Indonesian mosques ordered to turn down the volume

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Indonesian mosques have been ordered to cut down on their use of loudspeakers, an Islamic group said Wednesday, a move that may provide some relief to millions who live near the places of worship.

There are some 800,000 mosques in Indonesia, which has the world’s biggest Muslim population, and many use speakers to blast out the call to prayer as well as fiery Koranic verses, often at high volumes in the early hours.

But now the Indonesian Mosques Council has asked the places of worship to restrict the use of loudspeakers following years of complaints by weary residents.

“We must not force something that we believe is good on others who may see it as a disturbance,” said Masdar Masudi, deputy head of the council that groups many of the country’s mosques.

“Even Muslims, such as those who are ill or have insomnia, will definitely get annoyed at the noise.”

Loudspeakers that face into surrounding neighborhoods should broadcast only the call to prayer, which is often relatively quiet and short, said Masudi.

If there are several mosques in the same area, only one should broadcast the call, he said.

For longer and louder readings, speakers can still be used, but they must face into the grounds of the mosque, he said.

Mosques become particularly noisy during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims forgo food, drink and sex between dawn and dusk and the loudspeakers blare out Koranic verses almost constantly.

Previous attempts to get mosques to lower their volume have met with extreme opposition.

An elderly Indonesian was forced earlier this year to withdraw a legal action against a noisy mosque in the city of Banda Aceh on Sumatra Island after an angry mob threatened to kill him.

Nevertheless, he ended up winning a rare victory -- the mosque in question turned down the volume significantly after the case.

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