Live Mag

The story behind this trending #FeesMustFall picture: Human shield surrounds praying Muslims

by: Abigail Javier - 5 November 2015

Human shield protects Muslims praying. By Abigail Javier

Human shield protects Muslims praying. By Abigail Javier

It was midday, on a hot Pretoria afternoon. The protest at the Union Buildings had been on for hours and the students did not look like they would stop anytime soon.

Police were throwing stun grenades over the fence and students were running up and down in response, some even shouting “happy New Year” at the sound of another stun grenade.

My colleague and I grew tired from running, so we decided to stand back.

As we got closer to the back, I noticed a couple of students dressed in long robes, laying out a long mat in front of them.

I then recalled my days in high school, when my Muslim friends would leave early to attend their afternoon prayers. I asked a bystander just to confirm what I was thinking.

“It is the time for Jumu’ah, which is the congregational prayer that Muslim people attend every Friday at noon,” he said.

He said that because of the protest they decided to hold the prayer at the Union Buildings.

“They are here to pray for the students,” he said.

During the prayer, a human shield, consisting mostly of Muslim women, was created in front of them, to protect them from the chaos that was happening in the front.

This was quite unconventional as they usually pray at the mosque.

Out of respect, I snapped the shot from a distance as fast as I could and tweeted it, but little did I know that a few hours later it would be trending and people would be asking all sorts of questions I could not answer at that moment.

What I found inspiring was seeing the women standing together with the men, protecting each other.

Follow Abigail on Twitter.