The developers behind the Muslim Directory App are looking to quell the debate surrounding the current Muslim population in South Africa, by conducting a census at masajid across the country. They have urged imams and masjid committees to conduct three separate counts during the final week of Ramadan, on Laylatul Qadr on the 27th night, during the final Jumuah of the month, and during the Eid salaah.
The last government census to include religion was conducted in 1996 and concluded the Muslim population to be at a mere 600 000, or 1,5% of the population. Based on population growth, the current total using those statistics would put the population at 775 000 Muslims.
The director of the app, Mohammed Amra, said one of the main challenges currently facing the Muslim community was the lack of a proper estimate regarding their population. This was as a result of governments exclusion of religion during the previous two censuses. He was confident the information provided by the census could be used to negotiate with both local and national government, on various issues pertaining to the Muslim community.
“Since we are already uploading all the masajid in the country, we thought it a brilliant idea if we could contact every mosque, and do a count of the Muslim males on three different occasions at the end of this month,” he said.
That total would be averaged, before extrapolating the number of women and children based on national data. According to him, that would provide a good ‘guestimate’ of the Muslim population in the country.
Amra said that regardless of whether government opted to include religion in any future censuses, there was a huge probability of Muslim political refugees being excluded. Hence the need for an Islamic focused census, that could provide a true representation of the Muslim population.
Amra said the response to the census had so far been overwhelming, particularly in the Western Cape. He noted the local Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) being taken by the idea, and opting to run it in their own capacity.
However, he admitted they had run into a few problems, most notably in trying to contact the more than 900 masajid across the country.
“We are trying very hard, we’ve still got another few days left to speed up our process. We’ve got 5 or 6 people phoning everywhere, trying to get into contact with all the mosques,” he said.
He called on the community to also get involved in the initiative, by downloading the Muslim Directory App, and ensuring that their mosque was registered. They could also get involved by checking with the various masajid whether they would be conducting the census, as well as assisting with the count itself.
“Imagine if we have this data, and we go to the Haj Ministry in Saudi Arabia and show them we are no longer a mere 1,5% of the population. We may even be able to request an increase in the haj quota,” he said. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)