Last week when I wrote about a single mosque in Toronto using four loudspeakers to declare "Allah is the Greatest" and that there is "No God, but Allah," I thought it was the case of one mosque, a few zealots and their formerly communist councillor investing in her Muslim vote bank.
I was wrong. Within days, dozens of mosques across the country deployed loudspeakers, ostensibly to soothe the loneliness of Muslims because of the lockdown, but what critics may rightly claim could be laying the foundations to establish what are predominantly Muslim neighbourhoods, which we see in Paris, Amsterdam and cities in Britain and Germany.
The most blatant illustration of the power some voices in the Muslim community have over our municipal politicians was demonstrated in Mississauga, where Mayor Bonnie Crombie rejected the advice of her top administrators, and in a drive-by vote managed to pass a unanimous resolution amending the city noise bylaw that will legalize the blaring of loudspeakers at all Mississauga mosques.
When Mississauga councillors Sue McFadden and Ron Star on Wednesday sought to overturn the first vote and have a discussion, they were somehow persuaded by the mayor into changing their mind. The fact that critics of the loudspeakers have already been labelled racist and Islamophobic would scare the bravest amongst us.
If Crombie thought the affected people would simply roll over and hand the keys of city decision-making to the Mullahs of Mississauga, she was in for a surprise. The city known for its suburban subservience triggered a citizen's revolt led by one person – Ram Subrahmanian, who announced a plan to launch a constitutional challenge against the change of Mississauga's noise laws.
Subrahmanian, who is part of the Peel Region group Keep Religion Out Of Peel Region Schools (KROOPS), also managed to receive around $120,000 for this cause through a Facebook page. As of Wednesday, Subrahmanian appears to have recruited over 6,000 people, each committing to donate around $45 for the court battle ahead.
He was joined by Muslim Canadian Congress spokesperson Munir Pervaiz, who cited many Islamic scholars who have denounced the use of loudspeakers in mosques as against the spirit of Islam.
Subrahmanian told me lawyers are preparing to seek a constitutional challenge in the Ontario Courts of Justice. "This is not about religion or being against Islam. This is about the separation of religion and state and preventing any group trying to thrust their religion on others via loudspeakers that blare religious messages into the privacy of homes," he said.
So, what exactly is the Islamic call to prayer? Here is the English translation:
Allahu Akbar ("Allah is greatest," four times)
I testify that there is no God, but Allah (twice)
I testify that Mohammed is God's Prophet (twice)
Come to prayer (twice)
Come to salvation (twice)
Allahu Akbar (twice)
There is no God, but Allah (twice)
Cities across Europe and in India (home to the world's second-largest population) have taken measures to ban the loudspeaker.
In Germany, a non-Muslim couple succeeded in banning a mosque from broadcasting its Friday midday call to prayer by loudspeaker.
Elsewhere, the Green Party mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, refused a mosque's request for loudspeaker call to prayer, saying that "given advances in technology, from alarms to apps, it was not necessary to use loudspeakers to remind the faithful when to pray."
In India courts have ruled against the use of loudspeakers on mosque minarets, but the faithful continue to defy the laws.
The fact is that for 1,400 years, through the conflicts of Islam's birth in the 7th century to the "golden era" of Andalusia and Baghdad (11th to 14th centuries), Islam's call to prayer was never accentuated to increase the decibel noise.
According to Pervaiz, the loudspeaker has little to do with Islam and everything to do with Islamism — the use of Islam for political purposes.
Tarek Fatah, a founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress and columnist at the Toronto Sun, is a Robert J. and Abby B. Levine Fellow at the Middle East Forum.