In an unprecedented move, a city council voted to exempt the Islamic call to prayer over mosque loudspeakers, which will play for several minutes as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 10 p.m. However, not everyone is happy about the mosques being allowed to break the noise ordinance.
In response to a proposed ordinance, the city of Paterson, New Jersey voted 5-4 to grant Muslims an exemption from a long-standing noise control ordinance. The vote ensures that mosques across the city have the right to broadcast the adhan, a minutes-long Arabic vocalization that signals the start of required Islamic prayers, according to News 12 New Jersey.
The Paterson noise ordinance says: “The city shall permit ‘Adhan’, ‘call to prayer’, ‘church bells’ and other reasonable means of announcing religious meetings to be amplified between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. for duration not to exceed five minutes.”
The ordinance guarantees that Islamic centers may play the calls to prayer over loudspeakers 5 times daily, beginning as early as 6 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m. Additionally, each call to prayer is allowed to last up to 5 minutes long. Although the growing Muslim population has cheered the ruling, many others have voiced their concerns over such an exemption.
According to The Record, the City Council only narrowly passed the ordinance, as it was met with mixed opinions from both city officials and residents. With around 30 people speaking during the hearing, the board was ultimately convinced that the Islamic minority required the exemption. Those who voted in favor include Al Abdelaziz, Shahin Khalique, Maritza Davila, Flavio Rivera, and Michael Jackson. Those opposed include Ruby Cotton, William McKoy, Lilisa Mimms, and Luis Velez.
“When it comes to religion, we are not equal,” asserted resident Aleya Khan, urging the council to support the noise ordinance.
Along with the opposition, civilian Steve Bauer warned that the loudspeakers would be “blaring” the adhan in neighborhoods and disturbing local residents, especially those located within a mile or two of a participating mosque. He also referred specifically to Sayfullo Saipov, a former Paterson resident who killed 8 people in a truck attack in Manhattan. City officials quickly interrupted Bauer, ordering him to only address the noise ordinance.
“With all due respect, this is a religious issue,” Bauer responded.
Many, especially those in the Muslim community, defended the changes, arguing that the Islamic minority hasn’t been treated equally. The decision comes just weeks after the city swore in its first Muslim police chief, 60-year-old Turkish-American immigrant Ibrahim Baycora.
“Some people during the day, they’re working. They don’t know what time it is for prayer, so that is why they have the loudspeaker – to remind people that time is now for prayer,” says Paterson resident Jamal Ahmed.
“I believe that is going to be good for the Muslim community because for the Saturday or Sunday when people want to go to church they ring the bell so that is no problem for them. So, it shouldn’t be a problem for the Muslim community also,” says Esan Alton of Boonton.
However, some residents accused councilman Khalique, who proposed the ordinance, of using the vote to pander to his Muslim base during his campaign for re-election.
“This is about being fair to everyone,” Khalique said.
Officials confirmed that some mosques had already been broadcasting the adhan and that none of them have ever received a noise summons for breaking the city’s former ordinance. The officials claim that the approved changes are solely designed to prevent government infringement upon religious expression.
The revised ordinance included 14 exemptions to the noise regulations, which names “bells, chimes, or carillons” as being granted privilege. The city also stated that the Islamic call to prayer is included in the legislation.
Paterson, New Jersey remains torn on the ordinance changes, with nearly an equal amount of residents voicing concern and support for the matter.
Regardless of what the citizens want, which could have been determined by a public vote, residents will now have to hear the adhan at dawn, 3 times during the day, and in the evening whether the noise disrupts their peace or not.