A New Jersey city council has voted unanimously to grant preliminary approval to the Islamic call to prayer or ‘azaan’ to be broadcast over loudspeakers.
The resolution brought forward by Paterson City Council’s Bangladeshi-American councilman Shahin Khalique was cleared with a 7-0 vote with two members abstaining.
Under the new resolution, mosques that use loudspeakers to broadcast the call to prayer will be exempt from the city’s noise control ordinance.
“The city shall permit ‘Adhan’, call to prayer’, and other reasonable means of announcing religious meetings to be amplified between the hours of 6:00 am and 10:00 pm for duration not to exceed five minutes,” says the resolution. It still has to go through two public hearings before being implemented.
Paterson has approximately 30,000 Muslims, with more than a dozen mosques. Supporters of the resolution compared the sounds from the loudspeakers to church bells, which are allowed to be broadcast all over the United States.
The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a leading Muslim advocacy group in the US, has applauded the move.
“The Islamic call to prayer is an integral aspect of a Muslim’s five daily prayers. Like church bells, it summons worshipers to enter the prayer space, to turn one’s body, mind and spirit toward God,” said Salaedin Maksut, a spokesperson for CAIR.
The introduction of the measure has also led to a large number of phone calls and emails to council members from residents opposed to the move.
Shahin Khalique, the Bangladeshi-American councilman, has blamed the city’s Mayor for encouraging people to appear before the council to voice their opinion on the issue.
He said the call to prayer amounts to 15 minutes in total a day and argued that ice-cream trucks and vans spreading political messages make noise hours on end.
“There’s a lot of controversy going on out there,” said Khalique, adding, “Inclusion and honest debate are the foundations of our nation. Together we strive to build a better world for our children and ensure their values are treated with respect.”
Michigan’s Hamtramck city is one of the few places in the United States where the Islamic call to prayer is broadcast over loudspeakers. The city’s similar resolution in 2004 had led to strong protests and opposition from non-Muslim residents but was eventually approved by the Hamtramck City Council.
Paterson City Council has scheduled its public hearing and final vote on the proposal for March 10.