work devising ways of responding to the challenge in the north of South Africa, Gerhard Nehls who was working outside the Greater Cape Town area with a group known as Life Challenge (est. 1976)[62] in Wellington; it has however established itself in Claremont, which is located in the southern suburbs of the Cape peninsula where many Muslims used to reside. One of his publications was the 46 page Dear Abdullah …, which contained 10 fictitious letters from Theophilus to Abdullah with the aim of disarming Islamic arguments and adopting and inoffensive but persuasive style. This was however preceded by Christians Ask Muslims and Christian Answer Muslims; a quick dip into the latter publication informs us that Nehls addressed amongst others the issue of ‘Allegations that the Bible is corrupt’, ‘Definition of Revelation’, and ‘Alleged Prophecies in the Bible pointing to Mohammed’. In addition, he developed an 18 lesson Bible Study course under the title of Al-Kitab: A Correspondence Course for Muslims that was printed by Biblcor in Wellington and distributed by Life Challenge Africa[63]. He also has a 1996 revised edition of a booklet on ‘Islam: As its sees Itself, As others see It, and As It Is’[64], and ‘The Islamic-Christian Controversy: A Trainers Textbook’, which he co-authored with Walter Eric in 1996.[65]


Nehls and his support group used to evangelise in the predominantly Muslim communities and also pamphleteered outside the mosques as a way of getting their messages directly across[66]; their approach however offended the Muslims who reacted somewhat violently because, apart from disliking the missionaries, they also suspected them to be working for the apartheid state and viewed their standing outside mosques as a way of spying upon the movements and activities of the Muslims. In fact, the volatile socio-political developments from the 1976 period onwards forced Nehls and other missionaries to withdraw from the mosques and not to enter the predominantly Muslim areas because they were seen as part of the instruments deployed by the apartheid regime to not only disarm the Muslims intellectually and Christianize them, but to also neutralize their views about apartheid. As dedicated missionaries, they saw this as their mission in life.


However, similar individuals were also active exclusivists within the Muslim society in South Africa; these persons moreover did not adopt the aggressive Deedat style and nor did they respond to the South African missionaries as might have been expected. These individuals’ sights were cast towards the Muslim heartland where they felt little was being done to ward off the missionary onslaught. The name of Maulana Sadeq Desai comes to mind and it is to him we now turn our attention.


6.3 Maulana Desai: An Exclusivist with a Special Mission[67]


Maulana Sadeq Desai, who spearheaded the Majlis ul-Ulama of Port Elizabeth (hereafter MUPE and cf. Haron 2003), belonged to the conservative group of Muslim theologians in the country; in fact, he may be described as an extremely orthodox person who held firmly to his understanding and interpretation of the basic Islamic sources. At the time when he came onto the scene in the 1970s and he made it quite clear where he stood with regards to the position of Muslim women, the watching of television, the participation in politics, and the involvement with non-Muslim organizations. He was against any form of interfaith cooperation as well as against anyone participating in the socio-political activities that were taking place throughout the 1980s. He condemned those who participated in South African politics and lambasted those who participated in interfaith activities. The maulana’s ideas stem from his strict Indian religious education that was based upon a very narrow interpretation of Islam and, in a sense, a misappropriation of the sources that suited his comprehension of how the textual sources have to be understood in the contemporary circumstances. In fact, he responded very critically towards the ideas and practices of Maulana Faried Esack, who had become a leading member of the World Council of Religion and Peace and a member of the United Democratic Front via The Call of Islam, in his monthly mouthpiece entitled The Majlis.


Let us quickly refer to two of his responses to questions posed by one of his regular, avid readers. The first reader asked whether a Muslim should respond to an invitation given by his/her non-Muslim neighbour; in answer to this query he stated that “Muslims should not fraternize and socialize with non-Muslims. Kindness to them is permissible and encouraged. Helping them in need is meritorious. But to eat with them is not permissible. Rasullullah (the prophet of Allah) said: ‘to eat with people of other religions is an act of injustice.’ Eating occasionally with them to incline their hearts to Islam is permissible…”  And in the second question that followed he answered that “non-Muslims are perpetually in the state of khubth, hadth and najaasat…” and for this reason should not be given a copy of a translation of the Quran[68]. In another issue, he wrote an article about the ‘Missionary menace’[69] in Bangladesh and Burma where Christian aid has been used as a means of converting Muslims to Christianity; since he never regarded the contemporary Christians and Jews as ‘the People of the Book’ as stated in the Quran, he simply viewed them as Kafir and thus spoke about ‘fighting kufr’[70] when he dealt with the missionaries.


Although the Maulana did not get embroiled in local Muslim-Christian polemics, he highlighted the diabolical role the missionaries played in South Asia particularly in countries such as Bangladesh. And because of his concerns of the role these missionary organizations have been playing, he supervised a special project in Bangladesh known as The Maktab Project[71], which provided aid to many Muslim villages, and also set up about 450 educational structures in different parts of the country with the financial assistance of Muslims from South Africa and those residing in the Muslim heartlands. For this project he created ‘The Suffering Muslim Fund of the Majlis ul-Ulama’.  The Maulana hails from that school of thought that adopted an exclusivist approach and blamed the turmoil within Muslim communities and countries on the West and their missionaries. Gleaning through the various issues of his mouthpiece, it is noted that he seemed to have remained aloof of the polemical issues that were raised by individuals such as Gilchrist and Nehls in South Africa, and did not even comment about the debates in which Deedat participated. He was more concerned about what was happening in the Muslim heartlands particularly in South Asia, and for this reason ploughed in his energies to arrest the activities of the missionaries in those places.


6. Pluralist Positions: WCRP, Gerrie Lubbe & Faried Esack


When the 1970s ended Islamic resurgence amongst the Muslim youth could be witnessed all over the South African cities and towns. The Iranian Islamic revolution inspired them to adopt a more positive approach to their religious identity. This external influence caused them to reject their ethnic identities that have been used by the apartheid regime to prop up its apartheid policies; they thus chose to be seen as Muslims rather than ‘Cape Malays’ or ‘Indians’. They would describe themselves as Muslims from the Cape or from Natal as a way of explaining and informing others about their origins; they had no pride in being identified with the apartheid state. By the beginning of 1980 certain Christian scholars have made their assessments of Islam in the 1970s. J.N.J Kritzinger wrote about ‘Islam as a rival to the Gospel in Africa;’ in this article he traced the social history of the two mentioned ethnic groups and pointed out the methods adopted by Muslim missionaries. He further highlighted how Africans were turning to Islam particularly after 1976 and concluded that “Islam will grow extensively amongst the Black communities in South Africa and this is the immediate challenge we have to face.”[72] Kritzinger’s contribution preceded the request of the NGK in 1982 to investigate the status of Islam in South Africa (cf. 6.3 The NGK declaration).


By then Professor T.B. Irving, a Canadian Muslim scholar, gave his understanding of ‘Islam and Calvinism at the Cape’ after his brief visit in 1981 to South Africa; he not only surveyed the history of the Muslims at the Cape but also listed the Christian attitudes prevalent among Afrikaners towards Islam[73]. And in 1982 Maleho Mosimane also described ‘The Silent Swing to Islam’[74] amongst Africans; an issue that was also the concern of Dennis Walker’s ‘Conversions to Islam amongst Azanians’[75]. During 1982 an important and significant initiative was taken by the editors of South African Outlook, a Cape Christian monthly publication which was concerned with ecumenical and racial issues, invited Messrs Rafiq Rohan and Farid Sayed, who were journalists with the Cape-based Muslim News, to contribute a set of articles on Islam. These two, in turn, extended invitations to a number of individuals to discuss an array of issues on Islam. This was a wonderful attempt at Christian-Muslim relations at a time when Muslims were deeply involved in the socio-political affairs of the community and one in which the Muslim News played a crucial role[76].


