By Thakira Desai
For years, holiday makers and Muslim residents in Knysna have voiced concern at the lack of prayer facilities in the popular holiday town, but a group of local Knysna homeowners have objected the Knysna Municipality’s approval of the construction of a mosque in the area. In anticipation, Knysna Muslim Council will on March 8, 2017, be hearing the outcome of the court proceedings on whether a mosque’s construction can go-ahead.
Speaking to VOC’s Breakfast Beat the chairperson of the Knysna Muslim Council, Omar Essa said the Council submitted a planning application as far back as 2014 and affirmed that it went through all the planning processors; consulted with the Knysna aesthetics committee, the mayoral committee and finally the council, which approved the rezoning application.
During the 6 month period following the application, residents were given a 30 day period for public comment, which expired in October, 2014.
“What we’ve done subsequent to the public comment period, we included all the comments and responded to them in our application,” Essa stated.
He further confirmed that while the land was previously zoned as a general residential location, is zoned for the purpose of religious and community developments.
The demarcated site is located within the Knysna CBD, approximately 100 meters from the popular Knysna Mall.
“We are in the CBD area, not predominately residential, so it’s a mixture of land users around the property.”
The Knysna Muslim community consists of approximately 200 Muslims, with about 100 mussalies during jumuah, many of whom have lived in the area for over a decade.
Currently, the Muslim community performs prayers in an area called Lamco, just outside Knysna. The rented facility, which consists of two rooms, is located on the property of a petrol station and is approximately the size of two double garages. The size of the Salah-khaana is, however, unable to house more than its current regular mussallies.
“Unfortunately, those rooms are filled to capacity with our normal residents. So when it comes to our holiday period, our visitors are very inconvenienced, especially when they are standing outside and there are no amenities for our ladies,” Essa elaborated.
With regards to resident’s objections, Essa notes that the overwhelming objectives are against the sounding of the athan, to which the council indicated that it will not sound the athan over loud speakers.
Others complainants, he adds, raised concern about traffic congestion, as well as the aesthetics of the building, which relates to the architectural style of the mosque.
Essa confirmed that a court date has been set for March 8, 2017, in the Cape Town High Court and urges community members to come out in support on the day.
“The issue that is being discussed is not only relevant to the Knysna community; if the court makes a negative decision it will make a negative impact on all Muslim communities,” he continued. VOC