Influential Muslim radio presenter succumbs to cancer
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
An influential Muslim community radio presenter’s life was cut short yesterday following her tumultuous battle with cancer.
Munadia Karaan, known for tackling controversial issues in the Muslim community via the airwaves of Voice of the Cape (VOC) radio station, was 47 when she died on Saturday (February 1, 2014). She was buried the same day, according to Islamic rites.
Karaan started working with VOC in 1995 and served as its news editor, programme manager and web editor. She also presented a number of programmes over the years, including weekly debates on her Open Lines talk show.
Karaan’s struggle with cancer started in 2006 and she blogged about it on her website. Karaan also edited a Muslim women’s magazine, Al Wardah, and won awards for her radio journalism.
Her work in the community sector was an extension of her father’s efforts. Moulana Yusuf Karaan was a religious leader in the Strand area where the family lived.
Karaan revealed the highs and lows of chemotherapy, talked frankly about cancer on the radio station and gained prayers and support from among VOC’s estimated 220,000 listeners.
Karaan also offered support to other cancer patients through her radio shows and online writing.
“A young lady who was diagnosed two months ago with cancer wrote to me to say that after two chemo sessions, she was ready to give up,” she wrote in October last year.
“And here I can speak honesty from the heart. Chemo is no joke. If cancer alone does not make you paranoid, then chemo makes you miserable. I don’t wish it on my worst enemy.
“But giving up is not an option. As long as Allah (the Arabic name for God) gives us breath with which to operate this magnificent machine that you and I take for granted as our bodies, we must strive. It does not mean we will always win. It is ultimately not the victory that is important but the fact that we strive and move forward.”
Karaan also wrote that “cancer is a great equaliser”.
“It doesn’t ask about religion or culture and it brings people together in their suffering, much as music and sport can bring others together. There is a special solidarity among people who have walked this path and those who have stood alongside them to provide support,” she said.
“That is one of the great things I appreciate about this disease. Where previously, I would have thought twice to speak to someone who has cancer, now your own brush with the disease is a passport that opens doors. Most cancer survivors will talk easily to others who have this disease, sharing experiences and especially their fears.”
VOC said on its website that the station had “lost one of its most loved and iconic voices”.
“It was Karaan’s passion and determination as a community worker that will be most remembered; a quality that drove her to become an outstanding journalist and radio broadcaster,” it said.
“Karaan became involved with VOC in the first five days of its broadcast in January 1995 and then full-time in the year 2000. When VOC went on air permanently, she recalled listening to the station and quietly making a dua (praying) that some day she would be able to play a role there.”
“During her 11-year tenure as programme manager, Karaan conceptualised innovative shows, which took the radio station to new heights. In keeping VOC up to date with technology, Karaan initiated the radio station’s website.”
VOC news editor Tasneem Adams said Karaan “revolutionised community radio”. “From tackling the most thorny topics on air, exposing new on-air talent, to launching VOC’s website, Munadia did everything with passion and enthusiasm,” said Adams.
“Her energy was felt as soon as she stepped into the newsroom. Munadia pushed everyone she took under her wing to excel. She never settled for mediocrity. She had a fiery spirit and resolve and always stayed true to herself.”
At the time of her death, Karaan was single and did not have any children.