As a consequence of the socio-political developments in South Africa, the Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa (hereafter MYMSA) during 1984 drafted ‘The Muslim Response: Our Vision for South Africa’; the document demonstrated the interest Muslims showed regarding the future of the country and how they can contribute towards bringing about the necessary social transformation alongside their non-Muslim counterparts; this was indeed one of the main challenges for them. However, the path was not shown by them of how to adopt a more practical and realistic approach to working with the non-Muslims but by the Call of Islam[77].


Prior to MYMSA constructing this document, they were influenced by the events of the time. One of these was the formation of the United Democratic Front in 1983. The UDF was an umbrella organization that brought it the youth groups, religious organizations and many other organizations to fight against the apartheid system from within. Whilst this was taking place, in 1982 Dr. Reverend Allan Boesak attended the World Alliance of Reform Churches conference where he openly condemned apartheid as a heresy and demanded that the NGK be expelled from the WARC; this he succeeded in doing as the president of this world body and this initiative and leadership naturally pushed him into being appointed as one of the main patrons of the newly formed UDF in 1983. Many religious organizations had by then already demonstrated their support for the mass based organization and one of the organizations that became an affiliate of the UDF was the South African Chapter of the World Council of Religion and Peace.



6.1 World Council of Religion and Peace[78] - A Religious Pluralist Organization for the future:


In 1984 committed Christian groups and pockets of progressive Muslim youth groups were amongst those who aligned themselves with the UDF, and this inspired them on to form the South African chapter of the World Council of Religion and Peace (hereafter WCRP-SA). The WCRP-SA was instrumental in bringing all progressive religious members of the diverse faiths together; and it also acted as an important support group within the UDF. The members of the WCRP-SA were (and still are) of the view that its formation and existence in the mid 1980s had been a contributory factor towards the transformation that took place in South Africa in 1990. It linked itself to its parent body, which was very much concerned about peace and justice, and with these values in mind strove to achieve them within the South African context.


When it was formed in 1984 it identified three reasons for coming into being: the first was to create a platform for religious traditions in South Africa to express their opposition to the apartheid system and their abhorrence of its denial of human dignity and freedom; the second was to develop awareness that South Africa was a country where there existed religious pluralism; and the third was that it wished to act as an instrument of reconciliation in situations where there was inter-religious conflict and confrontation[79]. Apart from working closely with many progressive religious organizations, the WCRP-SA organized - since 1984 - The Desmond Tutu Peace Lectures as a way of bringing to the fore religious scholars/activists/academics that can contribute to new ways of thinking about inter-faith relations. The actual purpose of the series of lectures was to acknowledge all those who have been contributing towards the struggle against apartheid via peaceful means, and to emphasise that liberation, justice, peace and harmony are subscribed to by all South Africa’s religious traditions[80]. The peace lectures that were delivered between 1984 and 1994 were then published in a volume entitled A Decade of Interfaith Dialogue and was edited by Gerrie Lubbe in 1994. Amongst the list of individuals who were invited to deliver these special lectures were Dr. Desmond Tutu, Dr. Faried Esack, Dr. Emilio Castro, Dr. Franz Auerbach, Rabbi Julia Neuberger, Ms. Ela Gandhi, and Professor Ali Mazrui.


As part of its ongoing activities, it organized a successful 1990 National Inter-Faith Conference on Religion-State Relations. The conference emerged out of a concern for South Africa’s future and how religious communities can play a valuable role in bringing about a peaceful democratic society. The conference came about because of a much earlier effort that took place during May 1988 in Soweto; this effort focused on Believers in the struggle for justice and peace; it was then jointly hosted by the WCRP-SA and the Institute of Contextual Theology. This was followed by the National Muslim Conference in May 1990 in Cape Town; at this particular indaba Albie Sachs mooted the idea of a national conference of religious leaders to discuss future religion-state relations. The idea of inter-faith consultation on religious freedom, which was planned by the WCRP-SA for the second half of 1990, was thus dropped and work got underway to see to the fruition of this significant historical conference.


6.2 The Kairos Document – Charting out a theology for the future:


Before looking at the respective contributions of Gerrie Lubbe and Faried Esack who were the leading members of the WCRP-SA, other developments should also be taken into account. The one crucial event that took place within the Christian circles was when the Institute of Contextual Theology decided to call committed progressive theologians together and debate about the church and the policies of the state. The outcome of this meeting produced the controversial and unfinished Kairos Document, a document that clearly spelt out the Christian position with regards to Apartheid[81]. It declared it a heresy, thus echoing the views of Dr. Rev. Allan Boesak. The document was regularly debated in different South African theological journals; one such journal that serialised the debates pertaining to the documents contents was the Journal of Theology in Southern Africa[82]. Many of Christian theologians who could not identify with the main thrust of the document criticised it from various angles. The document was however not only praised by many progressive Christians, but was also given moral support by Muslim groups and individuals such as the MYMSA and the Call of Islam. One such response was penned by Imam Abdul Rashied Omar, who was also a member of the WCRP-SA.


Imam Rashied Omar, the then leading member of the Muslim Youth Movement and the resident Imam in Claremont Main Road Mosque and who is currently attached the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, evaluated the document in his postgraduate term paper at the University of Cape Town; his 11 page paper was titled The Impact of the Kairos Document on the Islamic Movement in South Africa: A Preliminary Assessment[83]. Herein he tangibly showed how the Islamic Movement was affected by the developments within the Church circles. Individuals who were involved in the drafting of the historical Kairos Document in 1985 were invited to address the Islamic Training Programme in December 1987 in Lenasia. He also made reference to the statement of Rev. Alex Bhiman, the acting director of ICT at that time, who commented and elaborated on the challenge of the Kairos Document to other faiths[84]. The Kairos Document was definitely an important document that affected all religious groups. However, the organization that steered the activities ahead was the WCRP-SA of which Lubbe and Esack were the main players. But before we deal with these two theologians’ ideas, there is a need for another slight detour.


6.3 The NGK Declaration and its anti-religious pluralist stance:


1986 was another watershed period in the socio-political history of the country and the year during which mass demonstrations too place in different parts of the state. Amidst all of these anti-state protests and rallies as well as the imposition of the emergency by the state, the white NGK synod produced a report in which it openly declared ‘Islam as a false religion.’ This declaration appeared in the form of a motion that was mooted at the 1986 NGK General Synod by Rev. C. Colyn[85] and Rev. P.G. van der Watt; it read as follows: “The Synod takes cognisance of the fact that the guidelines in – in connection with Islam; and it points out that ‘Islam is a false religion’ and is a great danger for Christianity in South Africa, Africa and the World in the contemporary period. The Synod calls on all its members …. to declare, witness and carry out via word and deed the Evangelism of Jesus Christ in all spheres as the only answer to the challenge of Islam”[researcher’s translation].[86] Ds. P.E. Smith of the NGK continued to defend the decision and stated in the church publication, Die Kerkbode, that the decision should be seen within a particular context in which Islam is a threat; and in the same issue the editor also commented upon the NGK and Islam[87]. The declaration maybe understandable from the NGK’s perspective because Muslim ‘radicalism’ was making its presence felt in the country and they expressed their concern regarding Islam’s spread amongst the Africans; and since the NGK theologians - with the exception of a handful - never made a concerted effort to get a comprehensive insight into the lifestyle of the adherents of Islam as well as its doctrines the NGK’s declaration did not come as a surprise. It only confirmed that the NGK never considered Islam to contain valid ‘truth claims.’


