Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema said Tuesday that the Blue Mosque’s proposed amplified call to prayer is unnecessary and “not of this time.”
This month the New-West mosque announced its desire to become the first in Amsterdam to amplify their Friday call to prayer – known as the Azan – with loudspeakers. Imam Yassin Elforkani says he hopes the amplified Azan will help normalize Islam in Amsterdam, especially in the context of the recent burqa ban. Specifically, the head Imam told het Parool that by allowing Amsterdam visitors to hear the call more often, he hopes to remove the connotations of “violence and misery” associated with ‘Allahu Akbar’.
Halsema says, “If you want to normalize Islam with it, do it in Dutch. That seems logical to me.” The mayor quoted Dutch comedian Arjen Lubach on the subject of amplified Azan, saying, “I was quite satisfied with the comment that TV presenter Arjen Lubach had on it. He said: in 2019 it is no longer necessary, because we all have technological tools to remind people of the prayer that starts. There are apps, alarms. It is no longer necessary, that old function has actually been canceled.”
Halsema emphasized to members of city council that the Azan is protected by the constitution and therefore a ban is “not possible” but she added that she and “almost all the political groups in the city council” share a “certain lack of enthusiasm for this plan.”
According to the Telegraaf, Halsema was asked by D66 “to start a conversation with Elforkani with the aim of making agreements, so that the prayer call will only sound a limited number of times.” Telegraaf also reports that other parties, such as VVD, CDA, and the Forum for Democracy, “argued that the prayer call should not be amplified at all in the Amsterdam street scene.” GroenLinks reportedly thought the neighborhood “should start the conversation itself with the mosque,” and only Denk “was enthusiastic about the reinforced call to prayer, but criticized the way the Blue Mosque approached the issue.”
The mayor acknowledged that any restrictions imposed on the noise, noise level, frequency and duration of the Blue Mosque call to prayer in the General Local Regulation (APV) “must apply to all religious expressions in the city” including the historic Westertoren church bells, “…and I think nobody in the council wants to go that direction. It seems to me that that is part of the traditional sound of the city.”