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Masjid committee’s petition to amend COCT Noise, Nuisance by-law garners nearly 10k signatures

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By Tauhierah Salie

The Mughammadiyyah masjid in Tennyson Road, Salt River said that, even if it takes two years, places of worship need to be exempt from the City of Cape Town’s Noise-Nuisance by-law. A petition demanding such has garnered nearly 10k supporting signatures since its launch on Friday afternoon.

The masjid committee met with Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill Lewis last Tuesday following uproar over a letter of complaint about the athaan received on 12 May 2022. Lewis requested the meeting in response to the backlash the letter received.

The publicizing of the complaint caused uproar from civil society, with commentators citing religious intolerance and abuse of power. The recently promulgated Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) – on how officials should enforce the by-law also faced scrutiny.

At the time, the City’s Mayco member for community services and health Patricia Van De Ross said the relevant staff member has been reprimanded:

“Unfortunately, we just had an incident where one person didn’t understand what the SOP is and what they need to do. It was somebody who thought they’re doing the job to the best of their ability, doing what they need to do not understanding the sensitivity. I have guaranteed that a letter of this sort wont go out again (and that) we are putting measures and training in place to make sure we hold our staff accountable.”

It reignited previous qualms related to the by-law dating back to 2018, where several similar complaints were released to masjid- some of which temporarily reduced the volume of their loudspeakers. Numerous commentators pointed to previous commitments to change the by-law.

Speaking on VOC Breakfast on Wednesday morning, the masjid committee’s Anwar Omar described their recent meeting as open and transparent, adding that the matter is not to be politicized. He emphasized that it is not a ‘muslim issue’ and that the mayor is being ‘expedient’ by reverting to the SOP.

“The by-law is still very much in place. The SOP doesn’t do enough from our perspective in terms of ensuring that places of worship is exempt from this regulation. We don’t see this as a Tennyson Street masjid issue, nor do we see it as a muslim issue. Its an issue of law relating to all places of worship. We therefore urge the mayor to follow due process,” said Omar.

Lewis explained that a recently implemented SOP does in fact exempt registered, zoned places of worship. He said, however, that Provincial laws still apply. Given its scope, scrapping the by-law entirely was never on the cards.

“The by-law is massive; it deals with hundreds of different things- it’s not just about noise (or) noise from places of worship. It’s about all noise complaints, whether it’s from a nightclub or someone grinding in the middle of the night. It’s never been under discussion to scrap the entire by-law,” added the mayor.

The mayor assured that the athaan is an intrinsic part of Cape heritage and that it would stay. According to the mayor, majority of noise complaints received actually relate to certain Pentecostal churches. Lewis noted that the training of City staff will soon get underway. He had not clarified what this training would entail.

“If we had followed another route, what we would’ve had is two years -at least!- in which these kind of aggressive letters would have still been happening, there might even have been follow up action from law enforcement. So, the recognition that this isn’t happening now because of this SOP and will not happen in future because of this policy, is an important one. I think every reasonable person would agree should have the same exemption as a 112-year-old institution.”

The masjid has remained firm on its stance that the SOP is not enough and that future leaders could enforce the by-law differently, and has since appealed to all progressive organisations and freedom loving citizens to sign its petition, which is also available physically. The masjid is aiming for 100 000 signatures.

The masjid expressed disappointment that the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC SA) had not actively communicated with the committee over the matter.  Second Deputy President Sheikh Riyad Fataar however reiterated the MJC’s support:

“The MJC would definitely welcome the amendment of the  by-law. That is a 100 percent plus for the Muslim community and MJC. We are an ummah and nation of South Africa that needs to protect places of worship; and that would be excellent,” said Sh Fataar.

Watch the meeting between the masjid and the City here.

Listen to the full interview on VOC Breakfast here.

Find the petition here.



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