File picture: AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha

PORT ELIZABETH - After six years the Westering Jamaat Khana in Port Elizabeth received official recognition as a public place of worship after special consent was approved by the Nelson Mandela Bay council. 

The consent comes during the holy month of Ramadaan when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Since 2012 the place of worship did not have official recognition but Executive Mayor Athol Trollip in 2016 granted special permission for it to operate. 

The prayer site in Westering, is in the form of a residential property situated on the corner of Boshoff street. Community leader, Sadick Davids said it was a blessing. 

"Over the years a lot of people prayed for this to happen. It's a culmination of everyone's efforts." 

The milestone did not come without challenge and controversy. Over the years some residents in the area raised a number of objections with some complaining that the place of worship may cause an increased amount of crime, a potential problem with parking and the devaluation of property. 

Davids however dismissed these complaints as immaterial. 

According to a council report residents in the area also had a problem with the Athaan (call to prayer) citing "noise disturbance". 

"Traditionally the calling the worshipers to the 'place of worship'is voiced through a public address system with a loud volume and this will be very disturbing to people in the area. The Mosque in Malabar is already polluting Westering with noise," one complaint read. 

Davids told ANA that in the case of the Westering Jamaat Khana the Athaan (call to prayer) would not be made using loud speakers. 

He explained that Westering was a different community in comparison to Malabar- where in Malabar people were more accostomed to one another's differences be it by religion or culture. 

"White people were never exposed, pre-1994 they were segregated from us so they they don't understand," said Davids. 

Davids said that it was critically important to educate people about Islam with the aim of creating understanding. He said that the second phase would involve an application for re-zoning. 

Eventually the Masjid Bilaal Trust aim to build a full blown mosque and madressa (Islamic school) at the Westering Jamaat Khana property. 

African News Agency/ANA