But whilst they thought that they reached a reasonable, sober conclusion based upon their superficial understanding and emotional responses, they blatantly ignored the findings of Professor Dione Crafford[88], the University of Pretoria theologian who was tasked to research the presence and impact of Islam. Professor Crafford’s report recommended and advised that Christians and Muslims should be friends and that they should respect one another’s religious convictions[89], and in fact argued that “the point of departure must not be an aggressive confrontation with Islam… but the NGK should, like its ‘daughter’church, the NG Sendingkerk, opt rather for a reconciliatory, low-profile programme of proselytise.” It is however interesting to have noted that the NG Sendingkerk’s ministers and 55 of its members distanced themselves from this declaration; they mentioned that the synod of their church opted for reconciliation as indicated in the Crafford report[90]. For some queer reason, the NGK did not expect a backlash from all quarters. Risalatuna: Our Message, the newsletter of the Muslim Youth Movement, titled its front page: ‘Islam – a Threat to apartheid’[91]. Although the South African Muslims immediately showed their anger and vented their feelings via meetings and rallies, they were also openly supported by those from other religious traditions who were intimately involved in the interfaith organizations such as the WCRP-SA. Criticisms also came from many Christian leaders such as Dr. Reverend Allan Boesak, Rev. Ds. Beyers Naude and other Christian theologians who had been sharing anti-apartheid platforms since 1983. And at an anti-NGK declaration rally organized by the Call of Islam, Dr. Rev. Gerrie Lubbe addressed the crowd and lambasted the Synod’s decision; a banner that was hanging on the platform behind Lubbe, whilst he was spoke, read: ‘NGK worships apartheid.’


The declaration demonstrated that the majority White NGK members were not serious to engage in dialogue with members of the Muslim community; they seemed to have backtracked a little, when some of their members stated that the Muslims should not see it as an affront[92]. However, when they witnessed the nature and extent of the response, members of the NGK immediately arranged to meet with a few Muslim leaders to defuse the whole affair. Shaykh Abu Bakr Najaar, who was leading the paralysed Islamic Council of South Africa, was prepared to speak with the NGK leadership even though he seemed to have already shared his suspicions two years prior to this declaration in his booklet The Church’s thrust against the Muslims; herein he described the role of the Church against the Muslims. Many Muslim organizations applied heavy pressure upon Shaykh Najaar and his group not to enter into any talks with the NGK leadership. In the end he relented and abandoned the planned talks[93].  There were however informal talks that took place in Pretoria between the CEO of the NGK and a few Muslims[94]. Whilst the NGK thought that their declaration was going bring them closer to their co-religionists it only drove them further apart and not forgetting that this very church has been the one that biblically justified the rule of apartheid, which was declared ‘a heresy’ by Dr. Rev. Boesak and others. The NGK pronouncement, in fact, helped to forge greater and closer ties between the vast majority of oppressed Christians across the country and the Muslim minority[95]. The event produced a plethora of responses in the local newspapers and academic papers. Other outcomes of this affair were the statement by a Pentacostal priest at a Vereeniging Church who was “born in hell”[96], Rev. Lafras Moolman who wrote in the NGK mouthpiece, Die Kerkbode, that “Islam was being used by the ANC,”[97] and the anti-Halaal campaign that was initiated by an extremist, namely Pastor Soon Zevenster of the Evangelical Reformed Church[98]. Their voices and opposition was however balanced out by others that were more informed and sensitive to the position of Muslims within the South African socio-political setting; amongst this groups Dr. Gerrie Lubbe stood out and demonstrated how to remain and faithful and committed Christian and still interact and relate to others.


6.4 Gerrie Lubbe: A Committed Christian advocating Religious Pluralism


Gerrie Lubbe[99] has been a pastor of a black church, the Via Christi Community of the Reformed tradition in Lenasia - a predominantly Indian suburb outside Johannesburg, and currently attached to the University of South Africa. However, as an academic he charted out an interesting course for himself. On the one hand, as a committed Christian he did not veer from his beliefs; however in dealing with religious minorities he showed an interest and a desire to build bridges. Of course, from amongst the Muslims there was a certain degree of scepticism when it came to working with some of these academics. This was the experience with J.A. Naude at Rand Afrikaans University. Nevertheless, Lubbe proved that he was different from Naude and that he was sincere to pursue dialogue and cooperation.


It is for this reason that he decided to write his seminal essay ‘Islam in SA – enemy or ally?’ penned in 1984 and which was reprinted in BICHMURA in 1985[100]. This was followed by his article entitled ‘Christian, Muslims and the Liberation in South Africa’, which appeared in 1986 in the Journal of Theology for Southern Africa and in 1987 he produced in Islamochristiana another article entitled ‘Muslims and Christians in South Africa.’ The latter was reprinted in 1993 in Theologica Viatorum. These articles underscored the notion that Muslims and Christians are able to cooperate and work alongside one another in the struggle against apartheid; however, he was also critical of the type of Islam that has been projected in certain circles and was advocating an indigenous image that will stand the Muslim society in good stead in the future. He also adopted a critically view of the Christians who strongly adhered to their exclusivist positions and opening up dialogue that would lead to a better understanding of other religious traditions particularly Islam that had been represented in the past by a few sterling personalities such as Shaykh Yusuf, Prince Madura, and Imam Haron. Lubbe thus held the opinion that the only way via which strong religious ties can be forged in through organizations such as the South African Chapter of the WCRP. In fact, the reasons for his full participation in the latter organization is captured in an article entitled ‘’n Rivier, nie monument nie’[101](tr. ‘A River, not a monument’); he outlines in some detail how he as an Afrikaner pastor chose this path as opposed to the one charted out by the NGK Synod.


6.5 Faried Esack: A Muslim Theologian promoting a theology of religious pluralism


Faried Esack, who had been active in the MYMSA upon his return from his theological studies in Pakistan, was and remains an independent thinker who has written widely and commented upon many issues; in a 2003 study he, along with Professor Ebrahim Moosa and Ms. Sadiyya Shaik, has been described as ‘progressive Muslims’[102]. Even before his studies in Pakistan he had shown that he was inclined towards accommodating other individuals’ opinions and interpretation. It was therefore quite natural for him to have accepted the view that the Christians held different theological views but that does not mean that we cannot interact and socialize with them. However, his stint in Pakistan further reinforced those ideas through his personal interaction with Pakistani Christians whom, he argued, were discriminated against within a predominantly Muslim society. Coming from apartheid South Africa thus made him extra-sensitive to these attitudes. This lived experience within a majority Muslim society clearly guided him as to how we should conduct our affairs as Muslims within a majority Christian society. He thus penned a number of articles and produced published and unpublished manuscripts that cogently articulate his ideas.


Since the list of articles and monographs are too numerous to refer to at this juncture, it was decided to only select some and make reference to these. One of the unpublished manuscripts that demonstrate very clearly how he perceived Christian-Muslim or rather non-Muslim-Muslim relations is his Side-by-Side with Non-Muslims manuscript that was circulated amongst friends and supporters in the late 1980s. He adopted a hermeneutical approach in understanding fully the import and meaning of the verses that deal with the Muslim’s relations with non-Muslims; these are all found in his published works, namely Quran Liberation and Pluralism and On being Muslim: Finding a religious path in the world today; both works were published by Oneworld Publishers in Oxford. Since it will be impossible to discuss all his works and ideas, we decided to direct ourselves to his 2nd Desmond Tutu Peace lecture that he delivered on 13 September 1986 because it dealt specifically with three issues: the first is the position of women, the second human’s relations with the environment and the third interfaith relations. This lecture appeared under the title Universalizing the Struggle: A Challenge to the South African Anti-Apartheid Movement[103] in the South African Outlook, and then it was reprinted in Africa Events under the title Dialogue in Confrontation[104]. And since Esack developed his own site included at under the title The Unfinished Business of Our Liberation Struggle[105]. However, when Lubbe edited  the work in which all the Desmond Tutu Peace lectures appeared the lecture was give yet a different title; this time it was The Widening of Horizons. Rev. Wesley Mabuza was the responded to this lecture. As far as Esack was concerned, we as Muslims cannot ignore the fact that we have members in our families who belong to other faiths, some of us came from those faiths, and we live in communities where we are surrounded by people of different faiths; all these realities point to the fact that they cannot be overlooked and need to be dealt with as realistically as possible. He drew from his own experiences how to relate to others and also observed how others were treated by their fellow citizens as in the case of Pakistani Christians. Esack thus charted out a pluralist philosophy of co-existence; these ideas are clearly expressed in all of his writings.



