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The open-and-shut case of Open Mosque

Wynberg. 19.9.14. Dr Taj Hargey, founder and president of The Open Mosque doing a prayer at the inaugural Friday prayer meeting of his newly established mosque in Wynberg. Picture Ian Landsberg

Wynberg. 19.9.14. Dr Taj Hargey, founder and president of The Open Mosque doing a prayer at the inaugural Friday prayer meeting of his newly established mosque in Wynberg. Picture Ian Landsberg

Published Sep 25, 2014

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Cape Town - Is the controversial new Open Mosque in Wynberg open?

“Yes” according to Taj Hargey, the professor of Islamic studies and African history at Oxford University who opened the mosque last Friday, but “no” according to a city councillor.

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Al Jama-ah leader and councillor Ganief Hendricks said the controversial masjid in Wynberg had been shut down temporarily because it did not have enough parking spaces for worshippers.

He said it was closed because it failed to comply with a by-law stating that it needed at least one parking bay for every 10 worshippers.

Hendricks said the mosque was closed on Friday and that if Hargey tried to host services there before it had been properly approved for use, he ran the risk of losing it for good.

“If he uses it as a mosque, the council will see he is guilty of wrongdoing despite being warned.”

But Hargey said the notice of non-compliance he received gave the mosque one month’s grace to rectify its by-law regulations.

“The mosque has never been shut down. We are functioning as normal. We have been notified by council that we are in violation of some by-laws. We will immediately rectify this and resubmit our application.”

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Hendricks said the process to get the building approved for use as a mosque would be an onerous and lengthy one, likely to take at least three months.

“I don’t think an application will succeed, because (Hargey) won’t be able to find the parking space,” he said.

But Hargey responded: “The mosque in the Bo-Kaap doesn’t have any parking spaces. Can we now expect councillor Hendricks to lead the campaign for all mosques to be parking law compliant?”

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As leader of the Al Jama-ah Muslim political party, Hendricks said he was opposed to the Open Mosque.

“The place used to be a nightclub, and then became a whorehouse and the police closed it down. It’s distasteful to pray in such premises.”

But Hargey remained confident the doors would stay open.

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“Whatever they do, they will not stop the Open Mosque from operating.”

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Cape Argus

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