Following the fall of apartheid, South Africans continue to strive toward improving social cohesion within communities. Numerous members of the Valhalla community in Pretoria, however, are fighting to maintain their ‘Bantustans’ by opposing the construction of the first mosque in the area. In an attempt to accommodate the needs of the Muslim community, representatives sent an application to the City of Tshwane that details their plans to erect a mosque. Last week, the mayor of Tshwane, Kgosientso Ramokgop, handed the title deeds of a piece of land to the Muslim community.
The area of Valhalla, approximately ten minutes from the predominantly Indian areas of Laudium and Erasmia, is home to approximately 215 Muslim families. These families have moved into the area, with the dawn of democracy, some 22 years ago.
The area is currently home to eight Christian churches, whilst no mosque has been erected to accommodate the Muslim community.
Community activist Yusuf Abramjee explained that following the approval of the City, a convergence of local non-Muslims approached the City in opposition to the land being used for the purposes of a mosque.
These individuals, as cited in news reports, consider the community of Valhalla to be “Christian Afrikaner.”
Those in opposition cite claims of fear among community members of possible “ISIS” propaganda spreading within the community.
“Our mosques are not places of hatred; it is places that we go to pray. So, to link the mosque to ISIS is something that we take very seriously since it is an insult to our religion. There is no secret that some of the protesters are racially motivated since they claim that Muslims have no right to be in the area. They further state that wherever Muslims go they drive the other people out, a claim that is very absurd,” Abramjee affirmed.
He said that those who oppose the construction of the mosque complain that the presence of the mosque may impose noise pollution within the area as a result of the call to prayer. In addition, these individuals argue that due process was not followed, specifically, the requirement of public participation, which he confirms is not the case.
“I personally attended a meeting on August 24, 2015, where the objectors and ward councillor were present. The mayor reiterated that all procedures were followed and that he will be very happy to open the mosque and be the first person to pray in the mosque.”
The African National Congress fully supports the construction of the mosque. Whilst the Democratic Alliance initially objected, it subsequently withdrew its objection last week.
He further noted that 154 councillors voted in favour of the allocation of the land, with only four objections; from the African Christian Democratic Party and the Freedom front.
While the claimants note that they have 2000 objections, Abramjee asserted, that it is their right, as South Africans, to voice their concerns. Though, he continues, the Muslim community has explained that in respect of maintaining interfaith relations, no call to prayer will be made over a mic system. Instead, each Muslim household will be allocated a transmitter through which the call to prayer will be disseminated.
The Muslim community has since the application was presented to the City, been faced with a barrage of racial and religiously provocative slurs on social media. These attacks include insults directed toward the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon Him), as well as threats to throw the heads of pigs at the door of the mosque once it is erected.
Abramjee confirmed that he has repeatedly called for calm within the community and requested that objectors, who wish to take the matter further, instead address the matter in a court of law.
The approval of the land, he noted, provides the Muslim community with legal recourse to construct the mosque in the coming months.
He further asserted that the area is a multicultural area, which includes all religious denominations.
“This morning we had a pastor of a local church who affirmed that he is supporting the Muslim community. The community at large is, therefore, peace-loving,” Abramjee concluded.
VOC (Thakira Desai)