Jerusalem Program Limits Muslim Prayer Call

Jerusalem Program Limits Muslim Prayer Call

New pilot program initiated by nationalist councilman King measures nighttime muezzin call, brings technological solutions.

By Ari Yashar

First Publish: 3/3/2014, 5:18 PM


Israeli flag in front of minaret

Israeli flag in front of minaret
Flash 90

Jerusalem residents may finally have their night’s sleep returned to them, as the Municipality is starting a new process to investigate and limit the noise pollution of local mosques’ prayer call loudspeakers.

The muezzin prayer call of “Allahu akbar (Allah is great),” blasting over the night air at 4 a.m. or earlier, has been a particular cause of suffering for residents living adjacent to Arab neighborhoods in the Holy City.

In a new move, initiated by nationalist Councilman Aryeh King, the prayer call of 200 mosques in the eastern part of Jerusalem will be measured to see if the decibel level violates the law.

King made the fight against Muslim noise pollution a priority when he was elected last November. At the time he stated “just like it’s forbidden for us (Jews) to make loud noises after 12 at night it will be forbidden for them.”

200,000 shekels have reportedly been allocated for the pilot program, in which the volume of the prayer calls emanating from two mosques in the south of the city will be measured. Mosques that disturb the public peace with their amplified prayer call will be put on a “black list” by the city.

Mosques on the list will be ordered to turn their loudspeakers to face the center of the Arab neighborhoods and villages, to try and prevent disturbances to the rest of the city. If that step isn’t enough, a technological solution will be installed to screen and reduce the noise dramatically.

When approached last week about the pilot program, King said “I don’t want to respond so as not to mess things up. Every word that is said threatens to get the project stuck, and that’s the last thing I want.”

Arab backlash – ‘it’s a shame and a disgrace’

Arab Muslim residents of the city were less than an appreciative of the request to consider their non-Muslim neighbors.

“It’s a shame and a disgrace,” claimed Darwish Darwish, head of the Arab neighborhood of Issawiya that has produced a steady stream of violence in recent years and turned Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus Campus into a “war zone.”

Darwish added: “I don’t understand the municipality and the Jews. This is a blow to religious values. What are all these efforts needed for? Can’t they just ask?”

Contrary to Darwish’s assertions that a simple request would have been answered, Jewish residents of the French Hill neighborhood adjacent to Issawiya have complained for many years about the noise pollution.

The situation reached the point where community director, Yochanan Bechler, threatened Darwish that if the muezzin wasn’t quieted down, Jewish residents would respond with their own “call,” playing blaring rock music at 3 a.m. While Darwish initially accomodated by turning the speakers to face the neighborhood, residents complain that the noise has crept back up again recently.

Mohammed Alian, head of the Muslim residents of Beit Safafa, backed Darwish by saying “this plan comes to attack Islam and its adherents.” He even used the same words as Darwish, opining “it’s a shame and a disgrace.”

“I expect the municipality to act for coexistence between the populations in the city, and instead of that it’s fanning hatred,” charged Alian, saying the municipality councilmen “should be ashamed.”


5 replies

  1. How did we Muslims get our calls to prayer heard before the advent of loud speakers? And why do we translate any criticism of the noise as infringing on our religious freedom? In many countries including the one I live in, every neighbourhood has a mosque and therefore one wonders the need for loud speakers in calling the faithful to prayer. But, that is not the only problem. When prayers are led, they are heard all over the neighbourhood instead of only by the ones within the mosque. This disturbs everybody, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

    The Muslims who are trying to say their prayers in the houses get disturbed by this loud leading of prayers in their vicinity and the non-Muslims sentiments can just be guessed at.

    These mosques also have the habit of calling the Fajr prayers about a whole hour before the actual time and during Ramadhan they also lead Tahajjud prayers loudly.

    Where in Islam does it give us, Muslims, the right to disturb others? While there is freedom of religion in most countries, that of making noise in it’s name should be separated and dealt with.

    I sympathize with the people who are getting disturbed in religion’s name and am very glad that somebody has the guts to stand up and separate the freedom of worship from noise pollution.

  2. Raziya Mohamedali has correctly described this matter. I will, Insha Allah, come back with more info about se of loudspeakers. The sound of any kind should not be heard outside the mosques.

  3. That is right. The volume of Azaan should be within limits and may be heard outside the mosque. But nothing else should be broadcast outside the mosque.

    My input about Azaan in present times is as follows:
    1. Azaan should not be used as a shake up, wake up routine. It should be in low volume. Every one should get up with own means (alarm clocks etc.) for daily prayer.
    2. During the life of the prophet s.a.w.s. the call for prayer was adopted after some consultation for a special purpose.
    3. In those days there were no watches and clocks. Every one had to guess the time for prayer. Every one came at different times. so time was wasted.
    4. In order to co-ordinate the timing, so that no one was disturbed and time was not wasted, it was planned to have some method of getting together at the same time for prayers.
    5. Consultation took place and every one gave their own opinion as to how to accomplish the task.
    6. Some one suggested to ring the bells, or to beat the drums.
    6. Until it was reported by some companion that he heard (in a vision) some one making a call (Azaan) for prayers.
    7. That was approved and adopted and it was the best way and it is the custom till today. It has the approval of the prophet s.a.w.s.
    8. The purpose was to get every one together in the mosque at the same time.
    9. Nowadays, every one has got watches, clocks, timepieces, hand held telephones (cell phones). There is no problem of not knowing the time of day or night.
    10. The times for five daily prayer are also informed to every one. So there should not be any loud call for prayer at all. Every one who wants to attend his/her prayer should come to mosque at the same time easily.
    11. In cities, the call for prayer should be kept as a sacred symbol only. Even in the villages, there should not be any need to make a very loud call for daily prayers.
    12. Muslims should behave themselves so as not to disturb other communities with their bad deeds. It is an easy matter to avoid a loud call for daily prayers.
    13. There is no need to make any loud call for prayers. Those who are prayer mongers will come to mosque for prayer anyhow, even if there is no loud Azaan. Those who are not interested in daily prayers will never come even though there is a sound blasting call for prayers.
    So what is the use of a loud call for prayers!
    [ An interesting case is the view of the maulvis about the loudspeaker (L/S) till 1962. They (all) considered the loudspeaker as a tool of the devil. They were against the use of L/S in mosques. That was the view of the famous Deobandi maulvis. I remember having attended Friday prayers in Deobandi mosque (maulvi Ihtesham ul Haque thanavi) where Urdu part of lecture (sermon) was given with L/S in use. But when giving Arabic part of sermon, the Loudspeaker used to be switched off. The prayer used to be offered without Loudspeaker.]

  4. You’re so right Sarwar sb. Thank you for your detailed and logical answer that I too, have been trying to get through to our National Environment outfit here to no avail.

    These people have got threatened with dire consequences when told to lower the volume. The mosque builders sprout mosques (usually with Saudi money), all over the place like mushrooms and the next thing you know is the whole resident neighbourhood starts getting disturbed.

    I’ve tried reasoning with these people that since every neighbourhood has at least one mosque, what is the need for the Adhans and the prayers to be heard across town which has their own mosques doing the same thing? This doesn’t seem to get through their thick heads and skin and sometimes they increase the volumes in vengeance!

    Of course, when I ask them to give a historical and religious justification for their objectionable behaviour goes unanswered….

    Then to add to this there are countless Christian Evangelical outfits who also do their services at ear-splitting levels everyday at different places all over at lunch times and of course, on Saturdays (SDA) and Sundays!

    We are so fed up!!!!

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