Call to prayer: Judgment impedes rights of religious expression, says Muslim council


Johannesburg – The Council of Muslim Theologians in South Africa says a High Court judgment restricting the athaan (call to prayer) at a Muslim religious institute in Durban, represents an abridgement of the rights of religious expression in the Islamic community.

Last week, the KwaZulu-Natal High Court ordered that the historic call to prayer from the Madrasah Taleemudeen Islamic Institute be restricted from being heard inside the home of an Isipingo Beach resident, who is opposed to Islam. The resident took the matter to court.

Chandra Giri Ellaurie, who was described by Judge Sidwell Mngadi as “unashamedly opposed to the Islamic faith”, approached the courts to restrict the call to prayer from the institute opposite his home. He further asked that the institute be banned from the area altogether, proposing that it be sold to a non-Muslim entity.

Mngadi ordered the institute to ensure that its call to prayer was not at an audible level within Ellaurie’s home.

Reacting to the judgment, the council, known as Jamiatul Ulama South Africa, said the court order limited a salient feature in the expression of Islam and Muslim identity.

“For generations, the athaan has been part and parcel of communities living together without exception,” said the council’s secretary-general, Ebrahim Bham.

“It is therefore with dismay that we note a strong Islamophobic sentiment expressed by the applicant in his affidavit [to] challenge of the athaan, where the co-respondent, Madrasah Taleemudeen, is effectively a proxy for Islam and Muslims.”

Bham also appealed to communities to continue in the spirit of tolerance and mutual exchange, “a special feature of South Africans living together”.


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