Chandra G. Ellaurie vs Sunday Times


Wed, Sep 30, 2020

Decision to adjudicate

Complaints 8292 and 8293

Chandra G. Ellaurie vs Sunday Times (complaint 8292); and eNCA (webpage) (complaint 8293)

Headline: Sunday Times:

'Islamophobe' gets prayer calls silenced

Author: Tania Broughton

 

Publication date: 23/8/20

 

Headline, eNCA broadcast: Call to prayer silenced in Isipingo

Date of broadcast: 25/8/20

Reporters: Chantelle Whittles/ Nabeelah Shaikh

  1. Complaints

1.1 Mr Ellaurie, a resident of Isipingo Beach, and an applicant in a court case brought in the High Court of KZN[1] complains that the newspaper and a webpage that introduced an eNCA report described him as a “self-confessed Islamophobe” and “self-proclaimed Islamophobe” respectively.

1.2 Specifically he complains that the headline of the Sunday Times piece called him an “Islamophobe” and that in the first paragraph of the story, it referred to him as a “self-confessed Islamophobe”.

The intro to the story reads: “A judge has ordered an Isipingo Beach madrasah to silence its calls to prayer after a self-confessed Islamophobe, who lives two doors away, complained that ‘it gives the suburb a distinctly Muslim atmosphere’ and interferes with his private space.”

1.3 The eNCA intro on its website reads: “In a landmark judgment for KwaZulu-Natal, a judge has ruled that the Islamic call to prayer, or Athaan, be silenced in a predominantly Muslim community.

The application was brought by Chandra Ellaurie, a self-proclaimed Islamophobe living in Isipingo.”

  1. The court case

2.1 Both stories covered the court case referred to above and heard in the KZN High Court before Judge Mngadi.

2.2 Mr Ellaurie brought the application, naming the Madrasah Taleemuddeen Islamic Institute and the eThekweni Municipality as respondents. He sought to interdict the Institute from “emanating” Calls to Prayer that could be heard “beyond the boundaries” of its property. Mr Ellaurie’s property is about 20 metres from the Madrasah. He also wanted the Madrasah to leave the area.

2.3 The judge described Mr Ellaurie thus: “The applicant is Hindu and is unashamedly opposed to the Islamic faith, which is propagated by the Madrasah. The applicant regards Islam as a false religion that discriminates against non-Muslims as non-believers.

“He contends that the Koran, a Bible on Islam, refers to unbelievers as the worst creatures; ignorant, unclean, wrongdoers; persons that should not be trusted, and who should be slandered and fought, whereas it regards members of the Islamic faith as the best people. The applicant holds the view that Islam promotes cultural racism, does not uphold the divinity of man, and lacks commitment to truth and the pursuit of truth. Islam, he contends, also regards women as inferior to men. It prefers Islamic law of inheritance to the law of the land. In his view, Islam is not a religion protected by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, (the Constitution) as everything it stands for is contrary to the Constitution.”

2.4 Mr Ellaurie complained to the court that the call to prayer is made five times a day, with the first being made at 3,30am. This “disrupts his sleep” and “invades his private space”.

2.5 He also argued that it “gives the suburb a distinctly Muslim atmosphere. It attracts those of the Islamic faith and keeps non-Muslims away. The Muslim community in the area has increased by 30 percent in the past 15 years.”

2.6 In 2004, the SA Human Rights Commission mediated the dispute and resolved that the mosque “desist from using the external sound amplifier system” for the first daily Call to Prayer.

It then specified various other restrictions on amplification.

2.7 Mr Ellaurie also asked for the Madrasah to be banned from the area stating he was “acting on behalf of himself and in the public interest”. However, said the judge there was “no evidence as to which members of the public share the applicant's sentiments relating to Islam.” His only answer as to why he wanted the Madrasah banned was that he wanted the area “restored to its former glory.”

2.8 He also attempted to argue, referring to scriptures, “that Islam is an invalid religion, which misleads the community and should be banned”, an argument the Judge described as “misguided”.

2.9 Mohammed Illyas Patel, who represented the Madrasah said although it would not use the external sound amplification, it opposed the application as a matter of principle “because not to oppose it, would be to pander to bigotry and a disservice to the founding principles of the Constitution.”

2.10 In discussing the details and times of the Call to Prayer, the Judge noted: “Unfortunately, the applicant finds the Call to Prayer particularly offensive due to his views towards Islam.”

2.11 The judge granted Mr Ellaurie's application on the Call to Prayer, saying: “The proximity of the applicant's property to that of the Madrasah and the overwhelming evidence of the making of the Call to Prayer and the purpose thereof, create probabilities that favour the applicant's version that the Call to Prayer interferes with his private space” but not on the matter about the Madrasah, as his argument rested, mainly on the basis of his “sentiments relating to Islam.”

  1. The reports

3.1 The Sunday Times story focused exclusively on the judgment, noted above, and on the reaction of the Madrasah, which said it intended to appeal.

3.2 The eNCA report also focused on the judgment, but as it does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Press Council, it is not relevant here. The introduction on its webpage, however, falls under Press Council jurisdiction.

  1. Transgressions of the Press Code

4.1 The acting Public Advocate said in his letter to Mr Ellaurie declining the complaint, that he could not find any “prima facie breach of the Press Code”. This was because the judge had described him as “unashamedly opposed to the Islamic faith.”

4.2 It is not for me to judge the reasons Mr Ellaurie put forward in his complaint as to why he was opposed to Islam, including that the Koran suggested an “intolerance” towards other faiths, and that “the majority” of the Koran “is fixated on non-Muslims”, and that “51% of the Koran is about political Islam, not religious Islam.”

4.3 However, his arguments seem to mirror closely the arguments he put before the court and which the Judge summarised and the news outlets reported on.

4.4 The Oxford Lexico definition of “Islamophobia” is: “Dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.”[2]

4.5 This seems to sum up Mr Ellaurie’s attitude towards Islam and its institutions in his neighbourhood as expressed before the court, as summarised by the Judge in his judgment, and in his own arguments to the Press Council.

Decision

Thus I must concur with  the acting Public Advocate: the description of Mr Ellaurie’s views is a fair one by both the Sunday Times and eNCA.

Moreover, the Sunday Times used the term “Islamophobe” in inverted commas in its headline.

I can find no breach of the Press Code in this and decline to adjudicate.

Pippa Green

Press Ombudsman

29/9/20


[1] Case number 3848/19

[2] https://www.lexico.com/definition/islamophobia