By Guest Contributor Safiyyah Surtee, cross-posted from Muslimah Media Watch
Several weeks after Eid al-Fitr, it’s a good time to analyze the recent media embroglio about women and Eid prayers in South Africa. The ways in which South African Muslims interact with the media has changed drastically in the last few years with the rise of social media, and this has reflected itself especially in what has been called “the desktop gender jihad” (women using the internet to fight, lobby and advocate for their rights).
In the weeks following Eid al-Fitr, a group of South African women from different cities and affiliated with different groups put their heads together to make a statement: Women have the right to attend Eid prayers. Traditionally, South African Muslim women in the north have been barred from attending the prayers, as part of the dominant mindset of women as a source “temptation” and “distraction.” Muslims in the South, especially in the Cape, have always had women as part of their congregations. These differences are sometimes attributed to ethnicity and sometimes to madhab (school of law).
The campaign to attend Eid prayer was carried out using various media channels, including radio and television interviews, newspaper articles, blog posts and social media updates. I’d like to look at how Muslim women used the media to further their campaign, as well the counter-attacks launched by a number of Muslim media agencies.