7. Religious Pluralism during SA’s Democracy – From 1994 and beyond:


The struggle against apartheid as witnessed from the afore-mentioned paragraphs gave rise to many new players in the political playing fields; amongst these players who made a substantial contribution to the downfall of apartheid and the eventual establishment of democracy in South Africa were the religious organizations who formed part of the progressive groups for transformation. They were very much part and parcel of those who contributed to the ‘miracle’ that took place during 1994 and that slowly unfolded over the past 10 years. However, the individual who did much for religious tolerance and cooperation was none other than the former president Nelson Mandela. Before he became the first democratically elected president of South Africa in May 1994, he had already shown his respect for the religious groups that had been in the vanguard of bringing down the apartheid system. And demonstrated this in a more concrete and visible way when he was inaugurated as the first president; he invited a representative from each religious tradition to read from their respective scriptures and pray to bless his period of reign. This was a remarkable and unforgettable experience and sight. Subsequent to this, he was also instrumental in the setting up in 1995 of the National Religious Leaders Forum that would be in the position to advise the government whenever their expertise knowledge and input was required.


And since Mandela in his characteristic manner was instrumental in many of these structures, he also saw to it that the religious traditions were given the necessary freedom in the new democratic state in which they could freely express their respective identities without being prejudiced or discriminated. As the leader of the new democracy, he urged his cabinet and particularly the committee responsible for working out the new constitution to insert a set of clauses that would secure this freedom. The committee thus sought the opinions and views from a variety of quarters including the National Religious Leaders Forum have their input on this and other related issues; out of these deliberations the committee carved out and design a Constitution that has been declared as the most liberal on the African continent! And one clause in it stipulated very clearly that the South Africans be granted the ‘Freedom of Religion.’ During this period Kitshoff published his ‘Die verhouding Christen-Moslem in Suid-Afrika’ in which he assessed the relationship in which he looked at the early relations between Christians and Muslims, at the debates between Deedat and others, at the Kairos Document, and the KGK declaration and at the introduction of religious education at schools.


Many articles[106] and a few book length publications have subsequently appeared that deal with ‘Freedom of Religion’ in South Africa. Gerhard van der Schyff’s The Limitation of the Rights to Freedom of Religion in South Africa (Johannesburg: RAU 2001) is amongst the few that dealt with the subject in detail. Two Singaporean scholars, Andy Yeo and Eric Chin, addressed in one section the issue of freedom of religion in South Africa in their paper Freedom of Religion: The Protection and Promotion of Religious Rights – A Commonwealth Survey at the 12th Commonwealth Law Conference in Kuala Lumpur during September 1999.   The South African Bill of Rights under Section 15 clearly captured the view that “everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion”[107] and in Section 16 highlighted the fact that “everyone has the right to freedom of expression.” The 2003 version of the Religious Freedom Report affirmed that the South African Constitution grants religious freedom and that the government respected this right in practice and prohibited the government of any unfair discrimination on the grounds of religion. And it also stated that cases of discrimination against a person on the grounds of religious freedom may be taken to the Constitutional Court[108].


In fact the WCRP-SA was very much involved in drafting the constitutional legislation on the freedom of religion; its hand is clearly visible in the wording and elaboration of what freedom of religion should mean in a democratic South Africa. These were given flesh in various forms; one area it which it was concretely expressed was in the media sector.


7.1 The Media - Radio Stations and TV Channels that demonstrated the differences:


When the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (hereafter ICASA; formerly known as Independent Broadcasting Authority) was formed, it was acting on behalf of the government in empowering communities particularly religious communities in setting up their own radio stations. At the same time when this was taking place the religious communities were proactive in setting up committees that would be able to oversee and supervise religious broadcasting. The South African Council of Churches for example formed a steering committee to promote religious broadcasting soon after the ‘Jabulani Freedom of the Airwaves Conference’ took place in Amsterdam in 1991. This committee was then drawn into discussions with other committees with similar objectives, and out of these emerged the Independent Forum for Religious Broadcasting, which was in a sense occasioned by the IBA Act of 1993, in 1995. A 15 member Board was elected to represent their respective denominations and religious traditions, and during 1996 the ‘Norms for Religious Broadcasting’ document was approved[109]; this thus led to the formal establishment the religious stations that peppered parts of the new democratic state.


Amongst the many communities, that took advantage of these new pieces of legislation, were the Muslims; they were, however, represented by many groups in different parts of the country who motivated for temporary licences. In the Cape two were granted, in Johannesburg two were granted and in the Durban one was granted; these stations were later joined by satellite stations such as Channel Islam International that is based in Lenasia and that seems to attract listeners in from different parts of South Africa and Africa and parts of the Middle East[110]. In addition to their empowerment, the SABC channels were promoting the understanding of religious rituals and other forms of expression through their specific programmes that broadcast on Sundays. The latest channel that made its entrance at the beginning of 2004 was Islam TV known popularly as iTV. Its creation and establishment is another tangible proof of the opportunities that the liberal legislation has granted its nascent democratic nation.


These stations and the specially designed programmes demonstrate South Africa’s bold step in not only recognizing its peoples’ freedom to express themselves without feeling, in the least, being threatened by a wave of ‘religious fundamentalism’ as in other states on the African continent[111]; although it has had brushes with small groups that have reflected religious fundamentalist characteristics, it has not muzzled their voices nor stifled their freedom of movement. It has, in fact, granted them the chances to express these in different ways and without any interference from the government. The result of the government’s fairly liberal constitution was to create a tolerant society where one another’s religious identities and ethnic differences are respected. In essence, the constitution has thus far been a crucial contributor towards the existence of religious pluralism in South Africa. Specific examples will now be given to show the extent of the flowering of religious pluralism and the acceptance of one another despite few strands of fundamentalism that have been rearing their heads in different religious communities across the country.


7.2 PAGAD – A social movement that was different[112]


The formation of People Against Gangsterism and Drugs - commonly known as PAGAD - was one such body in which Muslims and Christians acted as a united group. Even though the majority of PAGAD were made up of Muslims, scores of Christians from the lower and middle class communities joined ranks to fight the scourge of drugs and gangsterism that affected sizeable sectors of these communities. They felt that the government particularly its regional department of Safety and Security was unable to combat the proliferation of gangs in these struggling communities, and they had also accused members of the police force to have been directly involved in these groups and activities. As a group, they went on street marches that swelled as they were moving from area to area. And as a consequence of one such march in the area of Salt River, which is located not far from the city centre, the leadership, some of whom have been apprehended and tried, have been accused of having killed Rashied Staggie, the leader of the ‘Americans’ gang. Although not everyone agreed with the manner in which the latter was ambushed and killed, there was a general silent acceptance that only the action taken by PAGAD was able to root out these gangs and that this was also to put an end to the distribution of drugs.


Amongst the leaders of the PAGAD were Father Clohessy and Ebrahim Salam; the latter was implicated in the killing of Staggie and the former left the ranks of the organization to further his studies on Islam and other religious traditions in the Vatican; in fact, when Clohessy departed he was given a memorable send off by PAGAD, who respected him for his dedication and commitment to transform and change the society. However, their respect also went out to other members who had stood with them through hard times. This was thus one example of how certain religious groups forged inter-religious connections and fraternities without having had to reject their own religious tradition. Perhaps it might be useful to refer to Father Clohessy’s short essay on ‘Islam in South Africa with special reference to the Western Cape;’ it appeared as one of Encounter: Documents for Muslim-Christian Understanding (no. 242) published by the Pontificio Instituto di Studi Arabi e d’Islamistica. Herein he provided an overview of South African Islam; it is however interesting that he did not describe PAGAD as an inter-faith group that tried to address the drug issues in the low-income community areas. He, in fact, mentioned that only he and another priest were the only two non-Muslims that were present at these gatherings where mainly Muslim chants were heard; this statement is not entirely correct since there were other non-Muslims who were also participants in PAGAD activities from the outset and since it was also liaising with groups that had similar objectives in the hinterland of the Western Cape region; these individuals and groups, moreover, gave way as certain Muslim individuals came to dominate the activities of PAGAD and as a consequence developed into a purely Muslim organization and thus phasing out its inter-faith identity that it initially reflected.


