Mosque takes on noise by-law

The Tennyson Street mosque has been a part of the Salt River community since 1906.

The Tennyson Street mosque in Salt River is calling on the City to amend a by-law to exempt places of worship from noise complaints.

This comes after the City sent a noise-complaint letter to the mosque on Thursday May 12.

The mosque claims the letter contradicts the City’s own newly revised procedures on how to deal with noise complaints about places of worship.

Those procedures, published late last month, say officials must show sensitivity and care when consulting a place of worship on any regulatory noise-abatement measures so as not to inhibit religious freedom.

And mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis told a council meeting on Thursday April 28 that by-law provisions for noise disturbances did not apply to correctly zoned places of worship.

However, the City’s letter to the mosque tells it to turn down the volume of its call to prayer immediately.

The mosque, which is also known as Mughammaddiyah Masjid, has been part of Salt River since 1906, and mosque committee member Anwar Omar said they had never received such a noise complaint in all that time.

The call to prayer, or Adhan, had always been done at an acceptable volume, he said.

The City had told the mosque that the complaint had come from an unknown person who claimed the sound from the mosque had kept them from working, he said.

“If this noise level was such as the complaint makes it out to be, there would have been many more complaints over the years.”

There seemed to be confusion, on the City’s part, as to how to interpret its own procedures, he said.

“Even in this matter, the City did not follow their own steps on how to interact with the mosque on this matter,” he said.

Before sending the letter, the City should have sent an official to the mosque to investigate and test the volume of the sound equipment, he said.

Mr Omar said the City’s new procedures did not go far enough as they should exempt places of worship from noise complaints altogether.

Muslim Judicial Council spokesman Mujaahid White said City councillors had told them that the letter had been sent by a City employee who had not known about the new procedures.

Mayoral committee member for community services and health Patricia Van der Ross said the letter related to the provincial noise control regulations and not the City’s Streets, Public Places and Prevention of Noise Nuisances By-law.

“It was meant to inform the premises that complaints have been received and that the City would like to commence a resolution process,” she said, adding that the wording of the letter had unfortunately not made reference to the new procedures and the City had apologised to the mosque for that and assured it that the noise complaint would be dealt with in the spirit of the new procedures.

All staff dealing with noise complaints would undergo “detailed training” so they were well acquainted with the new procedures, she said.

Mr Hill-Lewis described the mosque as “a Cape Town treasure” after meeting with its imam and board of trustees last week,

“It was helpful to be able to reassure them of our absolute commitment to the protection of the Adhan,” he said.

Meanwhile, the mosque has gathered more than 10 000 signatures for an online petition calling for a clear change to the by-law to exempt places of worship from noise complaints.

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