City tests athaan

The Zeenatul Islam Masjid in Muir Street, District Six.

A District Six mosque has accused the City of Cape Town of “shifting the goalposts” in determining whether its call to prayer runs foul of noise regulations.

The City of Cape Town met with the Zeenatul Islam Masjid last Tuesday June 11 and conducted two tests to see whether the call to prayer, the athaan, falls within the noise regulations.

The tests were done in response to a noise complaint made against the mosque by a single complainant.

The complaint was made last month during Ramadaan, and the mosque made an agreement with the City to discuss the matter at the end of the holy month, which the City respected (“Call to prayer will sound for now,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, May 16).

In a statement on Monday June 17, chairperson of the Zeenatul Islam Masjid, Yunoos Ismail said the City had alluded to two sound tests being conducted that had conflicting results.

“After conducting the sound test to measure decibels, the City of Cape Town took it upon itself to run a second “reasonable person” test,” he said.

Mr Ismail said there should be a distinct difference between “noise disturbance” and the athaan, the ringing of church bells, or any similar call to prayer as an act of worship.

He said while the City’s scientific test of the athaan fell within the accepted decibel measure as set out by the by-law, the second test which is a non-technical “reasonable person” test led officials to find that the athaan was a “noise nuisance.”

“This ‘reasonable person’ test, in our view, is completely subjective and changing the terms of reference of the complaint amounts to a shifting the ‘goalposts’ by the City of Cape Town,” said Mr Ismail.

However, mayco member for community services and health, Zahid Badroodien, said the two tests were not in conflict.

“The City has not ‘shifted the goalposts’ but has applied the law as mandated as it has consistently done in many similar cases,” he said.

Mr Badroodien said the City wanted to find an amicable way forward to protect both the rights of the mosque as well as the complainant.

“The complainant has indicated that he has lived in the area for five years, but that in the last 12 to 18 months, the sound level from the mosque has increased.”

He said the City was seeking more information from the mosque on whether there had been changes to the speaker configuration, more speakers added, their output increased or whether the person doing the athaan had changed in the last year. Mr Badroodien said a technical expert from the City would be at the mosque’s disposal to assist in the matter.

Mr Ismail said the mosque had received overwhelming support to stand firm with the athaan and an online petition had received nearly 100 000 signatures.

Support had come from mayor Dan Plato, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Mandla Mandela on behalf of the Mandela family and many local and international dignitaries.

“We call on the City of Cape Town to pay attention to the overwhelming public support for the athaan and to dismiss the complaint,” he said.