It might also be of relevance to mention that since the drugs and gangsterism issues were the concern of all the affected communities, PAGAD considered it their duty to fight these issues on all fronts. But since they became too militant, and forced the government to step in and curb their militancy, their activities were slowly curtailed. The government in fact brought in the religious leaders in the Western Cape to address their respective communities and to assist in resolving the social problems everyone was facing.


7.3 TRC – An Institution that made a difference


Another area in which there was a great deal of inter-faith work was when the TRC was established in 1995 and ended by 1997[113]. This structure was spearheaded by the respected Dr. Rev. Desmond Tutu who had great courage in facing the law during the years of apartheid. His team of commissioners not only consisted of Christians but of members from different religious traditions. The person that represented the Muslim community was Mr. Faizal Randaree, a person who had been deeply involved in the socio-political activities; in his capacity he made an important input and once again affirmed the extent of the Muslim contribution towards change.


Much had been written about the religious ethos of the TRC[114]. Some had criticised the TRC for having had so many religious personalities as part of its structures, and others have lauded it for the manner in which the TRC was handled. The latter group argued that these commissioners were partly inspired and driven by their religious commitment and were thus able to produce the results that the TRC did; and they went on to highlight the fact that if it was not for the personalities of the cloth then the TRC might not have reached the findings it did. Whilst the latter point remains a debatable one, it is acknowledged that the appointment of Tutu and his team had an important psychological impact upon the victims and their perpetrators and therefore had a significant effect in the running of its affairs throughout the two years.


The TRC however spurred on inter-faith groups to respond to its recommendations. However, it also brought individuals of different religious background together in the form of a ‘civil campaign’ to respond to the South African transitional process. The campaign started out in 1994 at the same time when the TRC was initiated, and it ran parallel the TRC process and even went beyond the date the TRC ended its activities as a commission. The purpose of this campaign was to provide an interfaith/religious response combined with a spiritual approach that would address the questions of truth, healing and reconciliation in a local context; members of the WCRP-SA were also involved in this project throughout the TRC process. When the TRC process came to an end, members of this campaign then transferred their energies into developing and establishing in Cape Town in 1998 the Centre for Ubuntu, which in essence still reflect their concerns with interfaith activities and working towards nation building[115].


The work of the TRC paved the way for the hosting of other significant religious events in South Africa. One of these was the planning and organization of the Parliament of World Religion’s five yearly international gathering in South Africa’s mother city, namely Cape Town, where some of the important TRC cases were heard.


7.4 Parliament of World Religions’ Conference[116] – A Different Spiritual Experience:


The Parliament of World Religions (hereafter PWR) has its headquarters in Chicago and its first significant gathering was held in 1893. Since then it continued to exist but was revitalised towards the end of the 1980s. It was and remains under the guidance and leadership of spiritually minded individuals that belong to different religious traditions. The PWR with the help of the WCRP-SA was able to launch week long international conference that was accompanied by a host of ‘religious’ events during the month of December 1999[117]. The conference was the culmination of a great deal of work on the part of local South African participants with the support of its international team directed from Chicago. One of the co-chairpersons of this historical event was Imam A. Rashied Omar. During the planning stages of the conference, he made an input entitled ‘The 1999 Parliament of the World religions – a Muslim Perspective’ in which he examined the genesis and history of the PWR with reference to the specific role of the Muslims, and he went on to delineate the role the Muslims can play in make it a success[118]. Apart from his own personal participation in the PWR activities, he pursued an academic career that has pushed him into the throes of interfaith activities since he departed for the USA where he is furthering his studies. In fact, his departure in 2001 to join the University of Notre Dame opened up new opportunities for him. He has, thus far, taken full advantage of the new circumstances in which he found himself. During his stint there, he has been invited to numerous forums where he was able to give his input on inter-religious dialogue and cooperation. This academic opportunity has thus placed him in a position to produce a number of articles such as the one on ‘Religion and Violence’[119] and another on ‘Muslims and Religious Pluralism in a Post-Apartheid South Africa’[120].


The important role, which Rashied Omar and other played in making the conference a great success, underscored the fact that inter-religious activities and conferences such as the 1999 PWR conference could be organized and achieve significant results  without anyone losing their unique religious identity. It also demonstrated that religious communities have the potential to work in harmony and the ability to attain specific goals and objectives. It however also celebrated – in the case of South Africa – the successful efforts that were made by the nationally based WCRP-SA to contribute and struggle towards the dismantling of Apartheid in the 1980s and the building of a nation in the 1990s.


8. Conclusion


The dynamics of Christian-Muslim Relations have radically changed within the respective religious communities over the four decades. At the outset, individuals and groups adopted aggressive approaches towards one another in conveying their religious messages with the hope of winning converts to their respective folds. These approaches were solidly wedded into their exclusivist positions; however, as the attitudes slowly shifted to being less aggressive and more cooperative and tolerant, their stance also shifted to adopting an inclusivist position[121].


The mere move from the one to the other position reflected that the missionary-minded individuals and groups realised that they could not hold on forever to the archaic notion that religions other than theirs are devoid of ‘truth claims.’ It forced them to recognize adherents of other traditions who also cling to similar views about them. However, theologians and philosophers such as Hick and Panikkar, who have been in the vanguard in grappling with and debating about these various theological and philosophical positions, have been able to attract others towards their philosophy of religious pluralism. They attracted a wide network of religionists and who latched onto their ideas and have indirectly forced them to accept the fact that religious pluralism as a real, contemporary phenomenon that should be seen as an important theological challenge.


South Africans have thus found themselves in similar circumstances and have gradually shifted from a situation where missionaries were of the view that all other religious traditions except their own were false, to a position where respect and tolerance has been shown towards one another in all spheres. In fact, the South African Bill of Rights have been instrumental in securing the rights of each and every individual to such an extent that the individual has recourse to the legal system if he/she feels that he/she is being discriminated against. Whilst their religious freedom has been secured, the new democratic dispensation has also been stimulating the development of religious pluralist attitudes via the introduction and implementation of

religious education at schools[122].


[1] This paper was prepared for and presented at the CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM RELATIONS IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA CONFERENCE that was held at the University of Birmingham19-23 April 2004; the theme of the conference was ‘Contemporary Issues & Experiences in Christian-Muslim Relations.’ I wish to thank the conference organizers under the leadership of Dr. Siqvard von Siqard and his colleagues for inviting me to make my input. My thanks also go to my colleagues in the Department of Theology & Religious Studies at the University of Botswana for supporting me in my research endeavours, also to those friends such as Father Christopher Clohessy that helped to secure some material for my research. Any further information on the topic can be obtained from the researcher: Senior Lecturer in Department of Theology & Religious Studies at University of Botswana.



[2] Muhammed Haron’s ‘Three Centuries of NGK Mission amongst Cape Muslims’ in JIMMA 19(1): 1999. p. 118.

[3] Cf. Kate Zebiri’s Muslims and Christians: Face to Face (Oxford: Oneworld 1997) pp. 33-34.


