Loudspeakers in mosques

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Loudspeaker in a mosque in Melaka, Malaysia.
A mosque minaret in Hyderabad, Pakistan fitted with loudspeakers.

Loudspeakers were invented in the early 20th century, and they were introduced in mosques in the 1930s, where they are used by a muezzin for the adhan ("call to prayer"),[1] and sometimes for khutbah (sermons).

Outdoor loudspeakers, usually mounted on tall minarets, are used five times a day for the call to prayer, beginning at dawn. Some mosques have loudspeakers that are powerful enough to be heard as far as 5 km (3 mi) away.[2] In areas where more than one mosque is present, the loudspeaker sounds overlap one another,[3] especially in the early morning when sounds are more clearly heard. Loudspeakers are sometimes also used inside mosques to deliver sermons or for prayer.[4]

The first known installation of a microphone–loudspeaker set occurred in 1936 in the Masjid Sultan in Singapore; it was reported that the summons to prayer could 'carry more than a mile'. Though some mosque attendees were sceptical of this new electric system, most believed it was necessary to empower the muezzin's voice to transcend a modern city's noises.[5] Electrically amplified adhans have become commonplace in countries such as Turkey and Morocco,[6] whereas in others such as the Netherlands only 7 to 8% of all mosques employ loudspeakers for the call to prayer.[7]

High volumes that modern mosque loudspeakers can generate prompted Saudi Arabia's Ministry Of Islamic Affairs to issue a directive in late May 2021 to restrict mosque loudspeaker volumes to "one third of maximum", an instruction that has been met with some social backlash in the Islamic Kingdom.[8] Additionally, the Ministry also stipulated that loudspeaker use was to be restricted to the calls to prayers only.[9]

Legality[edit]

Limitation on calls to prayer by Muslims exist in countries including the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, France, the UK, Austria, Norway, and Belgium.[10] Some cities have independently banned or restricted the use of loudspeakers by mosques, including Lagos, Nigeria,[11] and some communities in the US state of Michigan.[12][13][10][14]

Opposition[edit]

Germany[edit]

In Cologne, Germany, the proposed construction of the Cologne Central Mosque encountered strong criticism from some area residents; a ban on broadcasting the call to prayer over loudspeakers outside the building was among the first stipulations that the mosque's supporters had to agree to when seeking a building permit.[15]

India[edit]

In India, noise pollution activists have called for restricting the use of loudspeakers, stating religion is not a ground to violate noise rules.[16] In 1999, in debating a proposed blanket ban on loudspeakers atop mosques, some political leaders in India alleged that loudspeakers had been used to create communal tension, and that they had been used to incite a riot in Nandurbar, Maharashtra state, on November 10, 1999.[17]

Indonesia[edit]

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has recognized that the overzealous use of sound amplification by its many mosques is an environmental issue and appears to be taking official measures to curb the problem.[18] However, in August 2018, a woman who complained of the volume of her local mosque's speakers was eventually given an 18-month prison sentence for blasphemy, while mobs burned 14 Buddhist temples following the news of her complaint against the loudspeakers.[19] As a direct response to this incident, Indonesia's Ministry of Religious Affairs issued a circular on Adhan or the Islamic call to prayer, with guidelines on when and how it ought to be broadcast by mosques.[20] The issue continues to divide as of March 2022 when the Ministry issued even stricter guidelines, which included restricting sound levels to 100 decibels and any pre-call to prayer sermons to 10 minutes duration, down from the previous 15.[21]

United Kingdom[edit]

On 5 May 2020 Waltham Forest council, London, gave eight mosques permission to publicly broadcast its call to prayer during Ramadan.[22] On 14 May 2020 Newham Council followed suit, granting permission to nineteen mosques within the London borough to publicly broadcast its call to prayer during Ramadan.[23][24] Many residents in the area of Newham, in dispute of the decision, wrote to the Mayor's office occupied by Rokshana Fiaz. On the 20 May 2020 residents concerned with the public broadcast to prayer received a response back from the Mayor in which she stated: "I am sorry if you were offended by the call to prayer, but the Council does not propose to take any further action or correspond further on this matter."

