Cape Town on Foot: From the Slave Lodge to Bo-Kaap
Downhill along Longmarket Street
Well done, you found me!
Now, as you walk down Longmarket Street, let me tell you how Islam began to spread in the Cape.
During the first fifty years of Dutch settlement there was seldom a time when the free population outnumbered the enslaved. To correct this potentially dangerous imbalance, the authorities prohibited the sale of Christian slave children in 1715. This included slave children who were owned by their fathers. Predictably, many exasperated owners ignored the baptism of their slaves and many pressed their slaves to convert to Islam since the legislation did not apply to Muslim slaves.
But by the 1770s slaves continued to outnumber the free settlers. So the sale of all Christian slaves was prohibited. This led to many slave owners forcing their Christian slaves to convert to Islam in order to maintain their ownership rights.
It is important to note that not all Muslims were slaves. Many were freed after completing their sentence and banishment, and chose to remain in the Cape.
By 1842 Muslims accounted for one third of the population of Cape Town. Their influence grew steadily after having been granted the municipal franchise in 1839, and a qualified parliamentary franchise with the new Constitution of 1853.
Today, a third of all South African Muslims live in Cape Town where there are over 50 mosques.
Carry on walking and I'll meet you next to one of those mosques in a few moments.