Editorial June 2020


Politics of Adhaan, Niqab and medical masks

Zakaria Virk Editorzakria

For the first time Muslims in Canada, UK, Germany were able to hear Muslim call to prayer from loudspeakers within the confines of the mosque. Normally calling on Azaan on loudspeakers is prohibited under city bylaws. Nothing to rejoice, as it had more to do with politics than having any feeling for Muslims during the month of Ramadan.

Tthis permission was granted as an exception due to coronavirus lockdown, hence people were not arriving at the mosques. This permission was only for Ramadan. Muslims are waiting to see public reaction over this temporary permission. If there is no strong opposition they will seek permanent permission to use loudspeakers for Azaan.

In the UK mosques in Waltham Forest- East London were allowed to use loudspeakers for Azaan at sunset – iftar time and for Juma prayers. Council agreed that nine mosques could perform the Adhzaan as mosques were closed and Muslims were unable to pray at the mosque.

Question is what is the purpose of Adhaan? It is to alert people to stop other activities and come to pray at the mosque. But if the mosques are closed then what is the need for Azaan? In

some countries like Dubai the Muezzin changed the wording and was heard reciting As-salatu fee bayootikum – that is offer Salat at your homes. To be honest it is all politics, time to put hopes that with this gesture Muslims will vote for the politicians.

Calling people to come for prayers at the mosque on loudspeakers is not mandated. There was a time when Ulema in the Indian sub-continent had given fatwas against calling adhzaan on loudspeakers. People can say prayers virtually or the adhzaan can be played on appointed times on iPhones or tablets. Hearing the call to prayer outside the mosque when most people do not live near the mosque so cannot hear the adhaan is useless.

Meanwhile in Quebec it is not yet mandatory to cover the face with a mask. Bill 21 bars some public-sector employees in positions of authority from wearing hijabs, kippas, turbans and other religious dress at work. Some people are asking why it was a problem when Muslim women covered their face with a Niqab, it was deemed against secular values of the province. Majority of people in Quebec support a ban on religious symbols in the public sector, but this has not changed their perception of religious face coverings. Are these two issues connected?

A medical mask and an optional religious face covering may be similar in practice, but they symbolize different things. There are very strong stereotypes that people have of Muslim women wearing traditional clothing, such as Burka or Niqab.

With a medical mask people feel safe and secure, that it will protect them from COVID 19. But with a face covering like niqab there is no guarantee that it will protect from the virus. Some Muslim women who wear burka in public say life in public places is now more pleasant. Holding that azaan (call to prayer) “may be an essential and integral part of Islam”, the Allahabad High Court Friday said its recitation “through loudspeakers or other sound amplifying devices cannot be said to be an integral part of the religion.”

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