Oxford rector says mosque call to prayer 'un-English'

Oxford rector says mosque call to prayer 'un-English'

By agency reporter
22 May 2008

The rector of one of Oxford's largest Anglican churches has called plans to broadcast a Muslim call to prayer from the city's main mosque "un-English".

Charlie Cleverly, of St Aldate's Church, in a seven-point statement to his congregation which contains many students from the university, called on the Central Mosque to drop its plans to broadcast the messages, reports Thom Airs for the Oxford Mail.

But Munir Chisti, the Imam at the mosque, said people were entitled to different viewpoints and they did not wish to cause a division in the community.

Mr Cleverly, who has been the rector at the Conservative Evangelical church for five years, said he welcomed Muslims in Oxford and hoped a local dialogue between the faiths could be established.

However, he said the call to prayer was not "neutral" in its wording and could turn East Oxford into a Muslim ghetto.

He said: "I think it's to do with nuisance noise affecting the inhabitants that have to hear it. I feel it is un-English and very different from a bell.

"When such an area is subject to such a call to prayer, it may force people to move out and encourage Muslim families to move in.

"You do risk creating a kind of ghetto-isation of the city a few years down the line."

He said: "I think many people who are not Muslims have not got a text of the meaning of the Arabic in the call to prayer.

"I don't think words are neutral and I don't think the people of Oxford necessarily want to hear a call to prayer to Allah in the same way people don't want someone loud in their face asking them to buy coffee.

"There is a world of difference. Bells are just a signal and have been around for 1,500 years. They are a terribly English part of our culture.

"I do not believe in the imposition of another culture on our country."

Mr Chisti said in response: "We do not want to react. Everyone is welcome to think what they want.

"We welcome anybody to have their say. This was a suggestion that has spread like fire and caused a panic in the community - we do not want that to happen."

He said the intention was to broadcast the two-minute call to prayer only once a week - and not three times a day.

He said: "Anyone who wants to see what Islam is about is invited to come along and see the prayers.

"Hopefully watching the call to prayer will take all the panic away from the public.

"This is once a week on a Friday afternoon. I do not think it is going to cause problems for anyone. I think 60 to 70 per cent of people are happy with this, and think it should go ahead.

"The majority of people are happy and they know there is a freedom of speech and a freedom of religion."

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