Why are mosques in the Western Cape being desecrated?

A case of vandalism has been opened in response to the latest incident. (madelene Cronje, M&G)

A case of vandalism has been opened in response to the latest incident. (madelene Cronje, M&G)

For the first time in over 100 years a mosque in the Western Cape will be closing its doors at night after it and another mosque nearby were desecrated and a posting to a community Facebook page called for Islamic places of worship to be burned down.

The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and religious leaders have lodged cases with the police and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), but they still remain uncertain as to why the desecrations to the mosques in Simons Town and Kalk Bay have happened now.

“The mosque is 120 years old – this is the first time that something like that happened,” Achmat Isty, the imam at Masjidul-Jamiah mosque in Kalk Bay, told the Mail & Guardian. “There were burglaries in the past, but not something like this. This is something new.”

On Monday morning, pig’s blood was found splattered all over the walls inside the mosque. Isty said that the pulpit of the mosque had also been smeared in blood. The discovery was made when the caretaker entered the mosque in time for early morning prayers before sunrise.

“We can say what we want to, but we can’t be clear on what was the purpose of doing such a disgusting and shameful act on the mosque,” Isty said.

A case of vandalism has been opened in response to the incident.

A similar act took place at a mosque in Simon’s Town on Saturday, about 15km away from Kalk Bay, where a pig’s snout was left on the door of the mosque.

Community members in Simon’s Town opened a case of crimen injuria, which police are investigating

The MJC, the muslim governing body in the Western Cape, and Isty agreed that the desecrations were an act of provocation.

“These acts cannot be isolated from what either happens globally or within a South African context,” said Abdul Khaliq Ebrahim Allie, deputy president of the MJC.

“Because the matter has been reported to the South African Police Service, it is now under investigation and hopefully the perpetrators will be brought to book and we will be able to understand the underlying factors to these desecrations.”

Community bands together in support
A community meeting was held in Kalk Bay on Tuesday in response to the incident.

Isty expressed gratitude that Bishop Geoff Davies was there to represent the clergy and to show support from Christian community members in Kalk Bay.

“People are very much with us. We had a meeting and the bishop [from Kalk Bay] was there with us,” Isty said. “We’re having another interfaith meeting at the mosque tonight where all the clergy will meet. They’re supporting us, for them also, this is something that has never happened in this part of Cape Town.”

Davies lives next door to the mosque. Speaking to News24, he condemned the desecration.

“It is a disgrace that people should behave like this,” Davies told News24 on Tuesday

“We are trying to grow as a multiracial and multi-faith country.”

Nothing was stolen from the mosque and there was no forced entry because the doors of the mosque have always been kept open. Now, however, a decision has been made to keep the doors closed, and community members in Kalk Bay have donated alarm systems for the mosque.

“The mosque is in a very quiet area,” Isty said. “Anyone could enter the mosque because we leave the mosque’s doors open for worshippers and tourists to make their prayers there. We are taking precautions now going forward.”

The desecrations come after a resident of Langebaan on the West Coast, Liam Ferreira, posted a message to a community Facebook page on January 1 calling for mosques to be burned down.

“I think its a crime the [sic] no one is sanding (standing) up to those Muslim bastards [sic] blaring their call to pray 5 times a day over massive speakers. Why do i need to put up with an Arabic tradition created in the dessert [sic] thousands of years ago. Stand up for yourselves !!! Burn it down!!!,” the post read.

The MJC has lodged a complaint with the SAHRC against Ferreira saying that Ferreira’s post amounted to hate speech, infringing on others’ right of freedom of religion, and incited violence.

The council said it trusted that the SAHRC and the police would act to address the matters.

“Our country has introduced institutions so we can be able to lodge our complaints,” Allie said. “We are certain that these particular matters will be given the necessary attention.”

 
Ra'eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra’eesa Pather is a general news journalist with the Mail & Guardian’s online team. She cut her teeth at The Daily Vox in Cape Town before moving to Johannesburg and joining the M&G. She's written about memory, race and gender in columns and features, and has dabbled in photography. Read more from Ra'eesa Pather

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