06/01/2021, 16.28
SAUDI ARABIA
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Saudi Arabia restricts mosque loudspeakers because they disturb children

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs orders that loudspeakers be set at a third of their maximum volume. Parents complain that the high volume disturbs their children’s sleep. In some mosques, full sermons are broadcast over loudspeakers, not only the call to prayer. Not all mosques are heeding the order, which has sparked criticism and controversy.

 

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Saudi authorities have defended their recent decision to lower the volume of mosque loudspeakers, usually used to call worshippers to pray and preach to the wider community.

The Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs announced last week that loudspeakers be set at a third of their maximum volume, sparking a negative reaction among the country's more conservative groups and a lively debate on social media.

Minister Abdullatif al-Sheikh said that the measure was in response to complaints from large segments of the public, especially parents who said that loudspeakers disturbed their children’s sleep, and senior citizens.

On television, he said that those who want to pray do not need to wait for the imam’s call. Critics, in his view, are “enemies of the kingdom” who only want to “stir public opinion”.

In response, a hashtag calling for a ban on loud music in restaurants and bars is gaining ground on social media.

Traditionally, imams use loudspeakers on mosques to call the faithful to prayer, then they should be turned off. Instead, in many cases they continue to broadcast full sermons.

So far, only a few mosques appear to have lowered the volume, Reuters reported quoting sources in Riyadh. At least one has ignored the ministerial order and is still going full blast.

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, ruled by a Sunni dynasty that adheres to Wahhabism and a fundamentalist view of Islam.

Reforms introduced over the last two years by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) have brought some changes to social life and civil rights; for example, women are now allowed to drive cars and can attend reserved sections in sport stadiums.

Some reforms have also touched the religious sphere. However, this has not prevented the authorities from cracking down on top government officials, business leaders, activists and other critics, not to mention the Khashoggi affair, which cast a broad shadow over the reform process.

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