Piety or noise nuisance? Indonesia tackles call to prayer volume backlash

“There is a tendency to set the volume high so that the call to prayer can be heard by as many worshippers as possible from far away because they consider it a symbol of greatness in Islam”

(Yahoo News) – Every night at 3:00 am, Rina is jolted awake by blaring speakers so loud she has developed an anxiety disorder: she can’t sleep, she’s too nauseous to eat — but she is also too scared to complain because doing so could see her jailed or attacked.

The noisy neighbour is the local mosque in her Jakarta suburb, and the clamorous sound is the call to prayer.

Both are so sacred in Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim majority nation, that criticising them can lead to accusations of blasphemy, a crime punishable by as much as five years imprisonment.

“None dares to complain about it here,” says Rina, a 31-year-old Muslim woman who is using a pseudonym in case of reprisals.

“The loudspeakers are not only used for call to prayer but they also use it to wake people up 30-40 minutes before the morning prayer time,” she tells AFP, adding that she is at breaking point after enduring the noise for six months.

Online complaints about noisy loudspeakers are increasing, but the lack of anonymity and fear of a backlash means there are no reliable official statistics. Aware of the growing discord, the Indonesian Mosque Council (IMC) is deploying teams to tackle mosque sound systems around the nation — but it’s a delicate subject.

The Southeast Asian archipelago was once hailed for its religious tolerance with people of many faiths living alongside each other, but there are concerns its moderate brand of Islam is coming under threat from hardliners.

In 2018, a Buddhist woman was jailed after saying the call to prayer “hurt my ears”, and earlier this year actress and influencer Zaskia Mecca, who has 19 million followers on Instagram, was condemned online after the hijab-wearing Muslim criticised mosque speaker volume during the holy month of Ramadan.

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