Muslim residents of Rondebosh East have been left distraught following threats that a local religious leader would be suspended. They believe the trust members overseeing the local masjid are not acting in the interests of the community.
“When the new trustees of a masjid regard the complex as their own possession, change the trust deed to make themselves lifetime trustees, threaten the imam with suspension and legal action for daring to voice his opinion from the pulpit, then it is time to step up and set matters right.”
These are the words of one fuming supporter of Shaykh Nazeem Taliep, the imam of Ghiedmatiel Islamia Masjid in Taronga Road.
Locals attended an urgent public meeting last month where the interim shura council (ISC) was given an overwhelming mandate from residents to restore the sanctity of the masjid. The highly charged gathering was held at the masjid, where details of the issues causing the disarray were explained to and discussed with the congregation.
ISC members say they are committed to ensuring that the sanctity of the pulpit is secure. Since the imam is an integral part of this, he will be afforded the necessary protection, they say. “This happened after the existing, non-authorised trust body made themselves life trustees and as such, took ownership of a community masjid,” explains Nisa Gaibie, a resident of Rondebosch East. “Despite numerous requests by the ISC to meet with the trust body, including legal communication, the trust has refused to sit down with the ISC and hear the requirements of the community to restore the balance at what was once a thriving community centre.”
REICT Chairman Abdul Ghafoor Kamaldien says the team is currently undergoing a mediatory process and is not able to comment on the issue. “Until things are sorted, we need to respect this process as requested by the Muslim Judicial Council. We want to avoid creating any further misunderstanding and are herewith committed to the above orders. We have nothing to hide and once everything is sorted we will invite the public to attend a meeting hearing our full report and the actual truth of this event.”
After apartheid the formerly restricted whites-only suburb saw a transformation with multiracial families moving to the area in the early 1990s. Hundreds of Muslim families moved there, creating a need for a place where they could gather for daily prayers. This is when the new Muslims in the area formed the Rondebosch East Islamic Society (REIS), explains Gaibie.
“A house was purchased for daily prayers and Islamic education for kids. With whites having left the neighbourhood, the biggest church in the area was no longer being utilised and it went up for sale. Members of the REIS, with the support of the community, raised the required funds and purchased the property. The members worked hard to convert the church and entire complex into a masjid which soon turned into a lively, thriving community centre. Shaykh Nazeem was the founding imam and had the vision of converting the complex into a centre of excellence that would benefit the community in much more than just prayers.”
In an effort to streamline legal issues relating to the masjid and the complex, a trust was formed with members of the community elected to manage the trust. But the trustees no longer act in the interests of the masjid, the community or the complex, she believes.
“With regular requests for the trust to meet with the ISC not materialising, there was no further alternative but to call a public meeting to discuss matters with the community. On Saturday 9 July, the public meeting was held at the masjid where the community gave the ISC their overwhelming support to attend to matters at hand.”
Despite the ISC having tried various options to resolve the situation amicably, the trustees still refused to cooperate and they turned to lawyers, she says.
“This will cost the community financially and thus a fundraising drive has been initiated. We request our broader community to support our efforts to restore the masjid to the community so that we can once again turn it into a centre of excellence, where it can serve our people and keep Islam strong, and make the masjid a focal point of our community, as it should be,” adds Gaibie.
A fundraising breakfast is set to take place on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 August at Jimmy’s Killer Prawns in Canal Walk.