The Muslim Youth Movement (MYM) Gender Desk will commemorate and celebrate the life of the late Shamima Shaikh, one of South Africa’s most prominent Muslim gender rights’ activists. Shaikh died of cancer in 1998, at the age of 38. Shaikh is remembered as a feisty journalist, media activist and Islamic feminist. This year’s annual Shamima Shaikh Memorial Lecture takes place on Saturday, 5th September 2015 at the Al-Ansaar Hall, Overport, Durban.
The event will feature tributes from former comrades, family members, activists, and spoken word artists. The lecture itself will be delivered by Professor Sa’diyya Shaikh, and will be titled “Cultivating Spirit, Embodying Justice: Sufism, Gender and Islamic Feminism”. Sa’diyya Shaikh is Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.
Through her commitment to Islam, Shamima believed it imperative to speak out and act against all kinds of injustices, especially racial and gender discrimination.
On the 4 September 1985 Shamima was arrested for distributing pamphlets that called for a consumer boycott of white-owned businesses. She spent the next few hours locked up at Durban’s CR Swart Police Station with her partner-in-crime, Na’eem Jeenah, now a well-known political commentator in South Africa. This was her first meeting with Na’eem, who was national president of the Muslim Students Association. Two years later, Na’eem was to become Shamima’s husband.
In 1989 Shamima became involved with al-Qalam which was being edited by Na’eem. al-Qalam was a Muslim community newspaper that belonged to the Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa, an organisation she began to get increasingly involved in.
In 1993 Shamima was elected the Transvaal Regional Chairperson of the Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa, and was thus a member of its National Executive, only the second woman to hold such a position.
1993 also saw Shamima leading women to attend the taraweeh prayers at the 23rd Street Mosque in Fietas in Johannesburg. This led to clashes between her and some of the members of the mosque committee and thrust Shamima into the public eye.
“As a proponent for gender justice within the South African Muslim community, Shamima championed the causes of women’s access and inclusion in sacred spaces, a just Muslim Personal Law and promoted, through her own example, women’s leadership and scholarship. In commemorating her life, the memorial lecture, taking place annually, will provide a platform for much-needed discourse on critical issues in the struggle for gender justice in Muslim communities,” said MYM president Thandile Kona.
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