Is it piety or annoyance to make a lot of noise? Backlash to the Call to Prayer in Indonesia is being addressed.
Rina is jolted awake every night at 3:00 a.m. by booming speakers so loud that she has acquired an anxiety disorder: she can’t sleep, she’s too sick to eat, yet she’s too afraid to complain for fear of being jailed or attacked.
The obnoxious neighbor is her Jakarta suburb’s local mosque, and the clamorous sound is the call to prayer.
Both are so revered in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim majority country, that criticizing them can result in blasphemy charges, which can carry a sentence of up to five years in prison.
“No one dares to complain about it here,” Rina, a 31-year-old Muslim woman who prefers to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, adds.
“The loudspeakers are not only used for the call to prayer, but they are also utilized to wake people up 30-40 minutes before the morning prayer hour,” she told AFP, adding that she has reached her limit after six months of suffering the cacophony.
Online complaints about loudspeakers are on the rise, but there are no reliable government numbers due to a lack of confidentiality and fear of reprisal. The Indonesian Mosque Council (IMC), aware of the rising tensions, has dispatched teams to investigate mosque sound systems around the country — but it’s a delicate subject.
The Southeast Asian archipelago was previously lauded for its religious tolerance, with members of various faiths coexisting, but there are fears that its moderate version of Islam is being threatened by hardliners.
In 2018, a Buddhist woman was sentenced to prison after claiming that the call to prayer “hurt my ears,” and earlier this year, actress and Instagram influencer Zaskia Mecca, who has 19 million followers, was condemned online after the hijab-wearing Muslim criticized mosque speaker volume during Ramadan.
The transmission of the call to prayer and lectures over external loudspeakers is recognized as a crucial pillar of Muslim identity throughout the Islamic world, yet the topic is polarizing.
Saudi Arabian officials ordered mosques to reduce the volume of their outdoor loudspeakers to one-third of their maximum capacity in June, citing noise pollution concerns. There was an outpouring of criticism almost immediately.
There are around 750,000 mosques in Indonesia, and a medium-sized venue may have at least a dozen outdoor loudspeakers blasting the call to prayer five times a day.
Rina’s health is suffering as a result of the nocturnal interruptions.
“I started having insomnia, and after a while, I was diagnosed with anxiety disorders.” The Washington Newsday Brief News is a daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C.