Photo Credit: Dan via Flickr
A Minaret of the Sultanahmet Mosque, Istanbul

Hans-Joachim L. and his wife, from the city of Oer-Erkenschwick in Gelsenkirchen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, in 2015 filed a lawsuit against the muezzin calls for Friday prayers over the loudspeakers of a local mosque. On Thursday this week, the Gelsenkirchen Administrative Court issued a ban on Friday Muezzin calls, endorsing the municipality’s revoking of the mosque’s permit for gathering Muslims for Friday prayers over loudspeakers, the local Westfalen Post reported.

In 2013, the city of Oer-Erkenschwick first authorized the operation of a loudspeaker by the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (Ditib). Since then it has been used by the community’s imam every Friday afternoon for public prayer calls. But a couple complained to the city over its permit to the mosque, because they felt affected by the muezzin’s reputation for being against religious freedom.

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A year ago, the attorney for the plaintiffs stated: “This lawsuit is not only about the loudspeaker permit, but in particular about the inherent messages that are publicly distributed in the Muezzin call.”

The muezzin call violates the permit’s mandated prohibition on disseminating “negative religious liberties,” according to the attorney, meaning that no one should be coerced into any particular faith – which the attorney argued is the case with the muezzin call, asserting an Islamic exclusive representation at the expense of other religions.

The judgment does not mean, however, that the use of the loudspeakers to broadcast muezzin calls has been prohibited in principle. It only means that the city must take into account in future permits the calls’ negative religious liberties.

In 2014, the city granted the Ditib community a temporary license until the end of 2015. “We feared,” said Michael Grzeskowiak, then head of the Public Order Office, “that if we gave a longer term the district would be inundated with Muezzin calls.”

The permit limited Muezzin calls in Oer-Erkenschwick to a maximum time of 15 minutes on Fridays only, between 12 and 2 PM.

In Israel, a bill curbing Muezzin calls to the hours between 7 AM and 11 PM every day passed its initial reading in the Knesset plenum in March 2017, and has since been lingering in committee, having raised cantankerous objections from Arab MKs from all factions.

Incidentally, according to the Westfalen Post, a Christian Syrian neighbor of the mosque also complained about the Muezzin calls, but was “massively threatened” by his Muslim neighbors and withdrew his complaint.

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