|Islam was well
established in the Cape, having been taken up by many slaves under the
influence of Muslim leaders, mainly from Malaysia. This association led to the
name 'Cape Malay'.
With the British era they enjoyed the right to freedom of
worship and as more slaves became free, so they formed a community on the
slopes of Signal Hill called Bo-Kaap, literally meaning 'Above the Cape' (this
remains a predominantly Muslim area to this day).
The first mosque had been secretly established there in a
warehouse in 1792 by Tuan Guru. The Malays built further mosques in the Bo-Kaap
and by 1832 there were 12 Muslim schools. Members of the community were clearly
marked out by their Asian dress, sandals and head coverings.
The number of 'Malay' grew markedly, from 1,000 in 1800 to
6,000 in 1840. Much of this growth was through the conversion of slaves, many
of whom were attracted by the system of schooling in the community and the
community's strong stance on social problems such as alcohol abuse.
Initially the community spoke Melayu but Afrikaans became more
common over time. The use of Afrikaans in Muslim schools and mosques helped to
establish the language.
The writer I.D. du Plessis produced work that reflected his
interest in the East and did much to popularise 'Malay' culture mainly to
whites, through such books as 'The Cape Malays' (1944).
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