Call to Prayer Stirs a Midwest Town
HAMTRAMCK, Mich. - These are the sounds of Caniff Street on a windy spring afternoon:
Shrieks and giggles from children bouncing a playground ball. Chimes from the St. Ladislaus Catholic Church bell. The thump of rap music. The rumble of a Doritos delivery truck. The shrill of a teacher's whistle, calling kids in from recess.
Later this month, another sound will join the Caniff Street cacophony: The azan, or Muslim call to prayer, will echo five times a day from the scuffed beige building across from the church.
"Allahu Akbar," the mosque's president will intone. Allah is the greatest.
"Ashhadu allailaha illallah," he will sing into the loudspeaker. There is no other God but Allah.
The City Council in this community of 23,000 last week approved the mosque's request to amplify the traditional call to prayer. The imam says the chant, which lasts about a minute and a half, will be heard for a block or two at most.
"It's beautiful music, really, a very good rhythm, and the meaning is good," said Abusayed Mahfuz, a member of the mosque. "I don't see why there should be a problem."
But the council's unanimous decision has touched off anger, and fear, in this historically Polish Catholic town.
"With so much going on in the world with terrorism, people are afraid maybe they'll be saying things [in Arabic] that we don't understand," said Marti Sharp, 47, a bakery manager.
"If they're going to say it out loud, at least they should say it in English," added co-worker Kathy Trusick, 60.
Circulating a petition to overturn the council's vote, some residents insist their sole objection is the noise. Others raise more fundamental concerns: It's not right, they say, for a patriotic Midwest city to ring with praise for Allah.
"I'm not a bigot. But as an American citizen, I shouldn't have to have someone else's religion constantly called to my attention," said Bob Golen, 68.
"If you want to pray, wonderful," said his wife, Joanne, also 68. "Do it in your mosques. Do it in your homes. But don't bring it to my front porch. Amen."
Settled by Polish immigrants who came to work at the Dodge automobile factory that opened here in 1914, Hamtramck has long taken pride in its ethnic flavor - its polka music and pierogi and Polish bakeries loaded with sugar-dusted pastries.
"A touch of Europe in America," folks here liked to say.
In the last two decades, however, new immigrants have flooded Hamtramck. They're drawn by the location - five miles from downtown Detroit - and by the inexpensive real estate. The houses are weathered and packed so close together, there's barely room for a few inches of grass between neighbors. But they're solidly built with inviting porches, and they're often priced at less than $75,000.
By the 2000 census, just 23% of residents indicated Polish ancestry. Nearly 10% said they were of Arabic origin. Another 10% are Asian - half of them Indian - and 15% are black.
Many in the city have worked hard to accommodate and integrate the new arrivals. King Video now stocks rows of DVDs in Albanian, Arabic, Polish and other languages. The public library carries the children's fable "The Giant Turnip" in Bengali, Polish, Arabic and Serbo-Croatian. A poster for subsidized preschool is translated into nine languages.
At the Envy Me hair salon, barber Tyrone Hanes says the Bangladeshi Muslims who worship next door are "pretty cool people" - and loyal customers too. Ali Qayed, a Yemeni immigrant who runs the Get & Go convenience store, jokes easily with shoppers of all ethnicities. And while Lyman Woodard, 28, doesn't have many Muslim clients in his tattoo parlor, he says he feels at home amid the new arrivals, even trying the ethnic restaurants springing up next to the sari shops and halal meat markets.
"We've proven that we know how to live together," Council President Karen Majewski said.
Hamtramck has even adopted a more inclusive motto: "A touch of the world in America."
But the uproar over the call to prayer has exposed resentment behind the harmony.
At Genie's Wienies - a hot dog stand that boasts in faded paint that it's been "owned and operated by Polish Americans since 1950" - Michelle Cieslak gave voice to a common theme.
"This is going to push out what's left of the Polish community in Hamtramck," said Cieslak, 40, who runs the family-owned business.
Cieslak and many of her neighbors say they can't understand why Muslims have been slow to adapt to American customs - though, in fact, their own ancestors still hold tightly to Old World traditions.
Even today, some elderly residents speak only Polish or Ukrainian as they browse Hamtramck's markets for smoked sausage and potato dumplings. There's a Polish Legion of American Veterans downtown and a mural of Krakow in Pope's Park; several buildings are painted with red-and-white Polish flags.
Yet some longtime residents criticize the new arrivals for clinging to their own cultural traditions: wearing headscarves, naming a Bangladeshi market BanglaTown, issuing the call to prayer in Arabic - and then insisting that men and women worship in separate rooms.
"Why are you in the United States of America if you don't want to become an American?" Bob Golen asked.
Worshipers at the Al-Islah Islamic Center say broadcasting the azan is not about blending into - or defying - the mainstream.