Harrow Council proposed a planning application to allow Harrow Central Mosque to publicly broadcast its prayer call every Friday at 6 pm for three months.[25]

On 31 May 2020, Maidenhead Mosque was given permission by Maidenhead council to publicly broadcast its call to prayer on a one-off occasion.[26]

United States[edit]

In 2004, the Al-Islah Mosque in Hamtramck, Michigan, US, attracted national attention when it requested permission to broadcast its call to prayer. This upset many of the non-Muslim residents of the area, which has a large and long-established Polish Catholic population. Proponents pointed out that the city was already subject to loud bell ringing from the local church, while opponents argued that the church bells served a nonreligious purpose. Later that year, the city amended its noise regulations to limit the volume of all religious sounds. Prior to this, other mosques in the Detroit area had been using loudspeakers to broadcast their calls to prayer without incident.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Adhan And Iqamat (Iqamah)". Hizmetbooks.org. Retrieved 2010-01-15.
  2. ^ Riyadh (Afp) (2009-04-25). "Variety News | Saudi cracks down on blaring mosque speakers". Alarabiya.net. Retrieved 2010-01-15.
  3. ^ "[IslamCity] Cairo's Dilemma Over Prayer Calls". Mail-archive.com. 2005-05-09. Retrieved 2010-01-15.
  4. ^ "'Installing loudspeakers inside mosques not fundamental right': Allahabad HC". Zee Media Corporation. 5 May 2022. Retrieved 18 May 2022.
  5. ^ Williams, Bryan (2015). The Bishop, the Mullah, and the Smartphone: The Journey of Two Religions into the Digital Age. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 318. ISBN 9781498217934. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  6. ^ Bas Soetenhorst (9 October 2019). "Blauwe Moskee wil met luidsprekers oproepen tot gebed. Mag dat?". Het Parool (in Dutch). Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  7. ^ Ruben Koops en Bas Soetenhorst (8 October 2019). "Blauwe Moskee wil gebedsoproep met luidsprekers versterken". Het Parool. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  8. ^ "Saudi Arabia: Authorities defend mosque speaker restriction". BBC News. 1 June 2021. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  9. ^ "Saudi Arabia: Loudspeakers in mosques used only for Azan and Iqamat". Gulf News. 23 May 2021. Retrieved 18 May 2022.
  10. ^ a b "Ministers approve bill muffling muezzin's call to prayer". The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. November 13, 2016.
  11. ^ "Nigerian city of Lagos shuts 'noisy' churches and mosques". BBC. 30 June 2016. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  12. ^ a b Leland, John (2004-05-05). "Call to Prayer in Michigan Causes Tension". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-01-15.
  13. ^ Spencer, Richard (Aug 13, 2010). "Cairo to use computerised call to prayer after complaints over tuneless muezzin". Telegraph.co.uk.
  14. ^ Wajihuddin, Muhammad (3 August 2016). "Muslim leaders welcome high court order on loudspeakers". Times of India. TNN. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  15. ^ Landler, Mark (2007-07-05). "Germans Split Over a Mosque and the Role of Islam". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-11.
  16. ^ "Anti-noise crusader for curbs on loudspeaker use in mosques". Thaindian.com. Retrieved 2010-01-15.
  17. ^ "Mosques must get permission to install loudspeakers: Dy CM". Indian Express. Retrieved 2012-10-04.
  18. ^ "Indonesia bids to muffle noisy mosques". Guardian Newspaper UK. 2015-06-25. Retrieved 2016-07-03.
  19. ^ "Indonesia woman irked by mosque noise convicted of blasphemy". AP News. 2018-08-21. Retrieved 2018-09-04.
  20. ^ "Indonesia issues guidelines on call to prayer". The Straits Times Singapore. 2018-08-26. Retrieved 2018-09-07.
  21. ^ "Indonesia's rules for mosque speakers spark controversy". Free Malaysia Today. 27 February 2022. Retrieved 18 May 2022.
  22. ^ "Call to prayer broadcast for first time in London borough for lockdown Ramadan". Metro (British newspaper). 5 May 2020. Retrieved 14 August 2022.
  23. ^ "Newham Council gives permission for broadcast of Muslim call to prayer during Ramadan". newham.gov.uk. 14 May 2020. Retrieved 14 August 2022.
  24. ^ "Newham mosques to broadcast call to prayer during Ramadan". Newham Recorder. 15 May 2020. Retrieved 14 August 2022.
  25. ^ "Harrow Central Mosque answers critics of plans to broadcast call to prayer over loudspeakers on its roof". mylondon.news. 29 May 2020. Retrieved 14 August 2022.
  26. ^ "First outdoor call to prayer broadcast from Maidenhead Mosque". Maidenhead Advertiser. 31 May 2020. Retrieved 14 August 2022.