“Why was it Sanjay and not Mohammed?” asked the Muslim father of the bride as his daughter and her fiancé sat on the brightly decorated stage, minutes away from being married.

What we were witnessing last week was one of those taken-for-granted wonderworks of SA: an interfaith marriage in a world dangerously divided by faith, culture, class, caste and custom.

In other family homes a Hindu-Muslim wedding would cause great conflict, even banishment of one or both partners from the family home. In some countries where religious fundamentalism is rife, the couple themselves would be in mortal danger.”

The father’s speech was carefully ordered. Even in this most tolerant of religious communities, Cape Town, the father knew he had to make a public case for his Muslim daughter marrying a Hindu man. In one of the best speeches about interfaith community I have ever heard, the father spoke not about the elaborate symbols and sacraments of their ancient faiths but about what he observed about the shared values of the couple: care, compassion, trust, commitment, respect and responsibility. These values transcended the outward differences of religious observance and bound the two young people together in bonds of love that were deep, enduring and universal. I sat entranced by the powerful meanings embedded in this public witness of how we can and should be as South Africans. In this union, a lingering apartheid myth was destroyed, namely that when we as human beings come together across our social or cultural or racial differences, something is lost. The Hindu-Muslim wedding shows exactl...

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