Mosques in South Africa are more likely to be the target of criminals than any other security threat, so said imams. Pictured is the Shia Ahlul Bait Mosque complex in Ottery Road. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - Mosques in South Africa are more likely to be the target of criminals than any other security threat. So said imams and those in charge of mosques in Cape Town when asked about security concerns during the month of Ramadaan.

“Crime is escalating everywhere during Ramadaan and criminals see this as an opportunity. We are very vigilant and we have car guards that will patrol the parking area outside the mosque. 

“We don’t want strict security because this will make a mosque like a fortress and it will defeat the purpose of a worship place here because it needs to be open to everyone,” said founder of the Open Mosque in Wynberg, Dr Taj Hargey.

“South Africa has many problems but what we didn’t have is religious violence. We experience so many issues like drugs and gangsterism and the last thing this country needs is religious intolerance. Other countries have experienced bomb attacks and fortunately we haven’t had this in South Africa,” said Hargey.

The imam of the Boorhaanol masjied in Bo-Kaap, Muhammad West, said a safety concern was the muggings that took place as worshippers left the mosque at night. 

“Mosques should employ car guards to patrol outside and watch for any suspicious activities. We hope that local policing will increase during the evenings to ensure the safety of worshippers who are maybe seen as soft targets for criminals.

“While there is global concern due to the rise in Islamophobia, the Muslims in South Africa, especially the Western Cape, have never felt unsafe on account of our religion. We have been made to feel so safe by our fellow non-Muslim neighbours that a hate crime is not really an issue on our minds and we pray it stays that way,” said West.

The Malmesbury mosque experienced an attack last year when two worshippers were killed. The chairperson of the Malmesbury mosque, Shabier Kasu, said they had neighbourhood watch patrols around the mosque during prayer times. 

Dr A Rashied Omar, imam of the Claremont Main Road mosque, said: “In light of the recent attacks on places of worship globally, as well as local attacks on mosques during Ramadaan 2018 in Verulam and Malmesbury, we need to be vigilant and step up our security arrangements at mosques.

"At the Claremont Main Road mosque for example, in addition to the installation of monitoring cameras, we have also instituted a 24/7 security guard system.”


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