Sakeena Suliman – Cii News | 30 September 2013/24 Dhul Qa’dah 1434
The Muslim community in Valhalla, Pretoria face opposition to the erection of a mosque on a portion of land at the corner of Hammerfest and Finus streets.
Certain residents objected to the Thaba Tshwane Islamic Centre Trust’s intentions to the building of a mosque at a meeting held at NG Kerk on September 17. Even though application was made by the Trust to buy the property, the land was donated to them by government. Residents however claim underhanded methods were used to attain the property.
The Trust’s Umar Aboo Bakr says this was not the case and normal procedures were put in place to buy until it was donated to them. He says when Ina Strijdom, Valhalla’s DA ward councillor, was made aware of thedonation she emailed the municipality and requested they “rather give it [the land] to the church than the Muslims”. There are currently six churches in the community.
A petition was also drawn up on behalf of the town’s 2 647 residents by the Christian Democratic Party (CDP) to show dissatisfaction with the building of the mosque.
After members from the Trust and Strijdom consulted with each other, Aboo Bakr says Strijdom who appeared to have taken a neutral stance, set up a meeting for everyone to discuss the matter.
According to the councillor the problem is “due process was not followed”. She says the property is zoned for use as a public open space, “rezoning procedures that needed to be followed include public participation. Transparency and public participation were key elements of any well-functioning democracy.”
But Aboo Bakr says the Trust is only in the beginning stages of the project and that council will make them aware of the necessary steps – that is advertising and setting up notices on the property to allow for community objections – as they go ahead. He says council was not there to answer their questions regarding sewerage and zoning. “The CDP and DA are basically working together to make sure the mosque doesn’t go up.”
“They are so terrified and worried about this loud adhan. They say they don’t want to get up with it in the morning and they’re calling it noise pollution. They say we must go back to our country, this is not our land. They say we must rather go to Laudium and pray,” says Aboo Bakr.
He says a man with three kids argued that he moved from Erasmia – where “Islam had expanded” – to Valhalla to bring his kids up as Christians “and not mix them up with Islam”. “Another lady says she’ll fight us tooth and nail to make sure the mosque doesn’t come up. She’ll bomb it.”
The Tshwane municipality says preserving Valhalla as an exclusive Christian community was not in the city’s acceptable values and ethos. In addition, it was unconstitutionally baseless for the metro to review its decision of handing the land over for the building of a mosque.
“It’s Allah’s work, it will happen,” says Farida Abdul, also from the Trust. They say they won’t give up.
The masjid will be built to accommodate close to 150 Muslim families living in the community. Residents claim there are only 40 families and there is no need for the place of worship to be built.
“My neighbours are quite accommodating and wonderful people. They actually went to that meeting and they were persecuted by people that were there. They were angry with them for standing with the Muslims,” says Abdul.
Abdul says their biggest fear is that “It’s a white area that is going to become a Muslim area”. She says leader of the CDP, Theunis Botha had sent out a Blackberry message throughout the country requesting people to oppose the masjid being built.
According to Abdul, Strijdom is pretending to be neutral and is allegedly behind the petition and objection of the masjid. “How can we have somebody like that as a leader? They’re doing their best to bring our Muslim community down here.”
So far members from the Islamic Trust have received death threats and threats to bomb the masjid when it goes up. Living in Valhalla is tense at the moment they say.
The community request assistance from outside community Muslims to speak up against this apartheid-like objection as it is “within their constitutional right to build a religious place of worship in a democratic society”.
On Friday, the DA Councillor could not be reached for comment