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Religious equity over small disturbances, hears court on Knysna mosque saga

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There was a strong show of support for the Knysna Muslim community at the Cape High court today, as the bid to establish a masjid is heard by the court. The proceedings had to be moved to another court to accommodate the increasing number of members of the public supporting the hearing. While members of the Knysna Muslim community made the journey to Cape Town for the case, MJC executive members were also in attendance.

Knysna ratepayers, known as the 22 Rawson Street Homeowners, have objected to the Knysna Municipality’s decision to give the approval for the mosque project, which started back in 2014. The ratepayers said the municipality’s decision contravenes its own regulation and bylaws.

The attitude towards the proceedings was one of frustration as Knysna Muslims listened to arguments of the party opposed to the masjid. The court heard that the traffic impact assessment needs to be conducted due to the location of the masjid, as well the parking issue.

Some of the Rawson residents maintained that the case was “not on religious grounds” but only on the logistical issues. They said they were happy to see a mosque being built but not at their specific location.

Knysna ratepayers have called for a traffic impact assessment and cross examination of the Knysna municipal council who they believe misrepresented the parking allocations in the approval process of a mosque. Speaking to VOC at court, a resident named Andre expressed his tolerance of the Islamic faith, but still asks for rezoning and departure of the current place of worship used by Muslims.

Defendants from the municipality answered misrepresentation claims with a 2500 page transcript of council meeting displaying discussions . Mr Dominee of the Knysna Municipality said the plaintiffs argument is “entirely illusory and that none of it is true.”

This was coupled by a defence from Advocate Mohamed Salie, representing the Knysna Muslim Council, who argued that the various successful models of Mosques in busy areas across South Africa should be used as examples of manifestations of religious equity which the South African constitution prides itself on. The judgement will be delivered in two to three weeks time.

Supporters of the Knysna Muslims at court

Background

After a long struggle for securing property, the Knysna Muslim finally purchased a vacant stand in 2014 – Erf 503, Rawson Street in the western part of Knysna CBD with easy access off the N2 / Main Road through the town. The property measures close to 1300 m2. It is surrounded by a similar sized vacant stand on its eastern boundary, commercial property south and north with business and residential properties on its western boundary.

After various municipal processes, including presentations to Knysna Municipality’s Aesthetics Committees, Planning Committee, and Mayoral Committee, we are delighted to confirm that Knysna Municipal Council finally approved the application for rezoning in May 2015. The approval was not without difficulty, due to a few hundred objections and an on-line petition received from various parties.

In late November 2015, disgruntled objectors to the Masjid project applied to the Western Cape High Court to review the decision by Knysna Municipality to approve the rezoning and stop the project. VOC

THIS IS A DEVELOPING STORY.

 


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