Kalla urges mosques to tone it down
Haeril Halim and Tassia Sipahutar
The Jakarta Post
The government is moving to another method of promoting social harmony in Indonesia's pluralistic, heterogeneous society by asking mosques to curtail the use of loudspeakers that disrupt neighborhoods.
It has also called on the leaders of mosques, the houses of worship for the country's largest religious community, Muslims, to be at the forefront of the promotion of peace and harmony.
Vice President Jusuf Kalla criticized on Wednesday mosque administrators for relaying Koranic recitals at too high a volume over their loudspeakers and disrupting life in their neighborhoods, especially before morning prayers at 4 a.m. Recitals, he said, should go on for no longer than 30 minutes.
'Consider the fact that there are babies out there, or ill people, or people who got home late at night and want to go to work at 7 a.m. but are awakened at 4 a.m. They will go to the office with sleepy eyes,' Kalla said.
As mosques are located close to each other in Indonesia, Kalla said it was important for mosque managers to soften the volume of their amplifiers so that recitals and the call to prayer could be heard clearly but softly by congregation members.
Kalla also reminded the management of mosques across the country to stay alert, watching out for and curbing any potential campaigns by radical preachers wanting to spread extreme messages to mosque congregations.
Speaking in his capacity as chairman of the Indonesian Mosque Council (DMI) while inaugurating new members of the Central Sulawesi DMI board of leadership, Kalla encouraged mosque administrators to revitalize the function of the mosque to make it not only a place for worship but also a place that strengthens social cohesion among religious believers.
The senior member of the Association of Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Association (ICMI) made the call just weeks after authorities revealed suspicions that five mosques in Jakarta had been used as recruitment centers for the Islamic State (IS) movement.
'Mosques should not be used to spread inappropriate things such as radicalism,' Kalla said in his speech.
Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma'ruf Amin said the volume of mosques' loudspeakers should be adjusted to the needs of local residents because some people found them helpful as an alarm before morning prayer whereas others found them disturbing.
'Things related to religious practices should not disturb others. If people feel that [the recital] is disturbing then that mosque should limit its volume,' Ma'ruf told The Jakarta Post.
Muhammadiyah leadership board member M. Busyro Muqoddas said there was no need to establish a special regulation on mosque amplifiers because they were part of religious practices and as such protected by the Constitution.
He said that the call to prayer, which runs for around three to five minutes, should remain as it is, but that each mosque should consider adjusting the volume of its loudspeakers when broadcasting recitals or other religious activities.
'It is important for Muslims to hear the call to prayer so they know that they should prepare themselves to go to the mosque,' Busyro said.
As one of the new social harmony measures, regional DMI offices will be expected to encourage mosques to facilitate more non-prayer activities such as inviting banking experts to give speeches briefing congregations on how to improve their respective businesses.
Kalla said it was important to regulate the establishment of new mosques in the future to ensure that they complied with spatial planning laws. There are now around 800,000 to 1 million mosques in Indonesia and the number will keep growing, Kalla believes, because some mosques are established without the required permits from authorities.
'Only God knows the exact figure due to the lack of official data. So now, statistically, every 200 Muslims have one mosque and that makes the space between mosques very small. Every one, or even half-kilometer, there is a mosque,' said Kalla.
The Vice President added that mosque managers in Indonesia enjoyed a lot of freedom because they were not supervised by the government as mosques were built using private donations, not state funding.
'Only in Indonesia and Pakistan is the establishment of mosques initiated and funded by locals. In other countries they are built and supervised by the government,' Kalla said.
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