File Picture: Doctor Ngcobo African News Agency (ANA)
File Picture: Doctor Ngcobo African News Agency (ANA)

Another mosque told to lower Islamic call to prayer

By Chanelle Lutchman, Charlene Somduth Time of article published Sep 11, 2020

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Durban - FIRST it was the mosque in Isipingo.

Now a mosque in Centurion, Pretoria, has been told to lower the Islamic call to prayer.

Recently, the Durban High Court ordered that the Madrasah Taleemuddeen Islamic Institute should tone down the Azaan after Chandra Ellaurie, an Isipingo Beach resident, complained that the five times a day call infringed on his right to dignity.

Judge Sidwell Mngadi ordered that the mosque’s call to prayer should not be heard within the buildings of Ellaurie’s property, which is situated about 20m away.

Days after the ruling, the City of Tshwane’s health department issued a similar notice to the Raslouw Jamaat Khana in Centurion ordering the mosque to lower the Azaan with immediate effect.

Lindela Mashigo, director of media relations in Tshwane, said the city had received several complaints from various residents, including homeowners of townhouse complexes, who objected to the Azaan.

“The case was investigated and expert inputs were sourced from a noise expert in the health department to allude on this specific challenge/complaint.

“The zoning certificate further indicates that the ERF is zoned as agricultural and there is no record for consent by the City of Tshwane’s Economic Development and Spatial Planning Department to utilise the ERF for a place of public worship. The case was referred to building control for investigation.”

In the notice, the mosque was told it should not “operate, play or allow to be operated or played a radio, television set, drum musical instrument, sound amplifier, loudspeaker system, or a similar device producing, reproducing or amplifying sound so as to cause a noise nuisance”.

According to the notice, if the mosque did not comply, legal action would follow.

Initially, it was thought the notice came about after a complaint from the ANC. However, Eugene Modise, the ANC regional secretary in Tshwane, said this was not the case.

“We have always stood with our Muslim brothers and sisters. In fact, we

were there with them soon after they got the notice. At no stage did we deploy, request, or instruct people to interfere or stop any work of a mosque.

“The ANC is not involved in any activities sanctioned by the administration in the City of Tshwane. Anything associating the ANC with activities to stop the Azaan are false, fake and misplaced propaganda intended to mislead Muslims and the community.”

Mahomed Essop, a councillor in the neighbouring ward, said: “Since receiving the notice, the officials from the mosque are disappointed and heartsore. This mosque was built about five years ago and there were no objections from the community. In fact, even non-Muslims are disappointed by what has happened.”

He said he was trying to get the matter resolved but in the interim mosque officials had lowered the volume of the Azaan.

Essop said they believed one resident complained which prompted an official to visit the mosque.

“From what I understand, the mosque officials know the resident and are communicating with the person. Unfortunately, I do not know who it is. If I did, I would have personally called the person to educate him or her.”

Essop said in his ward, a few white residents had objected to a mosque being built in the area but nevertheless the construction of the Valhalla Jamaat Khana in Centurion went ahead in 2016.

“I was one of the people who pushed for the mosque and it was built. Now

we are fighting for this mosque. We are aware of what has happened in Durban and we do not want the same to happen here.”

Ebrahim Sohna, a local imam, said if people living near mosques had questions, they were free to approach the mosque and learn about its religious practices.

“Islam is one of the most peaceful religions. It teaches us about Allah and teaches us that even if we have to stop certain things, Allah will still guide us. The notice that was issued by the municipality does not stop people from still doing a call to prayer or performing Salah (prayer). Islam teaches love and that’s why out of love for Islam and the good of our Muslim families, Hindu brothers and locals are standing up on our behalf.”

Abdul-Hameed Mabena, a resident, said it was sad that the Rouslow community was complaining about the call to prayer.

“I’m afraid that some will use the Durban incident as a smokescreen for their Islamophobia. The Rouslow community never complained previously about the noise pollution, why now? This issue requires serious attention as it may infringe on the constitutional right of the Muslim minority to practice their religion.”

Kerushan Narayansamy, a Centurion resident, said he could not imagine not hearing the Azaan.

“When I learnt of the notice, I was shocked. Communities usually stand together and respect one another. I am

Hindu but I respect other religions and I respect the Azaan when I hear it because it is a reminder that God is around.

“Instead of resorting to the courts, people should learn more about and how to respect other religions.”

However, not everyone agreed. A businessman who declined to be named said the Muslim community needed to be more respectful to those living and working in the area.

“This community is made up of different faiths. If we all start playing music as per our own religious beliefs it will cause chaos. This is not about race or religious intolerance. It’s about respecting each other’s space and not causing a disturbance.”

Yusuf Abramjee, an activist, said: “The place of worship has decided to tone down the call to prayer. We enjoy freedom of religion in South Africa and that must be respected. But at the same time, we also need to be tolerant and, depending on the location of the place of worship, the sound must be toned down, especially for the early morning prayers.

“We have this right and freedom of religion and we have tolerance in South Africa. We need to respect the right to the call to prayer like we respect the bells of churches and so on.”

Dr Faisal Suliman of the South African Muslim Network said it was important that individuals and groups, whether cultural or religious, learned to exercise tolerance and respect in the pursuit of individual civil liberties.

“Following the judgment in the Azaan case in Isipingo, there are others who will apply to have the Azaan stopped. However, we are confident that the poor judgment given in the Isipingo case will be overturned and this legal precedent won’t apply.

“Mosques, churches, temples and all places of worship and other organisations like sport and music halls, etc, need to work with the surrounding communities to ensure that the volumes are not excessive and unduly distracting. In the case of the mosque, the early morning call to prayer is given without any amplification.”

Suliman said that instead of resorting to the courts, communities needed to reach out, meet and hold discussions with each other.

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