Muslims and non-Muslims in Mauritius have rejected in unison a court ruling banning the use of loudspeakers in raising the Adhan (Muslim call to prayer), warning that it could jeopardise social harmony in the southern African country.
“Muslims have never ever protested against the construction of other places of worship,” Fouad Uteene, head of the Muslim Citizen Council, was reported as saying on April 2.
“They have never asked Chinese people to stop lighting firecrackers to mark their religious festivals nor churches to stop ringing the bell. Why do they want to stop us from raising the Adhan from loudspeakers,” he wondered.
The Supreme Court ordered late last month the local authority in Quatre-Bornes, a town 20 km south of the capital Port-Louis, to remove loudspeakers of the main Hidayat-Ul-Ilsam mosque after one resident filed a lawsuit, arguing that he was annoyed by the loud voice of the Muezzin (the man who calls for prayers).
The verdict was based on a law enacted decades ago, prohibiting the use of loudspeakers, amplifiers and car horns noisily. Offenders are fined 500 rupees.
The law, however, is not enforced strictly as authorities condone, for instance, Chinese fire cracks marking religious festivals.
“It is shocking to hear some people say that they are allergic to this call for prayers,” said Nissar Ramtoola, the imam of Jummah Masjid in Port-Louis, adding that it is offensive to call Adhan noise.
Sheela Mohunparsad, the secretary of a Hindu temple in Goodlands, agreed.
“In our region, everybody practises his religion calmly and we do not consider Adhan as a nuisance,” he said, adding, “Instead, it helps us to get up early in the morning, not only for going to work but also when we are fasting.”
Muslims and non-Muslims were especially worried that the ruling could cast a cloud over the country’s social harmony. “This could harm the social fabric in the island,” Muslim lawyer and politician Shakeel Mohamed warned.
Following the court ruling, hundreds of Muslims took to the streets, urging authorities to repeal the controversial verdict. Muslim activist Areff Bahemia also warned of massive protests in the coming days if the court ruling was not repealed.