From the news desk

Knysna mosque construction under threat

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A High Court application is threatening to derail the construction of a mosque in Knysna, with a group of objectors from a local homeowners association keen to have the development’s approval overturned.

In 2008 the Knysna Muslim Council applied to its local municipality for a property anywhere in the vicinity of the popular coastal town, with the specific intention of constructing the town’s first mosque. While a formal application was submitted, the council were informed in 2011 that there was a lack of available space and any subsequent property that became available would be subject to a tender process.

With the applications of more than 40 church groups also pending, the council resolved to conduct their search for a property independently.

“About two years ago we found and purchased a property through the generous donations of many people throughout the Western Cape. We then started the planning and rezoning application to the municipality and on the 29th May this year we were fortunate enough to get that approval and rezoning through,” explained council chairperson, Omar Essa.

Although the Knysna Muslim Council has operated a salaah khana since 2004, a growth in the number of Muslims in the area means the facility is now too small to accommodate everyone. This has become especially problematic during the holiday periods, when tourists flock to the popular holiday destination.

The court application has however halted any further developments, at least until the High Court makes a decision on the matter.

“In essence what they are saying is that the municipality should not have rezoned the property to allow for a masjid or Islamic centre…They also want the municipality’s decision to grant departures reviewed, which includes relaxation of the building line, the parking facilities on site and some minor coverage to be accommodated as well,” he highlighted.

Essa noted that while the council was trying its best to address the matter with a number of homeowners neighbouring the property, this was proving difficult as many were not fulltime residents in Knysna. He conceded that the council has however not met with the group behind the application.

“We do feel there might be an agenda, but it is difficult to say. Initially when we started with the project the loudest cry was against the athaan, so in that respect we acceded to the fact that we won’t be making athaan over a loudspeaker. There have been other objections that we’ve been trying to compromise on,” he noted.

The property in question is situated within the Knysna Central Business District (CBD). VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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