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Loudspeakers in mosques: debate echoes globally

South Africa - Cape Town - 13 May 2019 - Zeenatul Islam Mosque during their Adhan or Call to Prayer announcement made by the Muezzin. The Adhan, Athan, or Azaan is the Islamic call to worship, recited by the Muezzin at prescribed times of the day. Adhan is called out by a Muezzin from the mosque five times a day, before dawn, mid afternoon, before dusk, after dusk and when its dark later. The main purpose behind the multiple loud pronouncements of Adhan in every mosque is to make available to everyone an easily intelligible summary of Islamic belief. These days loudspeakers are used on minarets for this purpose. The Mosque in Muir Street, has had a single "noise pollution" complaint lodged against them at the City of Cape Town, which is obliged, in terms of the law, to investigate. ‘’The Adhan is extremely spiritual to us and has a major meaning to us…’’, says Nizaam Raynard about Adhan and what it means in his Muslim religion. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA) ANAPIX

South Africa - Cape Town - 13 May 2019 - Zeenatul Islam Mosque during their Adhan or Call to Prayer announcement made by the Muezzin. The Adhan, Athan, or Azaan is the Islamic call to worship, recited by the Muezzin at prescribed times of the day. Adhan is called out by a Muezzin from the mosque five times a day, before dawn, mid afternoon, before dusk, after dusk and when its dark later. The main purpose behind the multiple loud pronouncements of Adhan in every mosque is to make available to everyone an easily intelligible summary of Islamic belief. These days loudspeakers are used on minarets for this purpose. The Mosque in Muir Street, has had a single "noise pollution" complaint lodged against them at the City of Cape Town, which is obliged, in terms of the law, to investigate. ‘’The Adhan is extremely spiritual to us and has a major meaning to us…’’, says Nizaam Raynard about Adhan and what it means in his Muslim religion. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA) ANAPIX

Published Sep 18, 2020

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Durban - THE Azaan, or the call to prayer by the Muslim community, is aimed at reaching everyone who practises Islam.

But some countries have taken measures to ban the recital of the Azaan on loudspeakers.

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The Azaan is recited five times a day at a mosque by a muezzin (the caller to prayer).

According to wikipedia.org, the second call to prayer, the Iqamah, calls on Muslims to line up for the beginning of the prayers.

The purpose behind the multiple loud pronouncements of the Azaan is to reach everyone who practises the religion.

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According to www.al-islam.org, in the early days of Islam, there was no prescribed way of telling people that the time for prayer had commenced nor was there any means to call Muslim worshippers to the mosque for congregational prayers.

“The Holy Prophet was, however, aware of the Jewish, Christian and pagan practices in this regard. He sought counsel and asked his companions what should be done to call Muslims to the mosque for congregational prayers.

“One morning, Hadrat Abdullah ibn Aziz approached the Holy Prophet and related to him a dream which he had had the night before. He had seen someone announcing the prayer time and calling people to the mosque for the congregational prayer in a loud voice. Hadrat Abdullah then related the words of the Azaan which he had heard in the dream,” the site said.

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The first muezzin in Islam was Bilal ibn Rabah. According to the same site, he was chosen by Prophet Muhammad. Rabah was regarded as one of the prophet’s most trusted and loyal companions. Rabah was born in Mecca. He died in 640AD at the age of 60.

However, in modern time, loudspeakers have been installed for the Azaan and the muezzin recites it using a microphone.

* According to wikipedia.org, in 2016 Israel’s ministerial committee approved a draft bill that limited the volume for the use of the public address systems for the calls to prayer, particularly outdoor loudspeakers for the Azaan.

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The bill cited the Azaan as a factor of noise pollution. It affected three mosques in Abu Dis (a Palestinian village in the Jerusalem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority bordering Jerusalem) and banned them from broadcasting the morning call to prayers.

The bill was also supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He reportedly said he received numerous complaints from citizens in all parts of Israel.

* In February 2018, a court in Germany banned the recital of the Azaan on loudspeakers.

The decision was made after a couple living 600m from a mosque claimed that the Azaan was against their Christian faith and religious freedom.

According to the minoritytimes.com, the court rejected the notion that the Azaan was against the couple’s religious freedom. However, in its verdict, it stated that the mosque administration had not adhered to the rules and regulations while permitting the Azaan on the loudspeaker and thus the permission was cancelled.

* In March 2018, the use of loudspeakers during the Azaan was banned in Rwanda.

According to independant.co.uk, the Rwandan government banned mosques in the capital city of Kigali from using loudspeakers during the call to prayer. The decision came from a programme called Kigali City 2040, which looks to reduce noise pollution to make it Africa’s top business and tourism powerhouse in the next 22 years.

A month earlier, Rwanda closed about 700 mosques for failing to comply with building controls and for noise pollution.

* According to the bbc.com, in June last year, Muslim groups campaigned to build a mosque in Ethiopia’s city of Aksum.

However, their proposals were turned down by orthodox Christians who believed the city was a sacred place because it was home to the biblical Queen of Sheba and Ark of the Covenant.

The ark is believed to contain the 10Commandments handed down to Moses by God and is said to be under the guard of monks in the city.

The Muslim community, however, was not deterred and drew plans to build the mosque and to give its call to prayer on loudspeakers.

* According to gellerreport.com, in May this year residents from Culver City in southern California complained that the Azaan was too loud. They made formal complaints to the police. The police then revoked the amplified noise permit.

However, three days later, the city reinstated the permit if the mosque agreed to lower the volume. The captain at the police station said he did not want to sour his department’s relationship with the Muslim community.

* In May this year, the Allahabad High Court in Uttar Pradesh, India, ruled that loudspeakers could not be used for the Azaan unless permission was granted.

According to New Indian Express, the court said one could not use the loudspeaker without prior permission from the district administration. The court responded after it reportedly received a number of public interest litigation (Pil) complaints and petitions.

While passing the order, Justice Shashi Kant Gupta and Justice Ajit Kumar said they were of the opinion that the Azaan was an essential and integral part of Islam but its recitation through loudspeakers or other sound-amplifying devices could not be an integral part of the religion.

* In July, a doctor from Gandhinagar in Gujarat filed a public interest litigation (Pil) in the high court to ban the use of loudspeakers for the Azaan at mosques across Gujarat.

According to the timesofindia:indiatimes.com, Dharmendra Prajapat said the Azaan created noise pollution and violated the fundamental rights of citizens because it caused an inconvenience and disturbance to people living nearby.

He said despite not many worshippers turning up to pray at the mosque in his neighbourhood, a loudspeaker was used. In the Pil, he said the loudspeaker was unbearable and such noise pollution caused severe mental illness and physical problems to the aged and young children.

* In June this year, political parties in Denmark joined forces to ban the Azaan on loudspeakers.

According to globalvillagespace.com, they urged the Danish government to investigate banning the calls to prayer because of the disruption they caused.

Denmark’s second-largest party, Venstre, led the parliamentary push to ban the Azaan using loudspeakers, arguing that they were “very disruptive”.

The Danish People’s Party, the Conservatives and the New Right joined Venstre in presenting a resolution to parliament.

The debate about the Azaan has been ongoing in Denmark since a mosque in Gellerupparken, near Aarhus, played the call to prayer from a local football field instead of from the mosque. It was the first time a public call to prayer had been heard and lawmakers have been debating its legality. They claim the issue is that of disruption, not Islam.

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