Monday, April 19, 2004

It's Christian bells vs. Muslim prayer calls

Michael, of Divine Salamis asks in response to Muslim worship in the Cordoba cathedral: "So, is this the re-reconquest of Andalusia we're seeing?"

Obviously, Spain/Andalusia has its own path, and whether it's in the direction of reconquest will be obvious only in hindsight. But in light of the "original conquerors" of North America, even a simple noise ordinance story makes me nervous.

It seems that the Muslims in the Detroit area want a noise variance so that they can amplify their five-times-a-day call to prayer from the mosques in the city. That's five times a day, seven days a week, 365/6 days per year. The reason they offer: it's only fair; we have to listen to church bells, sometimes as early as 6 a.m.

It seems like just a local zoning thing, but Muslims have issues with bells. This windy Muslim apologist acknowledges that at the time of the Islamic conquest of Jerusalem, "by . . . edict [Christians'] church bells were taken from them because their din annoyed the Muslims."

Ronald Hilton at Stanford University, writing about Globalization: Music, says:
The ban on church bells is ancient and not unique to Spain. I don't have sources at hand to check and cite, but Christians were very early on in the history of Islam prevented from using bells and forced instead to use wooden clappers. The Muslim call to prayer, vocal rather than instrumental, was to have primacy.

Here's another Islam-promotion site, Saudi Aramco World:
There were, to be sure, ground rules which non-Muslims were expected to follow: no church towers, as the mosques had to be the tallest religious buildings in town; no church bells, as they might distract from the muezzin; no mixed congregations.

If that seems to be ancient history, consider this:
UN forbids use of church bells in Kosovo (because they irritate the muslims)

Priest Velimir Stojanovic, who lives with his family in the churchyard of the Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Sava in the southern part of Kosovska Mitrovica, told Tanjug that the Greek soldiers protecting this shrine have forbidden the use of the church bells.

"Representatives of KFOR introduced this ban with the explanation that Orthodox church bells irritate the Albanians," says Father Velimir. "The last time the bells were heard was on Easter Sunday, April 15 of this year," he explained, adding that so far he has not publicized this ban because he thought it was temporary. "The church bells did not ring on Ascension Day (Spasovdan, May 25) and I think that this is not good for either the church or the people," said Father Velimir.

Every day, five times a day, the song of the muezzins from the minarets of three mosques in the southern, Albanian part of the town can be heard. A fourth mosque is open and undisturbed in the village of Zabari, near Kosovska Mitrovica.

I don't like paranoia, and I accept on faith that the majority of the world's Muslims are willing to live in peace and harmony with their neighbors, but I make the uncomfortable observation that accommodation goes only one direction, and it seems to be irreversible. Is the Detroit noise case just something for neighbors to work out or a skirmish in a long battle?

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