On loudspeaker ban


Mohd Izzuddin Ramli, Malay Mail Online

Inter-religious relations once again becomes a hot potato issue in Penang. I still remember a few years ago, there was an issue of public toilets in the state that were said to resemble the design of mosques.

The mosques that were located in Padang Polo and Gurney Drive had caused public discontent when a few groups of Malay NGOs claimed that the state government were insensitive to the Malay-Muslim community and urged the government to take appropriate action.

The protest was linked to many unsubstantiated allegations about DAP-led government that allegedly it violated the sanctity of Islam and tried to confuse Muslims.

Now, the not-so-new issue; the call to stop the use of loudspeakers in mosques and surau for things other than azan and iqamah has become a public dispute. This does mean that the Quran recitation, religious lecture and any other occasions cannot be held by using loudspeakers.

The decision to regulate the external loudspeakers of mosques by Pulau Pinang Fatwa Council Committee turned out to be a major controversy to the state government when it — gain — is held responsible for the decision.

I was wondering how difficult the state government has to deal with all the stirs created by the groups that claimed to represent Malay-Muslims. Few days ago, chaos happened when the management of Komtar had to close the building when the so-called “Defenders of Islam” planned to march to the Penang government administrative building to protest against the decision.

I was not so surprised by the episode, as it was a regular thing for the groups when there is dissatisfaction — or jokingly put — they have a lot of time to kill. What was apparent was that they were not actually representing all Malays.

The surprising thing is that, the request to ask for the ban of the use of external loudspeakers for the occasions other than azan and iqamah actually came from the Muslim community itself. The decision was actually to show the spirit of tolerance by the Muslim community to non-Muslim community who live in the neighbourhood.

A good friend of mine told me that, the non-Muslim community has been tolerant when the Muslim community asked to turn down the loudspeaker’s volume of any event in the temple that in turn would bother the Muslims. Now it’s time for the Muslims to reciprocate.

The misunderstanding of issues that led to the act of ludicrousness is one thing that we should take into account. Similarly, to find the right place of where and how we should channel the issue is also important.

But to tackle the real issue, we need to examine the root of the problem. Taking the case of regulating or ban the use of external loudspeakers for the Quran reciting before or after the Muslim’s morning prayer, the question we need to raise here is how necessary is the practice for the Muslims especially when the debate about social-religious harmony becomes something of a hot button of late?

To echo what Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin has pointed out earlier, Islam specifies the need to raise voice only for the call to prayer. There is no religious text that urges the Muslims to amplify the voice and cause disruption to others. Even the act was forbidden by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

What is noteworthy is that, there is no compulsion to let others to listen to our recitation of Quran even among the Muslims themselves. There are circumstances where people choose not to listen; for instance, those who are sick and in need of a quiet atmosphere. The need of menstruating women, who are not obliged to perform prayers, has to be respected too, let alone non-Muslims.

To me, the issue is not about — like some people would think — the purity of Islam being threatened and therefore the Muslims must stand to defend it. But the bigger fish to fry is, how far do we understand the Quran?

If we really do want to fathom every single teaching of Quran, we should better understand that there are calls for Muslims to be more tolerant of others.

Are we just lulled by the beautiful and melodic recitation of the Quran? If the enchanting melody of the Quranic recitation makes us think that we are better than others and makes us become more arrogant, then we definitely need to rethink all the practices that we do as Muslim. Why could we not value all the good teachings taught by Islam?

I have always believed that it is a good thing for Muslims to listen and more importantly to understand the Quran so that we would always remember that there is a greater power other than human beings. It warns us about the afterlife and the compulsion to maintain our relationship with God and fellow human beings.

But if we ignore the calls for maintaining the relationships with other people of diverse religious backgrounds, then again we have to rethink whether we might have not received yet the whole teaching of Islam.

The issue of the use of external loudspeakers in mosques and all other woes have to be taken seriously and carefully studied by all parties, particularly the Muslims. The issue can be used to re-examine the way we embrace Islam in our daily lives.

Just like any other religions, Islam shares the common goal of bringing humanity to goodness and prosperity. There is no need to call for Muslims to put down other religions in defence of Islam. But rather more importantly, how we behave and show good deed, and being a good example to others are the true jihad that can give a good impression of Islam.

* Mohd Izzuddin Ramli is a research analyst in Penang Institute.