The row over a proposal to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer through a megaphone across part of Oxford has intensified as elders disclosed that they will seek planning permission to install a loudspeaker at the mosque later this year.
Residents are opposed to plans to sound the two-minute long call three times a day in the minaret of the Central Mosque.
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But elders from the Central Mosque, where up to 700 people gather to worship every Friday, have pledged to plough ahead with the proposal despite opposition.
Last month, dozens of people packed into a council meeting to signal their outrage, claiming they feared the prayer call would be an “un-neighbourly intrusion” that could turn the area into a “Muslim ghetto”.
Then last week the Bishop of Oxford spoke in support of the daily broadcast.
The Rt Rev John Pritchard said those opposed to the plan should “relax” and “enjoy community diversity”.
Now the row is set to ignite again after a spokesman for the mosque revealed that planning application for the loudspeaker would be submitted to the city council in nine months, when construction of the building is complete.
Those against the idea have said they will rally support to try and block the proposal and they had hoped that the mosque might drop the plan in the face of opposition.
Dr Allan Chapman, 61, an Oxford University academic who lives close to the mosque, said: “The response against this has been incredible, we have been inundated with calls and letters ranging from stiff upper lip outrage to sheer screaming fury.
“The universal message is what an utter cheek to inflict this on a non-Muslim area of Oxford.
“Christian churches ring bells, but they are just a signal. The Muslim call is a theological statement. Imagine the outrage if churches were to propose broadcasting the Lord’s Prayer over and over again three times a day.
“If this application goes forward then a large number of angry people are poised to form an opposition to it.”
Elizabeth Mills, 56, a charity consultant, said: “We don’t have a problem with the Imam climbing to the top of the minaret and shouting. But we object to electronic amplification.
“The Bishop of Oxford might say it’s okay, but he does not have to listen to it.”
Martin Stott, 53, a member of the Oxford Oratory, said: “This is not an anti-Muslim thing, it is more about community cohesion.”
Elders at the mosque say they do not want to upset the local community and have promised to keep the call volume to a minimum.
But they say that sounding the call to prayer is central to their religion.
Sadar Rana, 68, spokesman for the mosque, said: “Building work will take another nine months to a year, it is then that we plan to make an application to the council.
“We want to fix a loudspeaker to our minaret to broadcast our call to prayer. We would like to have three two-minute calls a day, but if that is not accepted then we would like to have it at least on Fridays.
“In Islamic counties the call is loud so people are reminded to come to prayer. We do not need the volume to be loud, that can be adjusted because our members have a time-table for the prayers. But we want to have the call in some form because it is our tradition.”
Original title: Loudspeaker plan re-ignites ‘call to prayer’ row