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India

Indian state bans mosques from using loudspeakers

Prayer calls may be integral to Islam but amplifying sounds cannot be an integral part of the religion, court rules

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Updated: May 17, 2020 04:09 AM GMT
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Indian state bans mosques from using loudspeakers

A worker inspects a loudspeaker at a mosque on the eve of Ramadan in Meulaboh in Indonesia's Aceh province on June 28, 2014. A court in India's Uttar Pradesh state has banned mosques from using loudspeakers for prayer calls. (Photo: AFP)

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The High Court in India’s Uttar Pradesh state has asked mosques not to use loudspeakers for prayer calls, shocking Muslims who consider the loud calls as part of their faith practice.

The top court in the most populous Indian state on May 15 said prayer calls could be made without using sound-amplifying devices. Mosques would need permission from the district administration to use loudspeakers, the order said.

Prayer calls “may be an essential and integral part of Islam, but their recitation through loudspeakers or other sound-amplifying devices cannot be said to be an integral part of the religion,” the court said.

The protection of the fundamental right, guaranteed in the constitution, “is even otherwise subject to public order, morality or health and to other provisions” detailed in the constitution, it noted.

"It cannot be said that a citizen should be coerced to hear anything which he does not like or which he does not require, since it amounts to taking away the fundamental right of other persons,” the court said.

Mustaqu Mansoori, a doctor in central India's Jabalpur city, told UCA News on May 16 that using loudspeakers for prayer has been going on for decades and most countries use them without restrictions.

“It is quite shocking for me and several members of the community that the High Court has passed such an order,” he said. “The court did not even bother to take the community into confidence before passing such an order that will have serious repercussions.” 

Uttar Pradesh has some 40 million Muslims, forming 20 percent of its 200 million people. The state has a long history of Islam as it now covers the former Mughal capital of Agra and several other places associated with Muslim rule in the country.

Although a Hindu-majority nation, India has about 170 million Muslims, making it home to the world’s third-highest Muslim population after Indonesia and Pakistan. Three Indian states — Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar — hold almost half (47percent) of Indian Muslims.

The court order came in response to a batch of public interest litigation that challenged the recent order from Uttar Pradesh's Ghazipur district administration that restricted prayer calls via loudspeakers during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The petitioners included top Muslim leaders such as parliamentarian Afzal Ansari and opposition Congress party leader Salman Kurshid.

Stopping something that came to be seen as a religious practice through a court order “does not augur well for a democracy like India,” said Divine Word Father Pushpa Anbu, who is based in central India.

The priest noted that the legal tussle and court order came as the country is fighting the global pandemic. “This is an issue that should have been settled in peacetime involving people from the community for the good of everyone,” he said.

In every religion, we may see practices that do not have constitutional or legal backing, he said. “That does not mean that such practices should be stopped,” he added.

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