Bronx Mosque Suspends Request to Amplify Call to Prayer; Residents Remain Unsympathetic

A Bronx mosque that had sought a sound permit to amplify its morning call to prayer has quietly rescinded its application.

But the Jame Masjid mosque's revocation of the proposal didn't hush its neighbors, since the mosque plans to resubmit its request to play the undulating ribbon of Arabic invocation, or adhan, through a loudspeaker during four of five daily prayer times.

Residents called the plan, which was unveiled in October, an imposition on the daily lives of a diverse community. The idea of prayer booming through the streets also touched off cultural resentments.

"When in Rome do as the Romans do," said Gerri Lamb, who lives a quarter mile from the mosque. "If you're not in your own country, in your own culture, then you can't force me to be a part of it"...

The comment, made during a Community Board 9 hearing on the issue (though the proposal was off the table at the moment), seemed to sum up neighborhood tensions. The local advisory board had asked residents to avoid that type of commentary while testifying, but Lamb received uproarious applause.

For those who live around the Virginia Avenue mosque, the daily din threatens their quality of life. Over the course of a year, a muezzin will have sung the call to prayer 1,460 times.

Residents frowned upon the constant disruption. They envisioned life with the incessant sound filling their living rooms. They pictured school lessons pausing as it permeated through local classrooms. They said the prayer would be equally piercing to local businesses.

The mosque has omitted the first in the daily sequence of five prayers. That first prayer is said around 5 a.m. -- a predawn hour that would probably would have provoked a greater outcry.

But locals criticized the need to amplify the call at any time, especially in this technological age where alternatives like an iPhone application with daily prayer time reminders can be used. "Why do we all have to hear it?" asked Gwendolyn Brown, a 20-year resident. "That's imposing their religious beliefs over ours."

Some worried that an approval for this mosque's sound system could set a precedent for other religious institutions seeking permits. "What are you going to say when the next mosque comes?" one reverend asked.

For now, local board members do not have to weigh in on the plan. The issue created so much debate at an October forum that the local advisory board rescheduled a second public sounding session for last night at IS 125 on Gleason Avenue, a much larger venue.

Nobody testified in favor of the plan.

Mohammed Ahia, a member of the Board #9, said that the mosque needed to submit plans at a later date because they could not draw enough support at the second hearing. The date coincided with mosque members performing haj, a religious pilgrimage.

Ahia, who also worships at the mosque, said that the Arabic intonation lasted about a minute, each time it is performed. "It's a nice sound," he said.


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