Hamtramck prayer OK prompts outrage

They plan to fight.

The Hamtramck City Council’s unanimous approval Tuesday night of a plan to allow the Muslim call to prayer to be broadcast on loudspeakers five times a day in Arabic has outraged many of the city’s Polish Catholic residents.

They said they’ll start a petition drive to bring the issue to a vote. Others have said they’ll file lawsuits in federal court. Some plan to move.

“I’d hate to see it go this route, but unfortunately, it’s going to go this route,” said resident Robert Zwolak.

Two police officers tried to keep the peace Tuesday night as hundreds of people packed City Hall and officials decided an issue that has divided the changing city.

“This ordinance is reasonable and responsible,” Councilman Scott Klein said. “Give us a chance to work with the mosques and community to make this work.”

The ordinance becomes law on May 26.

Abdul Algazali said Muslims in Hamtramck aren’t out to create a religious or ethnic rift. Rather, he said, “We’re in this city to build bridges.”

Algazali, president of the Hamtramck-based American Yemeni Council, encouraged the City Council to approve the noise ordinance that will allow the call to prayer.

“It means a lot to me,” he said. “It will show that everyone is treated equitably in the city.”

Leaders in the suburb bordered by Highland Park and Detroit, which increasingly is becoming more Islamic in flavor, unanimously gave preapproval to allow the call to prayer last week.

The city’s Polish Catholic residents say the call to prayer, which will be heard five times between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., violates their rights and challenges the nation’s largely Christian identity. It also has drawn national attention.

“Where are my rights? Where are the rights of all the people who have lived in this community all of their lives?” asked Mary Urbanski, a lifelong resident. “I do not have a choice as to whether I hear this or not.”

Muslims say the call to prayer is less intrusive than the Catholic church bells that ring daily.

“We hear the bells every day, every hour. We don’t say nothing,” Algazali said last week.

Maria Radtke, a Polish immigrant who fled a Europe devastated by World War II, said Tuesday that it irks her that Muslims don’t seem to be trying to fit into American culture the way she did when she first came to the United States.

“When you come to this country . . . adjust to the customs and beliefs of this country. I respect their religion. I respect their faith. But you cannot wear this on your sleeve.

“Fifty-two years ago when I came to this country, every nationality lived in their own community, and really, it was peaceful. And now politicians made a melting pot where you can live anywhere you want. That made a disaster.”

But for Beatrice Woods, who said she was born in Hamtramck, the issue is not about what kind of prayer, but that it’s prayer.

“We need to pray. The way the world is today, how can anyone be against prayer?”


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Detroit Free Press, USA
Apr. 29, 2004
Cecil Angel, Free Press Staff Writer
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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday April 29, 2004.
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