It's about tradition. And sacred obligation.
In deference to neighbors, the mosque's president, Abdul Motlib, has agreed not to broadcast before 6 a.m. or after 10 p.m., even if prayer times, which vary depending on the sunrise, fall that early or late.
Motlib acknowledges that the call to worship is not strictly necessary these days; websites list the prayer schedule. Nor does he expect to draw Muslims citywide - not with the loudspeaker muted so his lilting chant carries only a short distance.
He's motivated, instead, by a spiritual need to sing the invocation that Muslims the world over have called out five times a day for 1,400 years. Inviting the community to pray together, he says, brings more blessings than praying alone.
Though Al-Islah has not yet begun broadcasting - the council's approval takes effect May 26 - some non-Muslim residents here are already familiar with the call to prayer.
Just two square miles in area, Hamtramck is completely surrounded by Detroit. At least three mosques just across the border in Canada broadcast the azan five times a day. Majewski considers herself lucky when she hears it: "It's very, very soothing and spiritual," she said.
Others, however, complain that the Arabic grates on them.
"It sounds like a bunch of jibber-jabber," said Angela Damron, 30. She vows to move if she can hear Al-Islah's call to prayer from her house.
"Because I don't understand the language, it's even more offensive," Cieslak said.
Shahab Ahmed, who owns a local driving school, has heard such comments for years.
During his first failed run for the City Council in 1999, dozens of citizens of Arabic and Asian origin complained that they were harassed at the polls. Two residents were convicted of interfering with voters. Ahmed ran again in 2001, just after the Sept. 11 attacks. That time, he said, a flier calling him a terrorist was circulated anonymously.
Ahmed, 38, finally won election last year. As the town's first Muslim council member, he was delighted that his colleagues unanimously supported Al-Islah's request.
Majewski describes the vote as common sense. She says the mosque was already allowed to broadcast; by granting formal approval, the city preserved its right to regulate the times and volume of the call to prayer.
But Ahmed sees more significance in the decision. He hopes it's a first step toward breaking down the suspicion some of his neighbors have about the new faces on their streets.
"After Sept. 11, anything people hear about Islam, they're scared. But if they hear [the call to prayer] every day," Ahmed said, "the fear is going to fade away."
Source: LA Times
Topics: Adhan (Call To Prayers), Islam, Prayers (Salah)
on public land. Now your forcing people to have to listen to this. So
very double standard. It all starts a little bit here a little bit
there. Then surprise you are forced along to go by there rules.
I want everyone to reflect on the term 'Freedom'.Something considered 'freedom' for most,cannot be freedom for some.For e.g,the appropriation of the Natives' lands might be considered 'freedom' by the settlers,but was not considered 'freedom' by the natives.So, once we arrive and peruse on what exactly the term 'FREEDOM' implies,then we can ponder on the pros and cons on this issue.
Granted America is the land of free practice of any thing including religion.
The people who came here did not confirm to the majority of the natives for a simple reason, they were desimated by war & disease and became minority. I am not in agreement with that but that what happen, if you so stuck on sush issues so how about burying girls alive in pre-islam. That was wrong & the desimation of the natives is wrong. I do not know were you came from hopfully not in a boat againest your wish, so you must have come for the freedom, the opportunities that the new world offers you, by the wat by virtue of enjoying all that you are as guilty as the first setllers who killed you know who.
So since you are here I do not understand your objection to the rule of the majority to the best of my humble knowledge that democracy in emboded in Islam and do not be misguided by what you see in the Muslim world
and if you think that cutting thieves hand in Arabia is any thing of Islam I regret you are wrong, you see in an Islamic state the ruler is responsible for the welfare of his subjects & it is the ruler fault if one of his subjects went hungry, do not be fooled by the facade.
So you have problem with democracy you see freedom is not absolute, because if it became absolute it become every one does what ever he/she desires. You see prayers is one of the five pillers of Islam but the call for the prayers is not.
In every community ther are ordinance againest noise so should you have problem with unruly music call the police & complain about the noise,
having an unrely neighbor is not pass to disturb the peace.
You may like to hear the call for prayer 5 times a day but some one would not.
You have another option go into Jihad mode, take over the city then impose what ever you want, & call me after 6 month to complain that you can not sleep because of the noise, it is happening in the middle east but people are sick to talk. You would love it.
Granted your IQ is 200 or more would you please tell me how can I not hear the ADAN short of turning my self into a deft, you know you can turn off your TV or switch the channel or even not have a TV to start with. This option of not having the source of noise in the hood is not available to me .
By the way did you know that loud ADAN is not one of the pillers of ISLAM, I suppose you don't know.
I would suggest that you look deep into the PROPHET(God bleesing be upon him)hadith and you may find out that this practice is discouraged.
