Dozens of mosques across the UK were permitted to call worshipers to prayer through loudspeakers during Ramadan to encourage Muslims to stay at home amid the coronavirus quarantine. Now they want the practice to become routine.
“We want this practice to continue in the future,” Allama Sadiq Qureshi, an imam in one of East London’s mosques told the Daily Mail.
Pioneered by Kensington and Chelsea Council, in London, the initiative was aimed at helping Muslims “keep in touch” with their place of worship during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan while in quarantine.
Until now, most mosques in Britain have been barred from using a loudspeaker for the call to prayers, known in Arabic as the adhan. But several councils decided to relax the rules when the nation embraced strict social distancing rules amid the pandemic.
As a result, dozens of mosques across the UK, like those in Chesham in Buckinghamshire and Preston in Lancashire, were given such permission. In London alone, 25 places of worship launched adhan broadcasts during Ramadan, which ended last week.
The biggest mosque in the borough of Waltham Forest, in northeast London, took up the invitation with great enthusiasm, and its broadcast was loud enough to be heard in a one-mile-radius. Other mosques merely limited themselves to mounting concert-style loudspeakers on their front doors. A Muslim cleric was even filmed calling for prayer in front of a mosque in one of London’s financial centers, Canary Wharf.
Allahu Akbar! The call to prayer (Adhan) was made in London, outside Canary Wharf, one of the main financial centres of the United Kingdom and the world. pic.twitter.com/gnpjiYbxVX
Such actions were previously considered sound pollution – and the reason the calls were banned in the first place. Yet, according to the councilors, at least in Kensington and Chelsea, the feedback on adhan during the lockdown has been “really positive” overall, eliciting only a few complaints.
Tweets from Muslims in the UK and elsewhere have mostly celebrated the move as a positive step. Many of them have posted videos of adhan broadcasts, and the negative comments have been relatively few.
A number of Muslim clerics would like to make prayer-call broadcasts a permanent fixture. In Islamic countries, the adhan is broadcast five times a day, including at dawn and late in the evening. Fortunately for the UK’s non-Muslim late sleepers, and those retiring to bed early, however, UK imams are not suggesting they will follow suit.
“Just one symbolic adhan per day, if Newham Council allow us. Just one adhan at the daytime, at dhuhr [afternoon prayer], then it will be really good,” Qureshi said. He added that the local mosque association had already considered filing such an application with the council.
Raja Ilyas, the general secretary of the Waltham Forest Islamic Association, also said it was “his wish” to maintain the practice once a day, or at the very least, on Friday afternoons. But he made it clear that he had no wish to “force” this decision on either the council or the borough’s residents.
The idea was met with early resistance by some conservative evangelical Christian fringe groups. They voiced their opposition to such practices in March, when adhan allowances were first made. One of them, Christian Concern – an ultraconservative group lobbying against a broad range of issues, including abortion and gay rights – posted a lengthy piece on its website, arguing that the development is a sign of the increasing influence of Islam in the UK.
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