[4] There are two important works that critically evaluate John Hick’s understanding of Religious Pluralism; the first is Adnan Aslan’s Religious Pluralism in Christian and Islamic Philosophy: The Thought of John Hick and Sayyed Hossein Nasr (London: Curzon 1998), and the other is Paul Rhodes Eddy’s John Hick’s Pluralist Philosophy of World Religion (London: Ashgate 2002). Consult Hick’s arguments summarised in his article ‘Religious Pluralism’ that appears in Encyclopaedia of Religion [ed. Mircea Eliade] (New York: Macmillan. 1987) vol. 11 pp. 331-333. And read Hick’s ‘Religious Pluralism and Ultimate Reality’ in Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology [ed. Louis Pojman] (New York: Wadsworth Publishing Co. 1998)  Section 8 Ch. 1 pp. 509-517. Also read James Livingston’s  ‘Religious Pluralism and the Question of Religious Truth in Wilfred  Cantwell Smith.’ In Journal of Christian Religious Theology (?) 4(3): 58-79, August 2003.



[5] Alvin Platinga’s ‘A Defense of Religious Exclusivism’ in Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology [ed. Louis Pojman] (New York: Wadsworth Publishing Co. 1998)  Section 8 Ch. 2 pp. 517-530.


[6] Raimundo Panikkar’s ‘Four Attitudes.’ In Philosophy of Religion: Towards a Global Perspective. [ed. Gary E. Kessler]. (New York: Wadsworth Publishing Co. 2000). Ch. 11 pp.532-536.


[7]  Cf. Dione Crafford’s ‘Mission in a Multi-Religious Context’ in Theological Forum XX111(2):  June 1995 and online at: (link fixed 13 March 2006).


[8] David Westerlund’s ‘Ahmed Deedat’s Theology of Religion: Apologetics Through Polemics.’ In Journal of Religion in Africa. 33(3): 263-278, 2003.


[9] C. Kimball. Striving Together: A Way Forward in Christian-Muslim Relations. New York: Mayknoll. 1991.


[10] Zebiri 1997: 21.


[11] Missionary Review of the World 37: 733-738, October 1914.


[12] Lord Headley’s ‘Islamic Mission to South Africa – Khwaja Kamal ud-Din and Lord Headley at Cape Town’ in The Islamic Review 14: 163-167, May 1926.


[13] International Review of Missions 14: 560- 571, 1925.


[14] The Moslem World 15(4): 327-333, October 1925.


[15] Het Zoeklicht 3:310-314, October 1925.


[16] The Moslem World 24(3): 271-277, July 1934. This particular article was reprinted as a separate text under the same title with illustrations in Cape Town in 1935.


[17] These two mentioned publications were printed by Nasionale Pers at the Cape.


[18] This work was published by Maskew Miller in Cape Town and a second edition appeared in 1945, and A.A. Balkema produced another print in 1972.


[19] Cf. Chidester 1992: 201


[20] Farid Esack’s ‘The Freedom Charter through the eyes of an Islamist.’ In The Freedom Charter and the Future [ed. James Polley]. (Johannesburg: AD Donker pp. 105-110, 1989).


[21] David Chidester’s Religions of South Africa.( London: Routledge, 1992). pp. 202-203.


[22] Read the Fetschrift entitled Many Cultures, One Nation, which was edited by Charles Villa-Vicencio and Carl Niehaus (Cape Town: Human & Rousseau 1995).


[23] See the 31st March 1961 issue of Muslim News (1960-1986) in which a front page report appeared under the banner ‘Muslim demands freedom!.’ On the 12th May of the same year it announced about the Muslim stand against injustice and a forthcoming conference that was going to focus on ‘Islam and Human Rights’.


[24] Mention should be made of the fact that this Imam was also involved with a few Christians in dialogue. The Imam was also in close contact with Canon Collins who was in charge of the Defend and Aids Fund, an anti-apartheid organization in the UK; visit for further information on the imam.


[25]  Read the 1870 publication produced by the Anglican Diocese. Lubbe (1987: 124) provided some insights into the text by quoting some extracts and offered some commentary. A summarised version of the text is also found as a supplement in Muslim News 18th August 1961.  


[26] cf. Davids, Achmat. ‘Muslim-Christian Relations in Nineteenth Century Cape Town (1825 – 1925).’ In Kronos: Journal of Cape Muslim History. pp.80-101, November 1992. See p.81.


[27] Gerrie Lubbe’s   ‘Muslims and Christians in South Africa’ in IslamoChristinana. 13: 113-129, 1987; and Anon’s Die Geskiedenis van Hadjie Abdoellah (deur homself vertel). (Kaapstad: N.G. Kerkuitgewers 1960).



[28] See 10th March 1961 Muslim Views issue.


[29] See MN 21st July 1961 pp. 2-3. The YMMA’s reply was dated 30th June 1961.


[30]Cf. An article in MN entitled ‘A Muslim Bible specialist’ 4th August 1961 p.9. Riaz Jamal’s unpublished MA Islamic Studies thesis entitled The Role and Contribution of the Islamic Propagation Centre in the field of Da’wah. University of Durban-Westville 1991. Refer to the second chapter which evaluates the work of the Islamic Propagation Centre International, and third chapter in which he provides a biography of Deedat. In addition to this important thesis, a postgraduate researcher in France, namely Samadia Sadouni also concentrated her research on Deedat; it was titled ‘Le minoritaire sud-africaine: Ahmed Deedat, une figure originale de la da’wa?’ in Islam et Societes du Sud du Sahara. No. 12 December 1998. Apart from her contribution, Larry Poston briefly evaluated Deedat’s approach in the section ‘Contemporary Apologetics: The Literature of Proselytization’ in his Islamic Da’wah in the West: Muslim Missionary Activities and the Dynamics of Conversion (New York: OUP 1992); see Ch. 8 pp. 139-141. Poston’s was followed by the work of Kate Zebiri’s titled Muslims and Christians: Face to Face (Oxford: Oneworld 1997); see Ch.2 ‘Muslim Popular Literature on Christianity’ pp.46-48, and  David Westerlund’s took a more closer look at ‘Ahmed Deedat’s Theology of Religion: Apologetics Through Polemics’ in Journal of Religion in Africa 33(3): 263-278, 2003.


[31] Visit homepage:


[32] See MN 4th August 1961 p.9.


[33] IPCI Newsletter ‘Sheikh Deedat wanted dialogue and not confrontation’ p. 8, 2002.


[34] See the 21st July 1961 issue of MN with the headlines: ‘Deedat – DRC Public Lecture.’ The editor also commented on the ‘Historical religious relations’ in the same issue.


[35] Refer to 4th August 1961 MN which responded to ‘why a(n inter-religious) symposium’ should take place.


[36] Consult the 18th August 1961 MN issue which wrote about the ‘DRC: Thumb-suck Hadjie Abdoella’. The whole saga led to a mass meeting organized by the Muslim Judicial Council and other Muslim organizations.  In fact, a member of the Muslim News editorial board also wrote an open letter to the then State President, Mr.  Swart, requesting him to have the circulated booklet be banned!


[37] The headlines of the 29th September 1961 MN issue read: ‘True Christians reject attack on Islam.’ This was a report on the public meeting that was held in Pretoria at the Empire Theatre organized by Maulana Abdur-Razak of Ladysmith.


[38] Ataullah Siddiqui’s Christian-Muslim Dailogue in the Twentieth Century. (London: Macmillan 2000) pp.6-9.


[39] Refer to the IPCI newsletter entitled Burhan. In the 1987 issue an interview with a Pakistani journalist is reproduced in full, and it is also a reflection on his Pakistani tour during that year. Also see Al-Qalam 11(3), 1986 which had a special supplement on Deedat; it reflected on Deedat’s work and also commented on him having received the prestigious King Faisal International Award for Islamic Mission during the month of February 1986.


[40] Al-Balaagh 10(3), August-September 1985.


[41] The first visit was in July 1961 and this was followed by another in February 1963. See MN 8th February 1963 on ‘Deedat’s meetings at the Cape.’