But anyway, what about those of us who *don't* think the azan is beautiful sounding? Some of us think that chanting sounds awful. Is there no consideration for those people?
BTW, for those who just want to hear the call every day, why not go to one of the online Islamic bookstores and buy yourself a Muslim alarm clock that plays that call? That way, only those in your house have to hear it and not the whole neighborhood.
The last paragraph I think is very correct:"After Sept. 11, anything people hear about Islam, they're scared. But if they hear [the call to prayer] every day," Ahmed said, "the fear is going to fade away." I pray that with patience, understanding, and education non-Muslim Americans can learn about the ture beauty and nature of Islam.
half the muslims in here are in absolute opposition to the azan being voiced over loudspeakers - mind you the voice wont get past a half a block radius) - but its muslims here who're opposing an integral part of the faith .. no need to ask why islamic culture has declined, the answer is right here.
No doubt that every religion would like to see its symbols every where, for a Moslum 5 times a day call for prayer may not be considered noise but a Church bell would be & I do not have any problem with that. It would be more appropriate if a referendom allowing the call for prayer by loud speaker 5 times a day provided that the majority of the residents pass the measure.
It appears that city counsel made a hasty ruling to avoid critisism or to appease some residents.
Let the Moslum population petion a resoluation allowing what they see as an important issue relative to their religion and since you are at it you may add to the resolution the required circumcision of evety Polish, Irish & Christian boy & girl within city limits.
There was a precedent in Oregen a RAGHISH took over a town( by majority) & changed the city name, so as you see have a majority then change even the city name to lets see MosqueaBad.
Trust me no body is after your faith people hate the noise at 5 a.m coming from a Mosque or a Chruch, stop the hysteria
Do you all really hear church bells that often? I live in the "Bible Belt" of the U.S. and I don't think I've EVER heard a church bell in my life. So, what's all the hype about that?
So what the Azan won't be given before 6 a.m. or after 10p.m.??? Many people are in church for Wednesday night Bible studies and in church Sunday mornings and/or evenings. You mean to tell me that the church goers across the street will have to be subjected to this? Hardly fair!
Frankly, I have heard the Islamic call to prayer and I have found it annoying, at best and spooky at worst.
Is there no place else to have built the mosque except right next to the church where the Believers will be interrupted throughout their services by this "call to prayer"?
Once again, thank you for the positive comments! They really make a difference.
I live in Detroit and have never heard the call
to prayer broadcast. I may start to attend Juma
services in Hamtramck, inshala, just to hear
the azan as well as lend my support to my
muslim brothers. The people in Hamtramck
are proud people fom all over and should feel
fortunate to live in such a diverse community.
You hear church bells from time to time which
is also a sort of "call" to the faithful. If a
non-muslim hears the beautiful azan, I pray
that Allah allows them to attend one kutbah
just to ease their heart & mind.
May Allah protect all the muslims of the world.
BY THE MAINSTREAM AND MAKES IT THAT MUCH MORE DIFFICULT FOR ORDINARY MUSLIMS. ALREADY, MAINSTREAM AMERICANS ARE ASKING WHETHER MUSLIMS COME AS IMMIGRANTS OR AS INVADERS TO AMERICA??
IT IS HIGH TIME THAT MUSLIMS BECOME MORE SENSITIVE
TO THE FACT THAT AMERICA HAS BEEN INVADED ON 9/11
AND SUFFERED 3,000 PEOPLE KILLED. IMMEDIATELY AFTER 9/11 MUSLIMS CLERICS IN AMERICA PREACHED
HATRED AGAINST AMERICA AND ISRAEL AND NOW MUSLIMS ARE SEEN AS MAKING MORE AND MORE DEMANDS WHILE
MAKING NO EFFORT TO RESPECT THE MAJORITY. THANK GOD THAT AMERICANS ARE KIND AND NOBLE PEOPLE. IF THIS WAS NAZI GERMANY THE GOVERNMENT WOULD HAVE STARTED BUILDING GAS OVENS AND MANUFACTURING ZYKLON GAS. GOD BLESS AMERICA FOR TOLERATING THE GARBAGE THAT HAS BEEN INFLICTED ON IT IN THE NAME OF ISLAM. BISMILLAH.
