Beyond denial and exclusion: The history of relations between Christians and Muslims in the Cape Colony during the 17th–18th centuries with lessons for a post-colonial theology of religions
Learning from the past prepares one for being able to cope with the future. History is made up of strings of relationships. This article follows a historical line from colonialism, through apartheid to post-colonialism in order to illustrate inter-religious relations in South-Africa and how each context determines these relations. Social cohesion is enhanced by a post-colonial theology of religions based on the current context. By describing the relationship between Christians and Muslims during the 17th–18th centuries in the Cape Colony, lessons can be deduced to guide inter-religious relations in a post-colonial era in South Africa. One of the most prominent Muslim leaders during the 17th century in the Cape Colony was Sheik Yusuf al-Makassari. His influence determined the future face of Islam in the Cape Colony and here, during the 18th century, ethics started playing a crucial role in determining the relationship between Christians and Muslims. The ethical guidance of the Imams formed the Muslim communities whilst ethical decline was apparent amongst the Christian colonists during the same period. The place of ethics as determinative of future inter-religious dialogue is emphasised. Denial and exclusion characterised relationships between Christians and Muslims. According to a post-colonial understanding of inter-religious contact the equality and dignity of non-Christian religions are to be acknowledged. In the postcolonial and postapartheid struggle for equality, also of religions, prof Graham Duncan, to whom this article is dedicated, contributed to the process of acknowledging the plurality of the religious reality in South Africa.