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Muslim Enclaves of the Cape: Claremont

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At the tail end of heritage month, former Claremont resident, 79-year-old Abdullah Abdullah shared his glorious childhood memories and what has moulded into his heritage with VOC journalist Aneeqa du Plessis.

A nostalgic Abdullah travelled back in time to Stegman road in Claremont, 60 years ago before apartheid and all its anguish.

“I can’t identify a single memory but I can assure you that my entire childhood was a total whirlwind of happiness. We were kids being kids. We played our soccer, cricket and rugby and we were free to go and come as we pleased. Times have certainly changed,” said Abdullah longingly.

Abdullah is affectionately known as Abdiek. He recounted how everyone in the area had a nickname given to them by their Imam.

“We used to go to madrassa or slamse skool and he [Imam] used to give everyone a nickname as a means to remember us by because we all had similar names. I had a friend named Yusuf and his nickname was muisie because he was small. We all had a nickname whether we liked it or not,” chuckled Abdullah.

South Africans are encouraged to use September as a means to recognize and celebrates the cultural wealth of their nation. Many locals celebrate the day by remembering the cultural heritage of the numerous cultures that make up the population. For many, it reopens wounds from the apartheid regime and all that was lost.

“The officers would come and sit in the mosque with us when we had our meetings. I can still remember them, there faces are etched into my brain. Major Genis who tortured Abdullah Imam Haron he would be there and some other so-called coloured inspector,” detailed Abdullah.

Abdullah stated they never surrendered to the apartheid regime.

“It did affect us to a certain degree but we fought out against the system as best we could. We didn’t succumb to their pressure but certain people were reluctant. They were afraid of oppression because we come out of a society that has been oppressed for 300 years,” stated Abdullah in earnest.

With the country now under alert level 1 of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, Abdullah expressed his gratitude in the solitude offered by the virus.

“For me personally, living through the pandemic and having a national lockdown instated is truly an ideal way of living because now we have an opportunity to concentrate on our spirituality it can be viewed as an exercise of devotion to the almighty,” smiled Abdullah.

Abdullah added how he wanted Claremont to be remembered for its unshakable brethren.

“The interrelationship was phenomenal. The camaraderie and the community were amazing! There wasn’t any animosity only friendly rivalry that was shared. We found a unique way of living in harmony, we were family,” said a teary Abdullah.


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