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Misuse of mosque loudspeakers

Misuse of mosque loudspeakers

Author: Editorial
Publication: Dawn, Karachi
Date: November 2, 2001

The government has decided to clamp down on the misuse of loudspeakers in mosques, and directed the provincial governments to strictly implement this ban. The use of mosque loudspeakers will now be restricted to calling the faithful to prayer and for the Friday khutba (sermon).

The timing of the announcement is clearly related to the turbulent internal situation following the US-led attacks on Afghanistan. Recently, certain prayer leaders have been using strong language against the government for aligning itself with the anti-terrorism coalition, with mosques being used as rallying points for the anti-government campaign. The official announcement has termed these attacks as "malicious and seditious." While the announcement has been strongly condemned by some religious groups, it will be welcomed by most moderate elements in society.

Over the years, certain mosques have been using loudspeakers to openly incite people against various sects. Frequently, two rival sects launch full-blast verbal attacks against one another from neighbouring mosques, much to the alarm of local residents caught in the crossfire as well as normal worshippers who go to mosques to pray and not to get caught up in a blizzard of sectarian vituperation.

Part of the blame for the growing sectarian violence in the country can be attributed to this tendency to make inflammatory pronouncements from the pulpit. Apart from the political and sectarian dimensions of this practice, there is also a social element involved. Many people privately complain about the incessant speeches and devotional songs that blare out from certain mosques at all hours of the day and night. For those who are ailing, or need to study for their examinations, this can be highly distracting.

The government decision to curb such practices will be welcomed by many who have suffered in silence in the face of this onslaught. Welcome though it is, the crux of the matter is the enforcement of this restriction. With thousands of mosques spread across the country, how will the authorities manage to implement the plan? And does the government have the will to remain firm even if the action leads to a defiant reaction? Despite these constraints, the government must stick to its decision. Perhaps it could begin its campaign by getting at some of the most blatant offenders. The government must show that it means business and will crack down on anyone who misuses places of worship to incite people to violence and hatred.

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