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Nadya Thorman has published 8 articles

Cowley controversy over mosque's call to prayer

Nadya Thorman on Friday 18th January 2008
Photograph: Sophie Stephenson-Wright

A row has erupted after leaders at Oxford’s Central Mosque announced plans to install a loudspeaker to broadcast the call to prayer.

Despite opposition from locals, elders at the mosque in Manzil Way, Cowley, have pledged to go ahead with the plans and will submit a planning application in nine months, when construction of the building is complete.

A spokesperson for the mosque said that they did not want to upset the local community, and promised to keep the call volume to a minimum, but emphasised that sounding the call to prayer was “very important” to their religion.

If permission is not granted for broadcasting the call to prayer three times a day it is likely that the call will be sounded on Fridays when around 700 come to worship each week. Last month, dozens of people attended a Council meeting to express their anger at the proposals.

Earlier this month, the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that non-Muslims faced a hostile relationship in places dominated by the ideology of Islamic radicals.

He implied that the public establishment of such Muslim practices as the call to prayer would make living and working in the area difficult for non-Muslims.

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, has said that he sees no problems with the plans. His spokesperson explained, “He believes there are no ‘no-go areas’ and that there are good inter-faith relationships in Britain and that we should be tolerant of diversity.”

Sazan Meran, co-President of Oxford’s Islamic Society, supported Rev Prichard’s comments. She said, “The society would welcome such a development as long as the establishment of a megaphone happened with full and proper consultation of the local community and authorities.”

She said that, should the plans be accepted, the call to prayer would be a “positive reflection of diversity in the community.”

Students at the adjacent St Catz graduate accommodation were unaware of the proposals, but one resident told Cherwell that he had no problem with the proposal. He said, “It could not possibly be more annoying than the Magdalen bell practices”

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