As the Muslim community continues to celebrate Ramadaan, the Good Hope Seminary Girls’ High School hosted a mass iftar for the first time at the school, on Friday May 17.
This was an initiative by a teacher at the school, Zubary Charles, now in his second year in teaching, who wanted to have an open space for girls from the Muslim community.
“The Good Hope Seminary is a school that believes in inclusivity, and I wanted to ensure that Muslim girls feel included,” he said.
He said as teachers, they teach content knowledge, but at the same time, they need the pupils to go out into the world and understand what’s going on around them.
Mr Charles said this was an opportunity for the pupils to socialise and discuss various topics regarding religion, specifically being a Muslim in today’s society.
He said it is difficult to be a Muslim and to navigate in society, and even worse to be a woman from the religion.
Former pupils at the school, Ammaarah Arendse and Shakira Dramat, were also guest speakers at the event.
Sharing her life experiences, navigating the world while juggling religion, Ms Arendse – now studying at Stellenbosch University – said her life in university has not been a walk in the park.
“My first week in varsity was a culture shock. I was at a university that is predominantly white and Christian, and I was always wearing a scarf, and I often questioned myself as to whether I even belonged there,” she said.
She said even though she’s naturally a vocal and outspoken person, she felt like a minority, and intimidated at the university.
“When Fees Must Fall protests started, I felt passionate about it; I felt like it was a struggle that I needed to participate in. Unfortunately, on my first day and the very first time I ever participated in a protest, I was arrested and got suspended. I was targeted and identifiable on camera, because I was the only wearing a scarf in that group,” she said.
Ms Arendse encouraged the young people to stand their ground, and own the aspects of themselves and be confident. She said they’ve taken a step back, because they tend to believe that being Muslim and politics don’t mix.
“Many see Muslim women as oppressed, and I’m here to tell you that is not true, and you can do whatever you want to do. Always be proud of your identity as a female Muslim. The future is in your hands. Be firm in who you are,” she said.
UCT graduate and activist, Shakira Dramat, thanked the school for shaping her into the woman that she is today. She encouraged the pupils to always value authenticity.
“In a life filled with Instagram feeds and influencers, it’s very important to be the voice of honesty, and remind young women that nothing is as powerful as being the best version of yourself,” she said.
Standing in front of the audience with no scarf on her head, Ms Dramat explained that she was once attacked for being too modern a Muslim woman to represent her community.
“I chose to stand here without a scarf, and be the best version of myself. My creator is Allah, and if I ever choose to wear a scarf, it will be for the reason of Allah, only and not because someone from down the road is asking me to do it,” she said.
Ms Dramat said she once considered herself as an atheist.
“During varsity, I was so far from the woman that I am now. I thought the concept of religion was outdated and old school. And now I know I was just lost.
“Don’t let the the false feminists of today make you believe that Islam is an oppressive religion, because my life has never been more beautiful than when I decided to devote myself to Islam,” she said.
She said Islam has allowed her to live a life filled with humility, and allowed her to feel empathy and appreciate the small things.