[42] Cf. Anon ‘The Ahmadiyya Community and its expansion in Africa’ Encounter: Documents for Muslim-Christian Understanding No. 2 February 1974  Section B ‘Africa’ p.9. Also see Muhammed Haron’s ‘The Muslim News (1960-1986): An expression of an Islamic Identity in South Africa.’ In Muslim Identity and Social Change in Sub-Saharan Africa [ed. Louis Brenner] (London: C. Hurst & Co. 1993) pp. 210-225.


[43] The MN has many articles and reports on the Muslims’ stand against the Bahais and Ahmedis between 1962 and 1965; a fair number of individuals were influenced by these groups. One Christian theologian, namely former Reverend Flowers, who had by then embraced Islam was also at one stage accused of having been an Ahmedi! See 27 July 1962 MN  ‘I am not Ahmedi – Flowers’ and 4th May 1962 ‘Bahai’s funeral – Imam’s refusal to bury’


[44] Consult the issues of the MN at the beginning of the 1980s in which it regularly reported the court case. See Zahid Aziz’s The Ahmediyya Case: Famous Religious Court Case in Cape Town between Lahore Ahmadiyya Muslims and Sunni Muslim Religious Bodies. (Newark: Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaát Islam Lahore Inc. 1987).


[45] One can provide a list of such texts which the DRC and the Anglican Diocese produced since before the turn of the 20th century; it might be in order just to make reference to a few: Zwemer’s ‘The Moslem Menace in South Africa’ in Missionary Review of the World  37: 733-738, October 1914,  Liebenberg’s ‘Mohammadanisme in Zuid Afrika’ in  Het Zoeklicht 3: 310-314, 1925, Blaxall’s An Outpost of Islam (Cape Town 1927), W.J. Van Der Merwe’s ‘Mission to Moslems in South Africa’ in The Moslem World 26(3): 287-290, July 1936, and Gerdener’s Onder de Slamsen in de Kaapstad: Afval en Strijd (Cape Town 1944).


[46] This appeared in Koers 33(3): 173-185, 1965.


[47] MN 10th September 1965.


[48] Deedat’s half brother, Abdullah Deedat, who was a member of the Arabic Study Circle, was amongst those who condemned the offensive da’wah tactics that he employed. See Al-Mujaddid December 1960 (Jeppie 2000: 149). During 1990 when Dr. Anis Shorrosh, a Christian Arab, came to debate with Deedat there was a violent reaction by the Muslims towards his visit; as a result he had to cancel his public debate. See Ebrahim Moosa’s analysis entitled ‘Do not revile: Respect for religious liberty goes out of the window’ in Tribune Herald 19 August 1990.


[49] See the MN 28 August 1964 and 11 September 1964; in the earlier issue it was reported ‘Deedat vindicated’ and in the latter issue ‘Makki loses case’.


[50]  Read an article lifted from the Muslim Digest (October 1986) issue and a report, which was accessed on the 7th September 2003, on the following site: (unable to locate as of 13 March, 2006).


[51] Jeppie, Shamil. Language, Community and Identity: The Arabic Study Circle of South Africa (1950-2000). Unpublished Ms. (Durban: Arabic Study Circle. 2000) pp. 120-141.


[52] Canon John Collins’s Southern Africa – Freedom and Peace: Addresses to the UN 1965-1979. (London: IDA March 1980).


[53] Lubbe  1987: 120-121.


[54] Cape Times 27 September 1971 Roger William wrote in his article that ‘Wrankmore’s long fast compelled attention’ and quoted the latter who said that his “self-sacrifice will perhaps help activate others.” Cape Argus 27 September 1971. An Argues reporter reported that the ‘Priest will stay on the mountain till Wednesday’.  Also see Rose de la Hunt’s article ‘The man on the hill’ in Odyssey August/September pp. 7-10, 1984.


[55] Cape Herald 26 September 1971 ‘Sheikh slam’s priest fast’


[56] Post 17 October 1971 ‘Muslims split over the fast’, Argus 5 October 1971 ‘Moslem call of priest to leave’ and  Cape Times 11 October 1971 ‘Cinema Shut: Moslem Group meets in open’.


[57] Argus 8 October 1971 ‘Fasting priest leaves shrine’.  Read the Cape Times editorial ‘The Priest and the Imam’ 25 October 1971.

[58] Skrif en Kerk 7(2): 158-172, 1986.


[59] Al-Qalam 13 (11-12): 8, 1988. See editorial comment entitled ‘Blaming the Victim.’

[60] Accessed on the 7th September 2003.


[61] Visit:


[62] Visit homepage:


[63] Read the earlier mentioned works at: (link fixed 13 March, 2006).


[64] Found at


[65] Visit this for the text:


[66] One pamphlet in a form of a letter was titled Ramadan – Then What?.


[67] Muhammed Haron’s ‘Maulana Ahmad Sadeq Desai and His Majlis: An Ultra-Conservative Voice in the Eastern Cape Wilderness’ in Annual Review of Islam in South Africa 6: 20-25, December 2003.

[68] The Majlis 11(9): 12, 1995.


[69] Mention should also be made of the fact that there are a few other individuals that have been responding to the ‘missionary menace’ via pamphlets; one such Gauteng based theologian was Mufti Afzal Hoosen Elias, who has written a number of booklets on Islam. He has a pamphlet entitled Al-Hidayaah: Islam the only way; issue no. 9 printed in 1999 briefly addressed the proliferation of ‘Christian Literature in Muslim homes.’  And in the Cape another group of Muslims has been circulating FACT: The Friendly Association for concerned Truth-Seekers; the objective is to assist the sincere seeker of the truth. In the different issues they discussed aspects that are shared with Christianity; for example, in issue 11 (undated – probably 2002) it had an article that questioned whether Abraham was a Jew or a Christian, and another spoke about ‘The Jesus Crisis.’


[70] The Majlis 12(2): 1, 1996.


[71] The Majlis 13(10): 1, 1997. See the article: ‘Bangladesh: The Maktab Project’, which was created “to ensure that the Imaam(sic) and Akhlaaq of the children of the ummah are assured to remain intact.”


[72] The article appeared in Missionalia 8(3): 89-104, 1980 and reprinted in Evangelicals Review of Theology 5(2): 237-245, October 1981. The article was extensively quoted by Dennis Walker in his article entitled ‘Islam and Christianity in Azania: The Black African Dimension’ in JIMMA 11(1): 15-29, 1990.


[73] The Monitor pp. 16-18, 8 October 1981 and reprint in Islamic Herald 6(1 & 2): 29-31, 1982.


[74] Pace 5(9): 33-35, 37, October 1982.


[75] Insight 4(1): 19-21, 1989.


[76] On 21 March 2004 Bush Radio, a community radio station at the Cape, conducted an interview with a non-Muslim activist, namely Johnny Issel – who was one of the stalwarts of the United Democratic Front (est. 1983); he acknowledged the role the paper was playing in the Fatti’s and Moni’s strike at the Cape. This was tangible evidence that the paper did not confine its reporting to Muslim issues only, but also included developments in the larger oppressed society.


[77] Cf. Farid Esack ‘Three Muslim strands in the struggle for justice in South Africa’ in Third World Quarterly 1988.


[78] Visit homepage of the mother body at


[79] Klippies Kritzinger Believers in the Struggle for justice and peace. (Johannesburg: WCRP-SA 1991). p.v.


[80] Gerrie Lubbe A Decade of Interfaith Dialogue (Johannesburg: WCRP-SA,1994) p.i.


[81] See the summary by Jim Cochrane on ‘The Significance of the Kairos Document’ in South African Outlook in volume 117 (sic) number 1384 pp. 110-111, October 1986 and volume 116 number 1385 pp. 123-124, November 1986. In the October 1986 issue there was a comparative summary between the Kairos Document and Evangelical Witness in South Africa that highlights the differences between the two and the issues that each dealt with.


[82] Consult the following issues that were edited by Professor John de Gruchy: No. 55 March 1986, no. 56 September 1986, No. 58 March 1987, and no. 59 June 1987.


