The dispute between a group of Knysna residents and the Knysna Muslim Council heads to the Western Cape High court on Wednesday, after a decade of wrangling over the building of a masjid for the local Muslim community. While the Knysna Municipality has pledged its full support behind the building of the masjid by the KMC, a group of local home owners and concerned citizens have objected to the project. According to Mick Huspith, a spokesperson for the 22 Rawson Street Homeowners, the municipality’s decision contravenes its own regulation and bylaws.
It has now been more than a year since the objectors to the masjid filed their court papers in November 2015. Omar Essa, the chairman of the Knysna Muslim Council said they have waiting patiently for the case to appear in court and hope that finally the matter will be put to rest. VOC invited the opposing party on air, but the invitation has been consistently declined.
“We have tried our utmost to accommodate our residents and visitors. We made a number of forced renovations to our masjid, including enclosing the balcony and improving the toilet and ablution facilities. This was necessary to ensure our mussallees are not exposed to the elements and to provide adequate wudhu facilities,” he said.
“To make matters worse, we were subsequently informed by our landlord that our current rented premises (Lamco) is in the process of being sold to developers who plan to demolish the existing building and redevelop the site completely. This is expected to happen between May and November 2017, which would effectively mean that we could have no place of worship within a year despite owning the vacant land in the CBD.”
According to the organisation, over the recent holiday period, they battled to provide guests with decent ablution and salaah facilities with women suffering the worst of inconvenience.
“We have tried everything from containers, sails and gazebo’s to accommodate the overflow from our packed facility during Jumu’ah with limited success and great frustration,” he said.
“With the funds generated to date, we have purchased the vacant property and appointed professional town planners, architects, engineers, land surveyors, geotechnical and heritage specialists.”
In September 2014, they submitted an application to Knysna Municipality for rezoning of the property to allow the building of the Masjid complex.
After various municipal processes, including presentations to Knysna Municipality’s Aesthetics Committees, Planning Committee, and Mayoral Committee, the Knysna Municipal Council finally approved the application for rezoning on the 29 May 2015. The approval was not without difficulty, due to a few hundred objections and an on-line petition received from various parties.
“Alhamdulillah, we have also received a few hundred letters of support from many people across South Africa and abroad. Since then, we have been finalizing our building plans and are ready for submission to the Knysna Municipality for approval before we can start with construction,” said Essa.
“Obviously, we would prefer to reserve as much of the funding raised thusfar for the building project and the current legal process is not only very disappointing but an unnecessary frustration and expense caused by a small group of people determined to prevent the establishment of the first purpose-built Masjid in the town of Knysna.”
The Muslim Judicial Council has meanwhile urged the Cape Muslim community to show their support outside court. VOC