Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Belgium: Mosque asks to allow call to prayer

The alderman college of Beringen (Belgium) will decide this week on the issue of loudspeakers for the Fatih mosque.

The Fatih mosque asked the city to allow them to call the faithful to prayer. They want to hang loudspeakers outside the mosque so that the muezzin - which calls the faithful to prayer - will also be heard out in the streets.

The Fatih mosque in Beringen is one of the few Belgian mosques with a minaret.

Mosque chairman Yilmaz Centurk would only confirm yesterday that the request was made. Selahattin Koçak (SP.A), alderman in Beringen: "I hope that we can make a collegial decision with a full alderman college already this week. Until then I will make no comment, although I think that you can guess my point of view."

Beringen's mayro Marcel Mondelaers (CD&V) was not available for comment yesterday, but according to party member Anne Cuypers, second alderman of Beringen, the CD&V hasn't yet taken a stand. "We're first asking the advice of all instances, such as the environmental service and the police regulations relating to sound pollution, and should also look at how often they want to do the call'. According to Cuypers the Muslim association is not part of the request to call to prayer five times a day.

"A loudspeaker? that's just too far," says Open VLD councillor Jan Vanhamel. "I suspect that the Muslim community is looking for sensation and simply wants to see with this proposal how the politicians would respond."

His colleague from Vlaams Belang, Bert Schoofs, says the request is a sign of radicalization. "If the Turkish community wants to promote the faith in this way, they'll get yet even more isolated. It's a provocation and if the city executive approves this, I'll provoke back by demanding the demolition of the minarets."

Despite the fuss in Beringen, the Fatih mosque request is not a first. In Genk the muezzin has been calling in public for prayer for much longer. "They are naturally subject to the same laws about noise levels as church bells," says mayor Jef Gabriëls (CD&V). "The mosques call to prayer five times a day, but in the morning they do it very quietly. That is really only symbolic. In cooperation with the city the Muslims are thinking about an SMS call."

At the CGKR (Center for Equal Opportunities and the Fight Against Racism) they hope that Beringen will approve the request. "The tolling of bells is the same expression of religion and the constitution says that there's freedom of religion," says chairman Jozef De Witte. "I hope that the city council will think twice, because a ban on a muezzin also means that we curtail our own freedoms.

The Union of Mosques did not join on the request. "The call is part of the prayer, but is usually done in Flanders in side. It's certainly not on the agenda to sound it high on the minaret. That would wake people up and is certainly not a priority.

I think that the news about Beringen is causing so much commotion due to the Swiss minaret ban. Because the Muslims are themselves aware of the annoyance that this could cause."

Source: De Standaard (Dutch)

With thanks to Islam in Europe

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