There’s been an outpouring of support for the Zeenatul Islam masjid’s right to carry out the call to prayer with many praising the religious vibrance of the Cape Town community. On social media, many Capetonians have expressed their disappointment and anger, after a complaint was lodged with the City of Cape Town over the athaan being broadcast on the mosque’s loudspeakers.
The complaint, which is cited as a “noise nuisance”, is being investigated by the City of Cape Town. The City said it was legally obliged to investigate as the resident had lodged the complaint with the South African Police Service (SAPS) in terms of the Western Cape Noise Regulations (2013) act. A petition has been launched in support of the masjid.
In a thread that sparked a huge reaction on social media, former journalist Gasant Abarder urged the public not to support any petition as this would give credence to the one complaint.
So in Cape Town, at one of the oldest mosques in the city and in the heart of District 6, Muir Street, the congregants need to sign a petition to allow them to make the call to prayer that they've made for decades! They received "multiple complaints". I can't believe this!
— Gasant Abarder (@GasantAbarder) May 11, 2019
Thing is, why sign a petition to practice your religion. I'm saying screw the petition and defy the complainants and the @CityofCT if need be.
— Gasant Abarder (@GasantAbarder) May 11, 2019
In a statement on Sunday, the Zenatul Islam masjid said the athaan has rung out in the community for the past 100 years and had become part of its heritage.
“The masjid’s position is that the Athaan has been rendered audibly by the best means available since its inception in 1919. This continued through District Six’s establishment in Cape Town as a vibrant community and continued through the forced removals. The call to prayer still exists today and the masjid has become part of the social fabric of the greater Cape Town area, together with the churches that remain and were also resistant to the apartheid government, ” read the statement by the masjid.
Even politicians have weighed into the matter, with Mandla Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela, questioning how the athaan can be classified as “noise”.
“This is an insult of the highest order, which only an arrogant DA-run city will perpetuate. We must force DA mayor Dan Plato to take responsibility for the belligerent attack on the religious symbols of our communities,” he said.
“We will not allow them to silence the Athaan or any other religious symbol, such as the church bells, as for decades it was a powerful reminder of the resistance of a community that was displaced and ravaged by the Group Areas Act.”
Outgoing premier Helen Zille said she would look into the case once she returns to Cape Town.
Muir St Mosque is central to CTown's culture and history. It was there long before the surrounding developments. I hear the call to prayer early every morning. It is one of the auditory symbols of our cultural and religions plurality. We should all defend it. Hands off Muir St!
— Helen Zille (@helenzille) May 12, 2019
Media commentator Iqbal Jassat urged the City of Cape Town to reject the complaint.
Not shocking any more, unfortunately due to intolerance, prejudice, ignorance and misplaced entitlement to apartheid-era privileges. We @MRN1SA call on @CityofCapeTown_ to reject complaint and affirm Muslim's right to #adhaan.
— iqbal jassat (@ijassat) May 12, 2019
Others say this is the result of gentrification and urban development in the heart of the city – which is eating away at the heritage and culture of certain communities.
Creeping gentrification where in the Bo-Kaap there are activists fighting against it.
In District Six and Woodstock nada.
'Creative class' winning their battles against mosque committees.
— Hanief Haider (@haniefhaider) May 11, 2019
It’s because of gentrification of all the surrounding areas like Woodstock, Salt River Zonnebloem. We allowing it to happen. It’s time to have a mass protest iftaar in these areas
— Dr Zaheer Gaffoor (@zaheergaffoor) May 11, 2019
Ordinary Capetonians, many who are not Muslim, believe the athaan is symbolic of Cape Town’s unique religious and cultural traditions and exemplifies a religious pluralism not seen in other parts of the world. Many said they had grown up with the sound of the athaan being called in their neighbourhood and that it was a testament to the peaceful co-existence between all faiths in District Six and elsewhere.
So the City of Cape Town is busy dealing with a noise complaint lodged against the Muir Street Mosque.This is literally…
The Athan is part of our city’s cultural landscape – like trees in some areas, Cape Dutch buildings in other areas (built by Muslim slaves for colonial masters, nogal).
It must be protected. We can’t simply sanitize our cultural landscape because it irritates some.
— Waheed Parker (@waheedparker) May 11, 2019
I am near the Gorge St mosque – also very historic mosque. Love that pre-dawn call to prayer. To me it is the sound of Cape Town. It is all our heritage.
— Pippa Green (@green_pippa) May 11, 2019
I live accross from the mosque and think this is pathetic. Hasn't District 6 been tortured enough and now this? This is gentrification! This city and it's sick practices nauseate me. We have a long way to go to build a truly inclusive city!!!
— Celeste Stewart (@BoldlyCeleste) May 11, 2019
The call to prayer is beautiful and though I'm not Muslim, or religious, it is a sound that I love for its sound, sentiment and meaning to my fellow cape townians and humans. I would like to sign that petition if I may. Please update with instructions for participation
— Jessica Metcalfe (@Jess_Metcalfe) May 11, 2019
I stay close to the mosque and the call of prayer doesn't bother me. I am not Muslim, however find that the sounds are somehow therapeutic. Some of these people forget we are in Africa with many different cultures and practices. Everyone should be allowed to practice theirs.
— Seeker of truth (@Mazana) May 11, 2019