Shamima Shaikh: Why she kicks ass

  • She was South Africa’s best known Muslim women’s rights activist, a notable Islamic feminist and journalist.
  • In 1985, she was arrested for distributing pamphlets that called for a consumer boycott of white-owned businesses in Durban. The boycott had been called by the Federation of South African Trade Unions (Fosatu), the largest trade union federation in the country and supported by the Muslim Students Association of South Africa (MSA), which had organised the pamphlets. She spent the next few hours locked up at Durban’s CR Swart Police Station (now Durban Central Police Station).
  • She was later involved with a Muslim community newspaper, Al-Qalam which was being edited by her husband, and with the Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa (MYM). She was appointed Managing Editor of Al-Qalam, while battling cancer. Under her editorship, it became the flagship of a progressive expression of Islam in South Africa.
  • She became the first National Co-ordinator of the Muslim Youth Movement Gender Desk, a position that again put her on the MYM’s National Executive. Under her leadership, the MYM Gender Desk rapidly became the most outspoken Muslim organisation on the question of Muslim women’s rights and gender within the Muslim community and the leading organisation in the South African articulation of Islamic feminism.
    She also organised various workshops, seminars and campaigns. She spearheaded the MYM’s “Campaign for a Just Muslim Personal Law”, the “Equal Access to Mosques” campaign and various others.
  • She rallied around the Muslim Forum on Elections; a coalition of Muslim organisations that was calling on the community to vote in South Africa’s first democratic elections in April 1994, and to vote for those parties “that had formerly been part of the liberation movement” – in particular, the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).
  • She helped found, and became the first chairperson of the Muslim Community Broadcasting Trust which applied for and was awarded a community radio licence for Johannesburg. She remained chair of the MCBT till her death.
  • She was also involved, from 1994, with the founding and establishment of the Muslim Personal Law Board of South Africa and was a member of the Board until it was unilaterally shut down by the United Ulama Council of South Africa.

* Publishedhere, on the website "Women Who Kick Ass: We are all Wonderwomen!"

Journey of Discovery:
A South African Hajj

by Shamima Shaikh and
Na'eem Jeenah


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