In the course of my work I used to visit Kota Kinabalu (KK) many years ago and still have a number of close friends and relatives through marriage. It is a lovely city with beautiful beaches and serene islands. Its golf courses are among the best in the country. It used to be a quiet town where people of all ethnic groups were seen to mix well sharing stories and having drinks in Chinese coffee shops. Simple and friendly. The only negative feature then was the presence of (illegal) immigrants peddling all sorts of goods from cigarettes to watches.
Life was uncomplicated otherwise, except for the political turmoil of the mid-eighties. The town was given a city status and rapid development took place from this point on. I could hardly recognise the changes that have taken place to transform KK’s landscape over the last fifteen years. The place is booming and tourism has become its top earning income. Hotels and beach resorts are world-class and lately shops are converted into backpackers’ hostels and apparently the city is still in need of more rooms to accommodate the ever larger stream of visitors to this East Malaysian state.
An entrepreneurial friend had converted an old St John Ambulance building into a lodging house with quaint facilities. It was doing rather well in the beginning but then, while other cheap accommodation maintained their popularity, this lodge suddenly found itself making losses. The reason? Clients were incensed with the noise made by the nearby mosque, from the early morning right into the night. They could withstand the calls for prayer ( the azan) but the loud praying, the religious talks and teachings being blared out in full force were too much to bear. The public address (PA) system was put in full blast. It was indeed disturbing to people especially of other faiths.
Now, things were not like this years ago. This blatant use of loudspeakers to pray and deliver religious talks etcetera is really insensitive. According to my friends this development is new that is just about over a year. And the individuals who give loud talks seem to be from West Malaysia and Indonesia from their accent or dialect. To think that almost 85% of the KK population is of other faiths!
Why is this insensitivity? Surely it is not the requirement or the characteristic of the religion which is based on respect for others. Many people suffer in silence, scared that by complaining they might offend the religion which is constitutionally official in this country.
People are lamenting at this new development and some think that this is UMNO/BN policy of extending PA system’s use to include all religious activities beside the call for prayer, and the more they are not going to give their precious votes to the coalition. Mark my word.
The same is happening in Indonesia. This inconsiderate use of the loud speakers to conduct religious activities cowing the people into submission and silent resistance. The online article here on the fight of one man, a Muslim at that to lower the volume of the mosque laudspeaker seems harrowing to me. People could become so ethnocentric that they forget the basic teaching of the religion, one of which is living in harmony.
As I flew out of KK that day, I looked down from the air at my friend’s failed venture, all because he could not foresee the new religious zeal that has descended upon his beloved city. I feel depressed.
I would like to re post the above article here for those who want to read it here and not in another window.
Villagers condemn mosque protester
Paper Edition | Page: 8
A lawsuit filed by a Muslim named Sayed Hasan, 75, against a local mosque for the excessive use of its public address (PA) system in Kampong Jawa, Banda Aceh, has been met with condemnation by the local community. They have gone so far as to threatened to evict Sayed from the village if he continues with the lawsuit.
“If he remains determined in filing the lawsuit against the use of the loudspeaker at Al Muchsinin Mosque, he will face the local community and the risks or be evicted from the village,” said Kampong Jawa village chief Ridwan AR.
According to Ridwan, Hasan’s behavior goes against the Aceh provincial administrations’ policy of developing Banda Aceh as a civil and Islamic city, especially since Aceh is the only province that imposes Islamic law in everyday life.
The local community also uses the loudspeakers at mosques to convey messages regarding people’s activities, from religious to social activities.
“This is a shameful case and offends members of the Acehnese community that adhere to Islam,” said Ridwan.
The case came to light after Sayed filed a lawsuit against caretakers of the Al-Muchsinin Mosque, the Banda Aceh municipality, the sharia office and Aceh Ulema Consultation Council (MPU) for the excessive use of PA systems at mosques.
Sayed previously said that the loudspeakers could be used as a form of bullying by mosques and certainly had disrupted his daily prayers.
“I feel very uncomfortable with the volume they set,” Sayed said. “My illness just makes it worse.”
Sayed had asked representatives of the Al Muchsinin Mosque, the Banda Aceh city administration, the sharia office and the MPU to ask local mosques to turn down the volume of their loudspeakers.
Sayed vowed to find a way to make himself heard by the authorities, citing the example of Malaysia, where mosques can be instructed to turn down the volume of their loudspeakers.
Villagers consider Sayed’s excuse of having a heart condition irrelevant, because he was the only complainant, while residents who live close to the mosque said they had no objection to the sound emitted by its loud speakers.
Banda Aceh Deputy Mayor Illiza Sa’aduddin said the lawsuit filed against the mosque was in line with the law.
The Banda Aceh municipality has no plan to issue a bylaw on the use of PA systems at mosques because it is regarded the domain of the MPU.
The MPU deems Hasan’s lawsuit to be baseless and lacking strong arguments despite his claim of suffering ill health.
“Actually, he [Sayed] once approached the MPU requesting the issuance of an edict related to the use of PA systems at mosques, but we considered it unnecessary in Aceh,” said Aceh MPU head Ghazali Muhammad Syam.
According to Ghazali, several regions and villages in Aceh have a special regulation on the use of PA systems at mosques, so it is not necessary for MPU clerics to issue an edict.
In 2012, Vice President Boediono criticized the high volume of speakers used to broadcast the call to prayer, saying he would prefer that the call be made at a lower volume. The call to prayer is made five times a day.
Boediono also asked council members to begin discussing a policy to limit the volume of loudspeaker broadcasts at mosques in the country.
His request has received mixed reactions from various groups