Islam Online

Islam Expo: In Face of Recession
South Africa

By Munyaradzi Makoni Freelance Writer - South Africa

Cape Town - Muslim heritage has refused to die. Not even the global economic recession could throw a damper on the third edition of Islam Expo in South Africa 2009.

While most companies and donor agencies are slashing spending and mostly restricting their special responsibility funds for the 2010 World Cup related events, the Islam Expo hardly felt the ripples of economic sneeze.

"The expo is for every Islamic organization that wants to participate. No one was left out for economic reasons. If they could not afford to book a stand, a company was sourced to finance their needs," Ashiq Allie, a trustee of the Muslim Students Association told IslamOnline.net

Each exhibitor was required to pay R10 000 for a stand.

The exhibitors ranged from social welfare groups to Islamic financial institutions.

The Muslim Students Association (MSA) is a group of young Muslims in Cape Town that spreads the call of Islam to Muslims and non Muslims who hosted the expo. They has been active in organizing past gatherings.

The expo is not for profit making, it is an investment in knowledge about the achievements and contributions of Muslims in Cape Town, the whole country and the rest of the world, said Allie.

He said while almost every organization from the Muslim circles was represented, it was complemented by national representation.

Funds to hold and drive the expo were sponsored by the department of Arts and Culture and City of Cape Town. They were also partnered by Muslim Judicial Council (MJC).

Towards Better Understanding

"We need to create an image of a peaceful Muslim community, one that shows tolerance and embraces diversity within a multi-cultural society."- Muslim Judicial Council secretary-general Moulana Abdul-Khalick Allie said.

Allie said the idea of the expo was mooted in the aftermath of the September 11 bombing in America. The desire was to help people to understand and disassociate the actions of a small group and the broader standing of the religion.

"We wanted to show that Muslims are ordinary people," he said.

The vibrancy of the 2009 expo was witnessed in the exuberance of 50 exhibitors - an increase of 20 new entrants from the second expo held two years ago.

Exhibitors effortlessly displayed rich historical and cultural heritage in South Africa and the rest of the world. They were ever ready to explain, give more information and part with their contact details for future communication.

"Our attempts to find something uniquely different resulted in the only international participant, Exhibition Islam from the United Kingdom having their own exhibition within the whole event. They showcased Islamic history and artifacts such as coins and art," said Fatima Allie the communications manager of Itheko, the events management company.

Inside the Expo

The exhibitors ranged from social welfare groups to Islamic financial institutions.

Moulana Ighsaan Hendricks, the president of MJC told IslamOnline.net that exhibits displayed, relayed the consistent contribution of Islam towards the development of humanity and its role at the forefront of scientific and social advancement.

A presentation on inventions and discoveries by Islamic scientists and inventors between the 7th and 17th Century, which laid the foundation for modern science also captured the visitors to the fair, he said

There was information needed to improve the understanding and development of optics, physics, mechanics, flight, astronomy, cartography, water-raising devices, trick devices, the Elephant Water Clock and the Castle Clock that will assist teaching the history of science, mechanisms, physics, map making and the human body, said Hendricks.

The Iziko museums of Cape Town had their own tale to tell - the slave to citizenship story with the Timbuktu manuscripts, Bo Kaap Museum, Slave Lodge and Simonstown Heritage Museum.

Even the United States of America based stand up comedian Preacher Moss of, ‘Allah Made Me Funny’ had his hour to unleash a dose of laughter to the visitors.

But it was not only laughter induced by Moss, a convert to Islam. He used his talent as a tool for da’wah.

As the Minister of Arts and Culture Lulama Xingwana and Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato officially opened the expo, Dr Fadel Soliman, an Islam international speaker from Egypt was the guest of honor.

Before the start of the expo Muslim Judicial Council secretary-general Moulana Abdul-Khalick Allie told the media in a briefing that the event was an important catalyst for social cohesion.

The expo was displayed by Christians, Jews, Hindus and people from other religions were among the 55,000 crowds.

To Citizenship…

Held under the theme, "From Slavery to Citizenship" Allie said this was indicative of the contribution South African Muslims have made since Islam came to the Cape some 300 years ago.

"It reflects the history of South Africa and the achievements made since the first democratic election in 1994. In the 15 years post-democracy, Muslims have emphasized their contribution to South Africa and we have shown we can become the model for Africa and the rest of the world," said Abdul-Khalick Allie.

"We are lucky to have had a peaceful fourth democratic election as well as the successful Indian Premier League cricket tournament which speaks of the wonderful country we live in. Muslims are part of the wonderful fiber of a democratic South Africa," he added.

Based on the success of the Discover Islam Exhibition in 2006 - a form of street Dawah to majority of non-Muslims that visit Cape Town, Abdul-Khalick Allie said they had to build on the first initiative as they wanted to address the stereotypes on Islam.

He said Islam had been tainted by negative public image and making people understand its beauty was the only way to change this mindset.

"We need to create an image of a peaceful Muslim community, one that shows tolerance and embraces diversity within a multi-cultural society. We hope this event is a great success and may it help Muslims to live in cohesion with the rest of the country. Inshallah."

The all inclusive nature of the expo was displayed by Christians, Jews, Hindus and people from other religions that were among the 55,000 crowds that converged at Cape Town International Convention Centre from 11-14 June.

Another highlight of the exhibition was a painting started at the beginning of the expo by three artists. The painting was auctioned for R25, 000 at the night of closing ceremony.

According to the Voice of Cape (VOC), a Cape Town Muslim biased community radio; the event was a very big success as judged by the huge turn out of people eager to view the face of Islam in South Africa today that thronged the expo in its last two days.

"Now organizers are looking at hosting the event for the third time next year and drawing in the help of the Saudi government," the radio said on15 June.

Some non Muslim visitors to the expo were keen to see the inclusion of Jumuah (Friday Prayer) which was not included. Allie said there was now a possibility of including Jumuah at the next year’s expo.

“This year we did not have the Jumuah at the expo, although we performed salah there in two to three shifts. But we also found that people from the outside also wanted to see how Jumuah was performed. We hope MJC will issue a fatwa to accommodate Jumuah next year said Allie.

Attendance figures to this year’s Islam Expo were boosted with the Cape Town Book Fair who ran their annual gathering in the adjacent hall. Allie said some visitors who came for the books ended up in the Islam expo.

As this expo was more about education the organizers made sure that all pensioners and young children attended for free, added Allie.

Munyaradzi Makoni is Cape Town based Zimbabwean journalist. He specializes on religion and science. He also writes on social issues. He writes for SciDevNet (London), Ecumenical News International (Geneva), Chimurenga – a literary publication (SA), and The Big Issue (SA). Previously he has worked as assistant editor for Moto magazine in Zimbabwe. You can Ccontact him via artculture@iolteam.com.

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Islam Expo SA 2009

presented by Muslim Students Associations [MSA]
was held at the CTICC
 from 11-14 June 2009
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