Mosques’ loudspeaker wars jangle many nerves
Indonesia’s mosques are trying to sound their best for the Ramadan fasting month, splashing out on high quality loudspeakers to woo the faithful and avoid upsetting non-Muslims.
With about 800,000 mosques serving the world’s largest Muslim population, the cacophony of calls to prayer from poor quality and badly synchronised speakers has become an increasing irritation. Senior Muslims, and even the country’s vice-president, have questioned whether the enthusiasm might be getting out of hand.
“One complaint includes when there are two or three [mosques] in a neighbourhood and they get involved in a loudspeaker war, trying to be louder than the others,” said Amidhan, a head of the highest Islamic authority, the Ulema Council.
Some mosques are responding by seeking better speakers, and a local company, V8sound, is trying to tap into that market with its “al-Karim” speakers.
“Indonesian mosques can have a jazz lounge standard,” said Harry Kissowo, the company founder and audio adviser for the presidential palace. More mosques, he says, are willing to pay the 25 million rupiah (£1,700) price tag for an al-Karim.
The use of loudspeakers for five prayer calls a day increases during Ramadan, and can include a pre-dawn reminder.
There is a growing desire to show an Islamic identity in Indonesia. More women are wearing headscarves and mass Koran recitals are on the rise. That trend has been accompanied by concern that Indonesian society, where Muslims vastly outnumber other religious groups, may be turning intolerant.
“If a loud call was to last only five to ten minutes, five times a day, we would not object. The five mosques near us, though, begin the morning call to prayer at different times. For 30-45 minutes, the noise is deafening,” Rosie Kameo, from Java, wrote to the Jakarta Post newspaper.
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