Demands by a Moroccan researcher to stop using microphones in the calls for prayers have stirred strong reactions from Islamist scholars and a heated debate started over how religious the practice is and how political the demand seems to be.
Moroccan researcher in Islamist movements, Saeed Lakhal, called upon the government to ban the use of microphones in mosques on the grounds that they disturb residents in the neighboring areas not only because of the sound, but also owing to the ideas they spread.
“Many mosques in Morocco are not exclusively used for spiritual purposes and serve instead as a channel to propagate political ideologies,” he told Al Arabiya. “This is especially true when it comes to mosques run by Islamists.”
Mosques all over the country, Lakhal added, are under the supervision of the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs and are accordingly bound by specific regulations.
“This means that those movements that run mosques either abide by those regulations or give up control over the mosques all together.”
Lakhal added that using microphones also bothers those living in residential areas close to mosques and that this becomes more obvious in Ramadan when the “taraweeh” prayers, performed every evening throughout the holy month and in each of which a part of the Quran is read, are also transmitted via microphones.
“Using microphones becomes a necessity only in the case of over-crowded mosques when people have to pray outside and need a microphone to hear the prayer.”
Regarding the sensitivity of the issue and how offended some people might be by his request, Lakhal stressed there is nothing in what he suggested that could be considered offensive to Muslims or Islam.
“The strength of faith is never measured by how loud the calls for prayers are and mosques that do not use microphones still do their religious job.”
Lakhal pointed out that the complaints of residents about mosque microphones, which are filed at the Ministry of Endowments, prove that people do not approve of the practice.
Preacher and Islamist scholar Dr. Mohamed Boulouz accused Lakhal of having ulterior motives and of trying to strip Morocco of its Islamic identity.
“Lakhal’s ideas go against the majority. Who is he representing? And to whose benefit is he doing this?” Boulouz told Al Arabiya.
Boulouz added that Lakhal’s request is in line with the “poisonous” ideas he promotes in his articles.
“He pretends he is a modernist while he is in fact an anti-religious exclusionist.”
Boulouz argued that Lakhal’s proposal is not valid since there are very few mosques in Morocco in comparison to the population and the majority of worshippers pray outside.
“So instead of calling for building more mosques, he wants to silence the already existing ones.”
As for the taraweeh about which Lakhal complained, Boulouz pointed out that those prayers are performed in the early evening.
“At this time the streets are crowded and people are coming and going. In Ramadan, people stay up till very late.”
Boulouz added that if Lakhal was sincere in wanting to make sure residents are comfortable, he should also call for a law that prohibits microphones in parties and carnivals.
“Don’t those microphones in events organized by modernists like him disturb the sick, students who have exams, employees who have work, and others?”
According to last statistics by the Moroccan Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs, there are around 48,000 mosques in Morocco, 13,000 in cities and 35,000 in villages. This means that every 5,000 people are served by seven mosques.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)