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The Changed Circumstances for the Performance of Religious Authority in a Cape Muslim Community

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In the Muslim communities of Cape Town, South Africa, religious authority is based on processes of designation in local communities. Increased access to higher religious education, and increased exposure to the diversity of local and global Islamic discourses as a result of general societal democratisation and processes of globalisation, leads to increased contestation over religious authority in Cape Muslim communities. As the rights to Muslim discourse are democratised, religious authority becomes more unstable. This article, based on fieldwork in a coloured township south of Cape Town, argues that there has been a shift in the symbolic capital required of Muslim religious leaders from mastery of form to mastery of content, and suggests that the democratisation of Muslim discourse has opened avenues to religious authority for Muslim females.

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