Proposal to Swap Muslim Call to Prayer with Text Messaging Sparks

Rabat- A Ghanaian Minister’s proposal to replace Islam’s traditional call for prayer with text messaging is sparking acrimonious debates among citizens, with many calling the move a blatant violation of religious and minority rights.For the Science, Technology, Environment, and Innovation Minister, Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, the idea for the proposal is to manage or decrease the “noise pollution” caused by the use of megaphones or loudspeakers during the call for prayer, which has been a source of complaint for many residents in the country’s capital, Accra.Speaking earlier this week at a news conference about the rationale of the proposal, the Ghanaian minister put forward the claim that replacing loudspeaker-based call for prayers with text messages or WhatsApp notifications will benefit both the environment and social cohesion. “In the house of worship, why is it that the house of worship would not be limited to the house of worship…why is it that time for prayer would not be transmitted with a text message or WhatsApp so the imam will sent WhatsApp message to everybody that the prayer time is up so appear,” the minister said.Speaking after the fact to a website the German news outlet Deutsche Welle, Mr. Frimpong-Boateng reaffirmed the government’s position. Although he admitted the move is controversial, he maintained his belief that resorting to texts on WhatsApp would prove effective in attaining the government vision. “I believe that it can help reduce the noise. It is potentially controversial, but it is something we need to think about,” he said.The move is believed to have been inspired by Rwanda, where the same law passed in March.In Ghana, however, where the Muslim population is much more significant than in Rwanda, the proposal has sparked acrimonious controversies, with the majority of Muslim community calling for the minister to step down from his position. The move particularly angered the imams, who see it as virtually impractical and improbable.Speaking to the press, an Accra-based mosque imam said that text messaging cannot be as effective as loudspeakers when it comes to waking people up for the dawn prayer.Another imam, conceding that the noise should be reduced, enquired about the practicality of said proposal: “How can I understandably text everybody who prays at my mosque for five times a day?” he asked, ironically adding that chances are that he does not even know the majority of the people who pray at the mosque, or their phone numbers.One Muslim cleric, however, welcomed the move, calling it a proposal for Muslims to adapt to the changing social norms. “It us possible for us to adapt text messages to call Muslims to prayer,” Sheikh Bagaya said.Outraged by the “unreasonable and unpractical” proposal, the spokesperson for the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Aremeyaw Sahibu, said during a radio interview that the move constitutes “a violation of our religious rights.”For Mr. Shaibu, the call to prayer is a founding tenet of the Islamic faith, a divine command that to which the community of believers must adhere.“For us, the impracticability is clear. The unreasonability is so clear…[The call for prayer] is something divinely determined, [and] beyond one’s wisdom from which we do not intend to depart,” the National Chief Imam’s spokesperson said, calling that the Environment and Innovation Minister unnecessarily controversial, as he “knew the consequences that such an act would create.”

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