The Hualong Hui Autonomous County in Northwest China’s Qinghai Province has removed over 1,000 loudspeakers from mosques to eliminate noise pollution, according to a report by local newspaper Haidong Times. Loudspeakers were removed from 355 mosques within 3 days recently in the city with a large Muslim population according to a Friday report that was later deleted. A screen grab of the report is still circulated online.
The report said the Hualong government has organized various departments and institutions including the Islamic Association to tackle noise pollution caused by numerous local mosques. Environmental protection inspectors from the central government to Haidong received complaints from residents about noise pollution from loudspeakers of mosques this year.
Hualong Hui Autonomous County in China’s Qinghai province has removed over one thousand loudspeakers over three days. The removal of the call to prayer has angered muslims in the area who have branded the locals as intolerant. It comes as anti-muslim sentiment rises in China and the Chinese government cracks down on people practicing the Islamic faith.
Complaints about noise pollution from mosques are common in Northwest China where mosques have mushroomed in recent years. Residents living near mosques complain that the Islamic calls to prayer wake them up in the early morning, and in some cases aggravate heart conditions of some patients. The environmental protection authorities usually step in and solve the problem.
The call to prayer, recited at prescribed times of the day in mosques, is a centuries-old tradition, and the loudspeakers were invented in 1920s. The ritual itself is not forbidden and Muslims are free to practice their religion across China.
The removal of loudspeakers in Hualong has apparently met with discontent online from some Muslims who complained the move shows intolerance, but most online users cheered the solution to noise pollution and encouraged other local governments to do the same.
Loudspeakers at Mosques’ minarets have caused controversy in many countries, including Muslim countries. In 2012, Vice President Boediono of Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, called on mosques to tone down their noise after widespread complaints, AFP reported. Saudi Arabia banned mosque loudspeakers for special night prayers during Ramadan in 2012, according to the Arab News.
In India, Mumbai’s high court in 2014 directed the police to remove loudspeakers from mosques that had not obtained required permissions from the authorities. The loudspeakers of mosques have also caused tensions in the US and Germany.
According to a report by state mouthpiece Global Timeson August 21, the loudspeakers were removed due to noise complaints. Environmental protection inspectors allegedly received complaints about noise pollution from local mosques. Residents close to the places of worship have complained that Islamic calls to prayer wake them up early in the morning and they claim in some cases have aggravated heart conditions of some patients.
Locals were said to have put their support for the new move in posts online encouraging other governments to do the same. According to Global Times, the call to prayer ritual is not forbidden and Muslims are ‘free to practice their religion across China.’ However in some areas of China such as Xinjiang, the government has been cracking down on Islamic activities. Now in the province, people under 18 are not allowed to visit the mosque while burqas and ‘Islamic looking’ beards have also been banned.
Peter Irwin, World Uyghur Congress Project Manager told MailOnline: ‘The article tries to show that there is clear support from the local population. Anti-muslim sentiment has been growing in recent years online, so it is of little surprise that it has emerged in this case as well.
In China, there are numerous cases where the government is arresting imams on flimsy charges, sending government cadres to people’s homes during Ramadan to ensure they don’t pray and banning outward manifestation of Islamic faith. Seen in this context, it’s highly likely that the move to take down loudspeakers in mosques is a way to ensure Islam literally has a diminished voice in the public square.