[83] 23 June 1988.


[84] See Al-Qalam July 1987 and Omar p. 8.


[85] He was the Chaplain-General of the South African Police at the time.


[86] See Section 13 no. p.254 of the Verslag Algemene Sinodale Sendingkommissie of 1986.


[87] Die Kerkbode 5 November 1986 Deel 138 no. 19.


[88] In 1982 the DRC’s Sendingkommissie requested that a thorough study be made of the challenge that Islam poses in Southern Africa and the world. See NGK Algemene Sinode Handelinge 1982 p. 1325. This task was thus handed to Professor Dione Crafford who presented his report to the Sendingkommissie (the Commission for Missionary activities) in 1986; this appeared in the Bylae of the ASSK Sendingkommissie in 1986 pp. 306-316; it was subsequently published in the Ned Geref Theological journal of 1987.


[89]  The Argus Friday 31 October 1986; read Frans Esterhuyse’s ‘N.G.K theologian’s advice ignored.’.


[90] See Staff Reporter’s report ‘Dominees in pro-Muslim reconciliation’ in Cape Times 27 October 1986. And read ‘World outcry by Muslims at the NGK Resolution’ in The Argus 3 November 1986.


[91] See its November 1986 issue vol. 1 no. 5. Also read Ebrahim Moosa’s article entitled ‘NGK says Islam is a threat’ in Cape Times Friday 24 October 1986.


[92] See the report in Cape Times 30 October 1986, which was entitled ‘Muslims: Don’t see it as an affront – NGK.’


[93] The Argus Thursday 6 November 1986. The CEO of the NGK, Dr. Pierre Roussow, confirmed that the talks were cancelled on the last minute.


[94] Die Burger Vrydag 7 November 1986.


[95] The Argus Thursday 30 October 1986 reported on a mass meeting that was organized to speak out against the declaration; this meeting was attending by members of different religious traditions. Marches also took place towards the Groote Kerk of the NGK in the centre of the city of Cape Town; see The Argus 1 November 1986.


[96] Al-Balaagh 12(1): February-March 1987.


[97] See Al-Qalam March-April 13(3-4), 1988 issue in which there was a brief report under the heading ‘NGK does it again’and an editorial comment ‘Muslims Beware.’ This statement was similar to the one that was made earlier by Rev. Allan Hendrikse, who was then a member of the Tri-Cameral Parliament; he stated that “mosques and churches are being used by Marxists.” This was reported in Al-Qalam February 11(2): 1, 1986.


[98] See Al-Qalam November-December 13(11-12), 1988.


[99] He also focused his postgraduate studies on Islam and Muslims. His MA thesis dealt with the Polemics against Jews in the Quran and his doctoral studies assessed The Response of a Religious Minority: Interpretation and Analysis of the Work of the Muslim Judicial Council.



[100] Gerrie Lubbe’s ‘Islam in South Africa: enemy or ally?’ In New Faces of Africa. Pretoria: UNISA. Ch. 8 pp. 129-142, 1984.


[101] Visit:


[102] See the edited work by Omid Safi entitled Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender and Pluralism published by Oneworld Publishers in 2003. Read one of his articles entitled  ‘Muslims in South Africa – The Quest for Justice’. In BICHMURA. Pp. 1-19, 1985.


[103] South African Outlook 118(1408): 141-145, October 1988.


[104] Africa Event January 1988 pp.23-27.



[106] Cf. Kristin Henrard’s ‘The accommodation of Religious diversity in South Africa versus the background of the centrality of the Equality Principle in the new Constitutional Dispensation’ in Journal of African Law 45(1): 51-72, 2001; Nico Smith’s ‘Freedom of Religion under the Final constitution’ in South African Law Journal 1997(?); P. Farlam’s ‘The ambit of the right to Freedom of Religion: A Commentary on S.v.S’ in South African Journal of Human Rights 1998; L.S. Underkuffer-Freund’s ‘Religious guarantees in a pluralistic society: Values, problems and Limits’ in South African Public Law 1997; J. de Waal ‘Religion, Belief and Opinion’ in The Bible of Religion Handbook [ed. J de Waal] (Kenwyn 1998); and Pieter Fourie’s ‘The SA Constitution and religious freedom: Perverter or preserver of religion’s contribution to the public debate on morality?’ in Scriptura 82(1)L 94-107, 2003.


[107] Visit: and The South African Constitution was adopted on 8th May 1996 and the document status that appears on the UNESCO web is the 7th February 1997.


[108] Visit:


[109] Visit for more information on its activities.

[110] Haron, Muhammed. ‘South Africa’s Muslim Community Making (Air)waves during the period of transformation.’ In Journal for the Study of Religion. 15(2):11-145, 2002.


[111] Fardon, Richard & Graeme Furniss (ed.) African Broadcast Cultures: Radios in Transition. Cape Town: David Philips. 2000


[112] There are a number of articles that have been published on PAGAD; some of these are: Shamil Jeppie’s ‘People against gangsterism and drugs’ in ARISA 1: 1-4, 1998; Rashied Galant & Fahmie Gamieldien’s edited work Gangs, Drugs and People’s Power (Claremont: CMRM 1996), and B. Dixon & L. Johns’ Gangs, PAGAD and the State… (Johannesburg: CSVR 2001).

[113] Muhammed Haron’s ‘Truth-Telling through Thick and Thin: South Africa’s experience in the process of Reconciliation’ in Journal of the Henry Martyn Institute 21(2):68-93, July-December 2002. And also read James Cochrane & John De Gruchy’s edited work Facing the Truth: South African Faith Communities and the TRC. Cape Town: David Phillips 1999 as well as Audrey Chapman & Bernard Spongs’edited publication Religion and Reconciliation in South Africa. Philadephia & London: Templeton Foundation Press 2003.


[114] Ebrahim Moosa’s ‘Truth and Reconciliation as Performance: Spectres of Eucharistic Redemption’ in Looking Back; Reaching Forward – Reflections on the TRC of South Africa  [ed. C. Villa-Vicencio & W. Verwoerd] (Cape Town: UCT 2000). Ch.11; and Patricia Hayner’s ‘Same Species’ in Looking Back… ch. 3


[115] Kayser, Undine. What do we tell our children? The Work of the Centre for Ubuntu in Cape Town. Johannesburg: CSVR. 1999.


[116] Visit: 


[117] Consult the CPWR Newsletter 2(2) Summer 1999 issue, which contains a select list of the 700 programmes that were offered.


[118] See the article online:


[119] See the article online at: Also see another related text of his that appeared The Ecumenical Review in no. 56(?) April 2003. Also read an expanded version entitled ‘Towards a Polycentric Theory on Religion and Violence’ in Journal of the Henry Martyn Institute 21(1): 63-83, January-June 2002.


[120] JIMMA 22(1): 219-224, April 2002.

[121] This, however, did not mean that groups that maintained the exclusivist approached had disappeared or were marginalised; these groups are still there but their influence has been softened and inter-faith developments have been and are continuing without any obstacles put in the way by these groups or any of their representatives. In fact, the National Religious Leaders Forum has been the most influential body that has been meeting regularly with the president to share ideas about religio-communal issues. During 2003 they held a big meeting in Johannesburg on the 29th and 30th of April to discuss mutual affairs (cf. WCRP newsletter on its website and reproduced on the IFRB site).


[122] Consult M.C. Kitshoff’s article entitled ‘The role of Religious education in Building a Nation in MultiEthnic South Africa’ in Religious Education 89(3): 313-337, Summer 1994; Gordon Mitchell et al’s The End of the Tunnel: Religious Education for a Non-Racial South Africa (Cape Town: ICRSA 1993); David Chidester et al’s Religion in Public Education (Cape Town: UCT Press 1994); and David Chidester et al’s Diversity as Ethos: Challenges for Inter-religious and Intercultural Education (Cape Town: ICRSA 1999).