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Public call to Ramadan prayer crosses a dangerous line


FOR the first time, a Minneapolis neighbourhood is broadcasting the Muslim call to prayer on public loudspeakers during the month of Ramadan. This call to prayer, known as the adhan, is said five times a day. Until now it has been recited only inside American mosques or community centres. Regular readers of TCW will be unsurprised to learn this is happening in the district of Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar, an Islamist. 

Canada is also prone to this form of virtue signalling. In the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, noise by-laws have been lifted so that mosques can publicly broadcast their calls to prayer during Ramadan. Not to be outdone, the city of Toronto is doing the same.

The myopic politicians who granted these privileges are not as culturally sensitive as they think they are. Are they aware of minorities in Islamic lands who suffer during Ramadan and are oppressed by the brutal yoke of Islamism? Crossing a line, they have thrust religion into the public arena. Not everyone who lives in these cities wants to hear the adhan five times a day. Now they have no choice.

Religion belongs in the private sphere and should be as separate as possible from the state, otherwise a theocracy is the consequence. There will always be some overlap between religious public and private spheres in the free West. In Britain, a Christian country, Church and State are intertwined somewhat. Britain has an Established Church; its national anthem acknowledges the presence of God. Sittings in both houses of Parliament begin with Christian prayers but attendance is voluntary. Britons are free to practise any other religion of their choice or none at all, as it should be in a healthy democracy. Should religion and politics mix too much the repercussions are usually disastrous. There are many countries that should serve as a warning to misguided politicians who inadvertently associate themselves with Islamic extremism. 

For millions of Muslims around the world Ramadan is a time spent in peaceful prayer, contemplation and connecting with family. For extremists, this sacred holiday is used as an excuse to murder and maim both non-Muslims and Muslims who don’t follow their perverse interpretation of Islam. These fundamentalists damage the true spiritual message of Ramadan, complicating its meaning for the other two Abrahamic faiths. The holy words ‘Allahu Akbar’ from the adhan are also demeaned by Islamists when they blow up historical sites and humans.

For Mizrahi Jews the adhan is a reminder of their historical persecution in MENA (Middle East and North Africa) lands. Hamas has rallied its jihadists to attack Israel under the banner of ‘holy war’ during many Ramadan periods. The assault by Arab nations on Israel during Yom Kippur in 1973 is also known as the Ramadan war. ISIS uses Ramadan to galvanise its jihadists. Last April, ISIS jihadists attacked Christians in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing more than 250. 

Apostate Muslims and minority religious groups have few or no rights in oppressive Islamic countries. In 2017 a Malaysian Buddhist woman was sentenced to 18 months in prison for complaining about the noise level of the adhan at a nearby mosque. 

Mubarak Bala, a Nigerian apostate and human rights activist, was arrested for blasphemy in a part of Nigeria governed by Sharia law. If found guilty he faces the death penalty. 

In Somalia, Al Qaeda affiliates Al Shabaab began their Ramadan celebrations with two suicide bombings. Christians in Africa are among the most persecuted people in the world. Islamists murder priests and pastors, burn down churches and terrorise local Christian communities. Muslim converts to Christianity risk being shunned, or even killed by Islamists, and some are even imprisoned by their families.

Christians living in Egypt are subjected to increased harassment during Ramadan. 

In Morocco, Christians discussing their faith risk imprisonment while Muslims there face similar levels of harassment if they publicly break their fast during Ramadan.

There are better ways to help peaceful and peace-loving Muslims during Ramadan without kowtowing to Islamists by thrusting their religion into the public sphere and diminishing others’ freedom of choice. On April 3, 14 local BBC radio stations began to broadcast daily Islamic prayers, including the adhan and sermons. Mosques are closed during lockdown so this helps Muslims feel more connected with each other. As a public broadcaster which caters to all major religions, it’s right that the BBC offers this type of service to the sizeable British Muslim population, especially during Ramadan. There are plans to do similar broadcasts for Hindu and Jewish communities. 

While it can be justified that such programmes are publicly funded – their encroachment into the public sphere is minimal and we can switch off our radios if we don’t like it – in the US and Canada, where freedom is valued even more highly than here in Britain, this choice has been taken away, and replaced by a worrying pandering to Islamism. At a time when the West is facing a multitude of threats to freedom, keeping religion out of the public sphere is more important than ever before. The decision to broadcast the adhan in these North American cities rips holes in that freedom.

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Karen Harradine
Karen Harradine
Karen is an anthropologist and freelance journalist. She writes on anti-Semitism, Israel and spirituality. She is @KarenH777on Twitter.

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