The Zeenatul Islam Masjid in District Six has said it will be engaging with the City of Cape Town to review its bylaw that deals with noise pollution, following a complaint about the athaan being rendered on loudspeakers. The City of Cape Town has agreed to engage with the masjid’s management after the Holy month of Ramadan and the athaan will continue to be broadcast.
A complaint citing the athaan at the iconic masjid as a “noise nuisance” has sparked outrage on social media. The matter drew attention after attendees of the masjid posted about needing to sign a petition to ensure the athaan can continue to be broadcasted.
In a statement on Saturday, the City said it was legally obligated to act on the complaint.
Mayco Member Dave Bryant explained: “A complaint was received in terms of the Western Cape Noise Regulations (2013) as a result of an affidavit lodged by a resident with the South African Police Service, which legally compels the City to act.”
A statement by the masjid on Sunday reiterated that the complaint came from a single resident, with many on social media finding fault with it being prioritized. Other social media posts over the weekend threw gentrification and religious tolerance into the spotlight.
The ANC’s issued a statement on Sunday, standing in solidarity with the masjid. Western Cape secretary Faiez Jacobs expressed dismay that the City “entertained” the matter “on the basis of one complaint”. The party called for the complaint to be dismissed.
“This complaint is an affront to freedom of religion, an exercise in intolerance and a slap in the face of our legacy. People who move into what are traditionally black or coloured areas must take cognizance of our traditions and not try to enforce change. We call on the City of Cape Town to dismiss this complaint.”
Many highlighted the fact that the masjid was over 100 years old and formed part of the area’s rich heritage.
“The masjid’s position is that the Athaan has been rendered audibly by the best means available since its inception in 1919. This continued through District Six’s establishment in Cape Town as a vibrant community and continued through the forced removals. The call to prayer still exists today and the masjid has become part of the social fabric of the greater Cape Town area, together with the churches that remain and were also resistant to the apartheid government, ” read the statement by the masjid.
District Six Working Committee Chairperson Shahied Ajam called for the complainant to be identified and for unity in the District Six community.
“Whomsever posted the petition of Zeenatul Islam masjid in Muir str District 6 being under threat because of the loudness of the athaan must please provide the names & addresses of the complainants. This is easily obtainable from the City of Cape Town. It’s by time DISTRICT SIXERS operate in unionism & not in the silos we currently do. Only when a crisis hits us THEN we want to wake up?”
DA councillor for Community Safety Zahid Badroedien received backlash from the Cape Town community, following several replies to posts by disgruntled community members.
Ja, no. @ZahidBadroodien this situation has been 100% enabled by the @CityofCT & @Our_DA. You actually have CALLS TO MOSQUE on your website as an eg of a potential noise disturbance! It is an invitation to lodge a complaint.
— Dee Smythe (@dee_smythe) May 12, 2019
Badroedien was among those who handled a similar incident in Strandfontein last December, whereby a complaint was lodged about the athaan being “too noisy”. A sound engineer was deployed to Masjidus Sauligeen (in Bayview) to conduct a sound check, as per the City’s Environmental Health Department.
In Sunday’s statement, the ANC condemned the gentrification of District Six residents, deeming it “disgraceful”.
“In District Six, different traditions and faiths were respected. Thus residents were familiar with the ringing of church bells for those who adhered to the Christian faith, as well as the call of the Athaan (call to prayer) for Muslims. Despite the disgraceful eviction of thousands of residents from District Six and their forced resettlement on the Cape Flats, many returned to (their places of worship).”
Others on social media pointed to the country being a “Rainbow Nation” and that different faiths have been living in harmony for decades. Many posts called for greater religious tolerance, with the Masjid having emphasized that any call to prayer should not be considered “noise pollution”.
“The different calls to worship by mosques, churches and other places of worship is integral to the fabric of District Six and this diversity has spread to the rest of the world. Cape Town – the birthplace of Islam in South Africa 325 years ago – prides itself as an embracing city of many cultures and faiths. The Athaan, the ringing of church bells, or any other call to worship, can never be regarded as noise.”
Ajam warned the Muslim community not to act irrationally, albeit an emotive matter.
“As a Muslim community – not only in District 6 but the entire Western Cape – it becomes incumbent upon us to gently educate and inform those who are perhaps ignorant of our culture and traditions. We should not take it for granted that everybody should already know what the status quo is. And we should not go into ‘panic’ or ‘persecution ‘ mode when there is a perceived attack on us. Rather we should think and act rationally before we spew out anti-Semitic utterances.”
A petition signing against the silencing of the athaan at Masjidul Sauligeen in Bayview last year garnered thousands of signatures.
Chairperson of neighbouring Strandfontein Community Policing Forum, Sandy Schuter at the time said prayer should not be attacked and communities need to stand together.
“We took the decision to fill in the gap of our Muslim brothers and sisters and to not allow them to be silenced by the City. It’s not an attack on the religion, its an attack on the prayer. And prayer is the backbone of our community. The reason our schools are in the position they are in is because they removed God from the schools, so why would you want to remove prayer from our community?” posed Schuter.
The masjid highlighted that it plans to engage with the City to review its “noise pollution” bylaw- “not only for the Muslim community but all faith communities of Cape Town.”