Azhar Vadi – Cii News – July 26, 2012
The legal representative for the Riverlea Masjid [mosque], south of Johannesburg, has met with city council officials to try and resolve matters relating to the objection by a complainant about the adhaan (prayer call) been amplified via loudspeakers.
According to lawyer Yousha Tayob, the matter has a history stretching back 18 years. “Since 1994 their appears to be a letter on the city council files where a Moulana Shahabuddin recognises the zoning and town planning problem in regards to the amplification.”
He however described the City of Johannesburg as very accommodating and willing to facilitate a meeting between himself, the trustees of the masjid and the complainant to see if an understanding can be reached. The issue however has raised the question about whether other masaajid in Johannesburg also do not have the right to call the adhaan over loudspeakers.
The initial complaint in the Riverlea case was laid in 1994, followed by a long period of time when the adhaan was not called via the speaker system from the masjid. The practice was started again in 2001 and then died down and was then revived again in 2006, according to lawyer Tayob.
The same complainant then appeared to have taken the matter to the South African Human Rights Commission where it was not adequately dealt with. The complaint against the masjid was laid again in 2007 at the Commission without much coming of it, leading to the most recent complaint which appeared to be an infringement notice issued to the masjid in June 2011.
“I have not yet met with the trustees of the Riverlea Masjid but it [the infringement notice] essentially appears to have been ignored in June 2011, forcing this complainant to go to the Public Protector. The Public Protector has demanded answers from the City of Johannesburg and the City of Johannesburg then got its lawyers to issue a letter two weeks ago demanding compliance with the infringement notice issued a year ago. And if there was no compliance with that infringement notice they were going to go to court to apply for an interdict to stop the masjid giving adhaan in compliance with the infringement notice and the by law.”
The by-law quoted in the letter is the Amendment Scheme No A4331, Johannesburg Town Planning Scheme of 1979 which provides that:
“No radio, television set, phonograph, drum, musical instrument, sound amplifier or similar device which produces, reproduces or amplifies sound may be played or operated so as to disturb or hinder the comfort, convenience, peace or quiet of the public.”
According to lawyer Tayob, the complainant has received threats from members in the community and he called on people to desist from behaving in this manner and allow the law to take its cause.
“Hopefully the City of Johannesburg will facilitate a meeting to see if we can’t resolve this amicably with the complainant because certainly the by-law is in place and the by-law prevents any amplification,” said Tayob. He called on any person who has been involved in similar circumstances to contact him to try and discover ways in which they had overcome the problem.
What about other masaajid and compliance?
Tayob told Cii, he doubts that many masaajid, particularly in the Johannesburg area, has been given the right to amplify the adhaan. “I doubt that there is a masjid in Johannesburg that has the right to amplify the sound of the adhaan. One the one hand I’m scared of opening a can of worms but on the other hand it’s something that needs to be clarified. So to any trustees in the Johannesburg area who are sitting with permission to amplify the adhaan in terms of town zoning planning that is currently in existence, they must notify me so I can deal with it.”
What about other religions and prayer calls?
There is a provision to allow for amplification of sound to be done, according to Tayob. But this would not be as frequently as Islam requires, which is everyday five times a day. Churches as an example would apply for permission to ring bells on a Sunday.
An investigation could also be conducted to measure the decibel level of the sounds from the adhaan. Council has, “in their legislation under the environmental health provisions what they call noise and nuisance. They have a certain level of noise at certain times of the day that you can play on a decibel. So that investigation also needs to be conducted at Riverlea.”
If permission is sought for a continuous amplification of sound, then the council will base their decision on two variables.: the ‘need issue’ versus the ‘desirability issue’. There may be a need, but is it desirable, will be asked and deliberated about.
“The city council officials and I were both in agreement that we need to sit down with this complainant and ask, what is it that is disturbing you? If it is the Fajr [early morning call]…then we can consider some sort of lowering of the decibel volume to accommodate and make sure that people are not disturbed. But certainly he’s got the law on his side as far as amplification is concerned,” said Tayob.
Tags: Adhaan, City of Johannesburg, Riverlea Masjid