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City to reduce red tape for prayer spaces

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The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) on Wednesday announced a ground-breaking initiative in partnership with the City of Cape Town that will seek to ease the process of establishing mosques, prayer spaces and Islamic institutions across the city. Through the project, land will be made available in areas where prayer facilities are most needed, and rezoning approvals will also be dramatically shortened for these establishments.

The MJC has long battled to help communities gain access to land, but bureaucracy has long been an issue which it has had to contend with. The ulema body has often complained that the Muslim community has not received equal assistance with regards to religious facilities, as opposed to other faiths.

“Historically with the Christian community, churches have always been given to the community by the City of Cape Town. The Muslim community unfortunately, because we were not a recognised religion to be favoured in such a manner, has always purchased land for their masajid and NGOs etc,” explained MJC public relations officer, Nabeweya Malick.

In order to remedy this inequality, the MJC has engaged with the City to urge them to come to the party. Malick said that through discussions with Mayor Patricia de Lille, they received assurances that she would personally set up a mayoral project to assist with the building of masajid. This includes the provision of land, the cutting of waiting times with regards to rezoning, and numerous other forms of assistance.

“It’s a project between the MJC and the City of Cape Town where we will facilitate every requirement of the Muslim community with regards to land and premises,” she said.

Although the core focus is in areas within the city itself, the project is likely to cover communities across the Western Cape. Should it fall within a different district, the City and MJC will aim to engage with the mayor of that respective area.

“The step that our mayor has taken is such a positive and bold step to assist the community. We are hoping this momentum will flow through to the other mayors in the different areas of the Western Cape,” she said.

The first benefactor of the project will be Muslim residents in Samora Machel informal settlement in Weltevreden Valley who will receive containers to use as a prayer facility.

“This community has been using various premises and sometimes performing salah in the open air. Recently, they used the home of a Christian brother to pray. So alhamdullilah, this weekend will see them being on their own premises through containers we have made available,” said Malick.

“Alhamdullilah, we are very excited that this is coming to fruition. It’s an exciting project and we hope it will get the community’s support.”

Although some mosque establishments may face some form of resistance from non-Muslim residents, Malick said the City was firm that it would not tolerate any discrimination. Any complaints based on any anti-Islamic agenda are likely to receive an unfavourable response.

She further urged Muslim NGOs or mosques currently paying exorbitant rent fees, or any such institutions desperately seeking land to contact the MJC offices at 021 684 4600. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)


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