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Friday Jun 24, 2016

Knysna Mosque still in a legal wrangle

The Muslim community in Knysna is waiting anxiously on how the court responds to a legal challenge from 22 Rawson Street homeowners to the building of a mosque in the street.

Last year, the town's municipality gave the 200-strong community permission to build a mosque in Rawson Street.

But the joy the decision evoked was short-lived.

A group of residents in the street immediately objected, claiming the municipality had transgressed its own building by-laws in giving the go-ahead for the construction of the mosque.

Their complaints centred chiefly on the length of the tower (the minaret) and traffic hindrance due to the narrowness of the street. They also expressed concern over possible "noise" levels during the call to prayer or "athaan".

The Knysna Muslim Council (KMC) chairperson, Omar Essa, said they had promised not to use a loud speaker for the "athaan" and had followed all processes in their application.

"We had hoped to have started construction and hopefully have our own mosque ready for our festive season," said a frustrated Essa.

"We are in the dark. The municipality is the first respondent in this action and they are required to submit their papers to the courts. We've been told the reasons are not racist or religious. We've just been kept waiting," said Essa.

Knysna activist Mike Hampton has described what has been happening as bigotry.

Franci Joubert, the attorney for the Rawson Street homeowners, was not available for comment.

Mike Hudspith, their spokesperson, said they were waiting for the papers from the municipality.

"We have a very strong case. After we have viewed the papers we will consult on the next step forward. The documentation should reach us soon and we are keeping the Muslim Council's attorneys informed," said Hudspith.

Knysna Municipality manager Grant Easton confirmed that the municipality had prepared and signed answering papers, which will be filed in court next week.

Construction cannot proceed until the legal issues have been resolved.

But Essa is still hopeful that construction will start this year.

Cape Times

 
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