Mumbai, May 08 (KMS): Hindutva activists have forced the management of mosques to turn volume down on call to prayer [Azan] in Mumbai, Maharashtra, amid growing anti-Muslim violence across India.
Leaders of India’s 200 million Muslims see the move, which coincided with the holy festival of Eid, as another attempt by hardline Hindus to undermine their rights to free worship and religious expression, with the tacit agreement of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
As per British news agency, Reuters, sitting in an office lined with books overlooking a giant prayer hall, Mohammed Ashfaq Kazi, the main preacher at the largest mosque in Mumbai, checked a decibel meter attached to the loudspeakers before he gave the call to worship.
“The volume of our azaan (call to prayer) has become a political issue, but I don’t want it to take a communal turn,” said Kazi, one of the most influential Islamic scholars in the sprawling metropolis on India’s western coast.
As he spoke he pointed to loudspeakers attached to the minarets of the ornate, sand-coloured Juma Masjid in Mumbai’s old trading quarters.
Kazi and three other senior clerics from Maharashtra where Mumbai is located said more than 900 mosques in the west of the state had agreed to turn the volume down on calls to prayer following complaints from a local Hindu politician.
Raj Thackeray, leader of a regional Hindu party, demanded in April that mosques and others places of worship kept within allowed noise limits. If they did not, he said his followers would chant Hindu prayers outside mosques in protest.
Thackeray, whose party has just one seat in the state’s 288-member assembly, said he was merely insisting that court rulings on noise levels be enforced.
At the Juma Masjid, Kazi said he complied with Thackeray’s demands in order to reduce the risk of violence between Muslims and Hindus.
Senior police officials met religious leaders including Kazi earlier this month to ensure microphones were turned down, as they feared clashes in Maharashtra, home to more than 10 million Muslims and 70 million Hindus.
On Saturday, police filed a criminal case against two men in Mumbai for using loudspeakers to recite the early morning azaan.