Religious freedom, along with individual choice quickly moved into the hot debate category recently. Seeing many faiths aiming at working with institutes from other belief systems, all in the hope of uniting once divided communities.
With personal faith forming an integral part of South African life, whereby religious expression within our country, according to Chapter 2 of the Constitution of South Africa, containing the Bill of Rights, states that everyone has the right to freedom of religion, belief and opinion.
Despite the Constitution highlighting our religious freedoms, it seems potential prejudice outlooks against certain denominations are still rife.
The Madrasah Taleemuddeen Islamic Institute in Isipingo Beach, KwaZulu-Natal, will be appealing a Durban High Court judgment which limits the Athan, the Islamic call to prayer, after a resident said it disturbed his peace and enjoyment of his property.
In the High Court judgment, Judge Sidwell Mngadi described the complainant from lsipingo Beach, south of Durban, as an individual who is unashamedly opposed to the Islamic faith.
In the judgment, the complainant told the court the Madrasah Taleemuddeen Islamic Institute, sounded its call to prayer five times a day, with the first call at 3.30am. His home is approximately 20 metres away from the Madrasah.
According to reports, the complainant states the call to prayer not only invades his private space, but also deprives him of enjoyment of his property, interrupting his peace and quiet. The call to prayer also apparently disturbs his sleep, listening to music and meditation.
Adding fuel to the fire, Mngadi claims the complainant has further accused the Madrasah of creating a distinctly Muslim atmosphere to the suburb.
Included in this, he has now ordered the Madrasah to ensure its call to prayer is not at a level which is audible within the complainant’s home. But it must also not negatively impact the Madrasah in any way which it practises its religion.
Mngadi also stated, while the Constitution guaranteed the provision for freedom of religion, it does not guarantee practice or manifestations of religion. He apparently claimed the call to prayer is a manifestation of the Islamic religion, but was not Islam itself.
The applicant has, on a balance of probabilities, established a right to the use and enjoyment of his property., stated Mngadi. Who then further stressed the proximity of the applicant’s property to the Madrasah and the overwhelming evidence of the making of the call to prayer and the purpose thereof, create probabilities which favour the applicant’s version that the call to prayer interferes with his private space.
The complainant also sought a court interdict to shut down the Madrasah. However, Mngadi explained the complainant had no “locus standi” (right) to seek an order banning the Madrasah from the area, and he had not made a case for it.
The Madrasah’s attorney, Aslam Mayat, who was instructed to appeal the ruling, said it did not make sense. Especially as people have a right to practise their religion, which is enshrined in the Bill of Rights. He said that right can only be limited in terms of a general application and it can’t be only one person.
Furthermore, Mayat highlighted that limiting a right should not offend the dignity of a group and had to be reasonable.
With the Madrasah’s attorney now set to appeal the ruling, what are your thoughts on the matter? Do you feel the resident was justified in his arguments? Or do you believe that his motives were based on bigotry, especially as he was the only complainant in the matter?
Share your thoughts and views with us in the comment section below.