Cape Town - The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) has condemned the Cape’s traditional Kaapse Klopse festivities, describing the colourful celebrations as “degrading and undignifying”.
The MJC’s fatwa committee has issued a formal fatwa against the annual January 2 parade, although it is not clear when, or if, the command was effectively communicated.
In a letter, committee head Y Karaan explained: “We make clear distinction between the coons and the Malay choirs. As for the coons, it is our view that it is not permissible to participate in their activities as that is generally degrading and undignifying for Muslims to dance around in public with all coloured painted faces and all coloured clothing.”
It was acknowledged that the minstrels’ parade originated as a celebration at the end of slavery, “expressing joy and pleasure of the attainment of freedom from slavery in 1834”.
“However, the coons dancing through our streets are under no circumstances fitting expression of thanksgiving to Allah for emancipation in this day and age.”
The fatwa committee had thus decreed that “it is not permissible for a Muslim to belong to them neither to participate in it neither to pay a fee to see the carnival nor to watch it”.
The Malay choirs, by contrast, remained an authentic cultural expression of the Cape Malay community.
The MJC objected to Muslims “jumping around in the streets like coon (troupes) or dancing about on a stage” at choir gatherings that were mixed with coon celebrations, and said this would “not be tolerated”.
In particular, the MJC warned against “some unsavoury language used in some songs”.
Kevin Momberg, spokesman for the Cape Town Minstrels Carnival Association, said: “We respect the MJC, but according to us the Muslims were always part of the minstrels, so we would like to know more about what their decision is based on.
“More than 60 percent of our minstrels are Muslims, so it puts them in a difficult position.”
Momberg said he did not believe the MJC’s statement had affected the festivities on Wednesday.
It could not be established on Thursday when the fatwa was issued by the MJC.