Mosques across Great Britain could begin daily broadcasts of the Islamic call to prayer through loudspeakers after they were given special dispensation to play the adhan in the holy month of Ramadan.
Some 25 mosques in London and dozens more throughout the country began to use public address systems to connect with Muslims last month as they were unable to attend religious services during the coronavirus crisis.
The scheme was started by the London council of Kensington and Chelsea, which gave permission to the Al-Manaar mosque — the largest mosque in the borough — to begin broadcasting the Islamic message every night during Ramadan, an act that was previously illegal under noise pollution laws.
The move was picked up by the Waltham Forest Council in north-east London, which allowed nine mosques to play the call to prayer through loudspeakers every night and twice on Fridays to mark the Jumu’ah — the Friday prayer celebrated by Muslims) — according to the Mail on Sunday.
The Conservative leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, Elizabeth Campbell, claimed that “We’ve had a really positive response overall” from local constituents.
On Friday, the call to prayer was performed in London’s Canary Wharf, one of the country’s top financial centres.
— Arab News (@arabnews) May 22, 2020
With the end of Ramadan, local Islamic groups are seeking to make the call to prayer a permanent fixture of life in the United Kingdom.
The imam at the Minhaj-ul-Quran mosque in Newham, East London, Allama Sadiq Qureshi, said that the Newham Muslim Forum, which represents Islamic organisations throughout the city, will be making an application following Ramadan, saying: “We want this practice to continue in the future.”
“Just one symbolic adhan per day, if Newham council allow us. Just one adhan at the day time, at dhuhr [afternoon prayer], then it will be really good,” Qureshi went on.
The Waltham Forest Islamic Association (WFIA) which played the call to prayer so loud that it could be heard within a one-mile radius of the mosque, has also called for the practice to continue.
Raja Ilyas, the general secretary of WFIA said: “My wish is that if we can recite adhan at least at Jumu’ah or one time [per day], but it’s my wish. I can’t force my wish on anybody, especially on the local council and local residents – it’s my wish being a Muslim.”
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 26, 2020
The call to prayer known in Arabic as the adhan, has been translated by the BBC as “God is great, there is no God but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. Come to prayer”.
However, many have argued that this is a deliberate mistranslation, as the phrase “Allahu akbar” would be more accurately rendered as “[our] God is greater” instead of “God is great”.
Charities like Christian Concern have therefore argued that the call to prayer should not be compared to, for example, the ringing of church bells, because it is “not prayer directed to Allah, but a public declaration that Allah is God and that Muhammad is his messenger” — in other words, an assertion of religious superiority.
“There is no doubt that in Muslim countries, Christians are not allowed to broadcast any call to prayer or act of worship. In many Muslim countries, Christians are heavily persecuted,” observed Tim Dieppe on the Christian charity’s website.
“Here in the UK we allow freedom of worship and freedom of religion, as we should. But freedom of worship does not need to extend to broadcasting a proclamation that Allah is greater and that there is no god but Allah,” he argued.
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) May 18, 2020
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