Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Saturday, January 26, 2008


The people of Oxford (or a vocal minority thereof) seem to be getting incensed by the idea of their local mosque's having applied to broadcast a call to prayer three times a day through a loudspeaker.

Well, OK, having had the experience of waking up in an Islamic city and hearing the amplified throat-clearings and subsequent ululations of a successions of muezzins at various distances, all overlaid until the effect was of a Yemeni Steve Reich doing a sort of Arabic "Come Out To Pray Dem", I can hear where they're coming from; but I don't think one mosque, thrice daily, will have quite the shattering aural impact. (Nor do I know if the throat-clearing is a required part of the warm-up or a specifically Arab thing.)

Meanwhile, I recall my days as a student in Durham, where my undergraduate rooms were never very far from the cathedral, that in my first year being maybe two hundred feet at the most from the mighty belfry. Over my first few days (and nights) in Durham I had become inoculated against the chimes of the clock (when I had been up for interview it had woken me at quarter past every hour of the night - I assume the hours had brought me nearly awake each time). As someone to whom Sunday mornings were made for sleep, I took a dim view however of the discovery that, in this city, Sunday mornings were for bell-ringing. Much, and long. And loud.

While Oxford (a city I have never visited) may have nothing with the campanological clout of Durham cathedral, I hope that Allen Chapman and his cronies will also be campaigning against such naked Christian imperialism - a sound, moreover, that many find threatening. If, that is, it hasn't already deafened them. Muslim calls to prayer are at least short and comparatively quiet.

Of course, it might just be that it isn't the noise or the religious intrusiveness that motivates these people but simple racial hatred and religious bigotry. I would think the belfry test should allow us to make that distinction, wouldn't you?

(No campanologists were harmed in the writing of this post.)


At 26 January, 2008 10:37, Anonymous Gert said...

I used to live not far from a significant but essentially local suburban parish church (I was No.16 of the road that faced the church) and the bell ringing woke me most Sundays, the exceptions being when Saturday had been very heavy drinkwise.

When I went to Israel the first noticeable sound I heard was the Muezzin's call to prayer. I actually like the sound, and can think of many worse noises that are utterly commonplace where I live and I daresay in every other vaguely urban setting. Although I have some sympathy for opposition to any increase in unnecessary sounds, because, obviously the citizens of Oxford are being presented with 'more' not 'alternative'.

And yes, I do find the call to prayer utterly unnecessary. If people want to go and pray, so be it, they can use their alarm clocks and the muezzin can be unamplified, in accordance with centuries of tradition.


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