Islam with loudspeakers
BELGİN AKALTAN – firstname.lastname@example.org“Why is the magic of the ezan in Jerusalem lacking in Levent?” was the headline of daily Milliyet writer Meral Tamer when she wrote about her recent visit to Palestine.
“I listened to the ezan (call to prayer) in the yard of the al-Aqsa Mosque; it was of an otherworldly beauty that I have not heard ever before. I wish the mosque right next to my home in Istanbul’s Levent district, instead of increasing the volume of its loudspeakers a bit more each day, would make an arrangement that would not disrupt the magic of the call to prayer…”
If you live in Istanbul, have you ever heard the magic of the ezan? Probably you just heard the loud, really loud call to prayers from the minarets all around the city.
There have been some attempts to regulate the ezan in cities in Turkey and especially its decibel, but they have not been successful. This one is a difficult area… As the volume of the loudspeakers goes up and up each day, nobody in the neighborhood dares to complain.
The sound systems of mosques all around the country are so bad, the muezzins so badly trained that the ezan is pleasant to listen to only 10 percent of the time.
Somehow, these loudspeakers also convey a “force” feature; they imply an obligation, a reminder that unless you comply, there are terrible things waiting for you… Some kind of threat… The fear factor… One of the mosaics of how our religion is practiced and politicized here in today’s Turkey.
Those who adjust the volume of the loudspeakers seem to believe that the louder the ezan is the more people would come to mosques. When I say people I mean men. Women are not expected to go to the mosque. It is to let people know it is prayer time. This also means you are bound to wake up from your sleep with a badly adjusted sound system at 4:30 during summer months…
Appreciation of Islam in a land outside Turkey took me back to my days in Kosovo where I lived for some time as an international mission member. My then 10-year-old son would come and live with me in the school holidays. I remember showing him the Ottoman mosque, Sinan Pasha Mosque at the beautiful city Prizren. As a 10-year-old, of course, he was interested to see the inside of the mosque. We took off our shoes, stepped inside. I remember loosely putting over my head the hood of my sweatshirt.
Once we were in, we were immediately caught in the mystical atmosphere. We first admired the walls, looked at the inscriptions, colorful windows, then we sat down on the floor on the rugs. We listened to the prayers.
I told my son, “Look I wish I was able to take you and share with you this experience in our own country. But I would not feel this comfortable, this free in a mosque in Turkey.”
Not that anybody has ever stopped anyone from entering a mosque in Turkey. No way, never… But how should I explain it? Somehow, our religion is so monopolized by one segment and their strictly imposed rituals, that it is almost exclusionist, losing its essence. Like the loudspeakers. I would never feel comfortable to enter a mosque just to pray. I am like an outcast in those circles. I only know what kind of a treatment I receive when I am in the courtyard of a mosque. I daren’t enter a mosque, except for touristic purposes.
This morning, at the bus stop, I saw a headscarf-wearing young girl, nice and elegant. She stopped a taxi, again in a very elegant and modern gesture, like Carrie in New York, you know, flamboyant, showy, attractive. She got in and drove away. Then I noticed a rural old guy on my opposite side staring at her with enormous contempt. There was so much hate in his eyes. It was as if this self-assured modern girl wearing a headscarf was the reason of all his troubles in life. Then I realized that he would not have felt that way with any other woman taking a taxi but when she is “one of them;” he thinks “How dare she,” I don’t know, “travel alone, be rich enough to take a taxi, be alone in a car with a man not her kin, having those showy attitudes…” Wow. The “covered” women must have twice as many troubles as we have…
While my son was growing up I told him that we are not the best Muslims in the world (maybe we are). Also, that we are not typical believers (maybe we are). That he should not take us as an example. I told him we were not exactly the right type.
Talking about setting an example to our son, I think we are hopeless in that respect: I found a shoe box in my home the other day. There were only three dollars in one-dollar banknotes and a 50 cent euro coin in it. That is far from being a true believer…