The bigots will always be bigots, Polish or otherwise! Indeed, the Chinese are confident enough to go on the streets and shake the grounds beneath them by doing their dances, singing their songs, and playing with their dragons, and no one tells them anything. Now, when it has come to the Muslim call for Divine prayers, the egotistic Polish and others are raising hell. Well, let all the hypocrites know that the Azan is no more than our way to worship the Creator and bring decency and moral lessons back to all those bigots. After all, we are not about building whore houses and trafficking drugs into neighborhoods. It is all about morality and being good citizens who accord God the ultimate respect. Those who are not happy with the Azan need to edify themselves by reading about Islam. I am sure they will reconsider their destructive and selfish approach.
position in opposition to the azan being amplified. I am not a
Muslim, but have had the great pleasure of being a regular guest
at a masjid attended by a good friend. I have never heard praise
of the freedoms of the USA more elequently expressed than at
that mosque. Perhaps if the non Muslim people of this
community paid a visit to their neighbors mosque, they would
be less concerned. I recently spent a week in Malaysia and
greatly enjoyed listening to the beauty of the call to prayer.
this is great that the tiny government of this town is allowing the muslim community to call the adhan but why are some of the residents so spiteful and ignorant?
their church bells can ring all over the world...on sunday, to call out the time of day, or for weddings etc...but the simple, short muslim call to prayer cannot be said five times a day?
what insensitive bigots some of them are!
May Allah reward those that allowed the adhan to be called and those Muslim brothers and sisters for their efforts and destroy the enemies of Islam, Ameen.
I offer my congratulations to the peaceful citizens of the HAMTRAMCK for achieving and celebrating the Azan call. This is further evidence, if it were needed, of true integration. Integration does not and should not mean the abandonment of ones religion, heritage and culture.
Love and Peace to All
If called with a beautiful voice it will peneterate any heart. My advice to the local mosque is to ensure that whoever recites the azan to have a beautiful voice and dliver it with the sing-songi tenure it is intended. Also ensure it is not too loud and garrish and THEN follow it up by an English translation recited in straight English with equally a beautiful baritone voice, so that the locals don't fear that we are calling Al-Qaeda's followers to hijack the local tatooist!
I am currently in Malaysia and fully agree with Nuraini. This country and its diverse people with their diverse religions is like a beautiful garden with many different flowers. I particulary love the Malays who are so lovingly kind with beautiful smiles. Others should come here to see this wonderful existance between all the various people AND no one put the other down. Long it may last. Boleh Malaysia.
with double standards in my country.
first, i am native american and my people were all slaughtered and shoved behind chain link fences and taught to worship a white guy. secondly, i always patiently endure dirty lyrics from rap music and other. thirdly, i can't go to a college or university or enjoy a walk downtown or in a park without my head ringing from LOUD church bells. at least the muslim call to prayer is peaceful and melodious in a obviously NOT so quiet world.
When I go to my hometown, Karachi, each prayer time is inundated with ear-drum breaking noise of azan from so many mosques that it sounds horrible.
Loudspeaker-based azan is torture that we can all avoid for Muslims as well as for non-Muslims.
i'm following carrie's indifference, not towards the article per se but the attitudes presented. the author nonchalantly points out the insipid hypocracy in the "polish" american residents who hold fast to their archaic culture, speaking polish and draping their red and white flags over buildings. but when it comes to the azan, a one minute call to prayer that reaches a few houses, the shaytaan employ the "why dont they assimilate" ploy they used on african americans and the natives.
i think its great the administrators of the masjid went to the city council, it gave the masjid credibility within the law, and empowered the city council to protect them if anyone tries to file some frivilous law suit.
something else i came across a while ago, in dubai (uber rich arab city-state) - the residents, most of them wealthy europeans, demanded the city enforce a code to force the masjids to turn off their speakers during the azan. they simply didnt want to hear it. and since these people weild so much power in arab states, the authorities forced the masajids to turn off their azan speakers. - sad.
for the "emir" of dubai to allow this shaytaan policy in a muslim state is unacceptable. this "emir" should be held accountable.
I see...so by that he means that being a Muslim and having the opportunity to pronounce Islamic principles such as the Azaan are not "all-American" hmm? I guess that's what he believes...
Oh wait a minute Mike D, so according to your understanding, something regarding religion should not be broadcast to people who don't want to hear it. Right...why don't you tell that to all the non-Polish Muslims and other ethnicities in the city of Hamtramck? Do you think they want to hear a giant bell ringing in their neighbourhoods? Isn't a giant bell used as a Catholic symbol, and furthermore, these Polish residents don't call this bell to be "all-American" and rather as giving the town a "touch of Europe" as mentioned in the article. What do you in your mind assume that "all-American" is?
This is the problem with many Americans...they have this mentality that believes everyone who enters into their country should melt into society, hence the melting pot concept...yet elements of European culture in Boston, New England and other places across the USA have a definite twist which "deviates" from your concept of all-Americanism, Mike D.
May Allah bless the councillor who supported for this cause.
I agree there should not be any loudspeakers allowed for ANY RELIGIOUS affairs including bell sounds whether it is even for few minutes in a day or a week or a year.
Mr.Bob Golen: The people cannot change color of the skin, faith, religion, etc. depending on where they stay as long they are law abiding residents of the country. In fact people should be allowed to practice their own religious laws.