Proposal for Play to Be Performed at a Church for Pay

Document Sample
Proposal for Play to Be Performed at a Church for Pay Powered By Docstoc
					I. Background

Hamtramck may approve Muslim prayer call
Longtime residents say proposal is affront to city
By Ron French / The Detroit News

   HAMTRAMCK — Along with pierogi and paczki, Hamtramck may soon be known
for its Islamic calls to worship.
   The City Council is expected to pass a noise ordinance amendment permitting mosques
to issue the traditional call to prayer over loud speakers.
   It’s another sign of change in this traditionally Polish community of 23,000, which has
become a magnet for immigrants of all colors and creeds in recent years.
   For decades, Hamtramck has been predominantly Polish. But in recent years, store
signs in Polish have been joined by signs written in Bengali and Arabic.
   Now, the request by the Bangladeshi al-Islah mosque for permission to air the Arabic
call to prayer via loudspeakers five times a day has revealed tensions among the groups.
   “They can believe whatever they want to, but I’m against them pushing their content
into my head like brainwashing,” said Joanne Golen, 68, a lifelong Hamtramck resident.
“There are seven mosques in the city, and I’ll be in the middle of all of them.”
   The five daily calls to worship last about two minutes. The recorded calls are broadcast
over loudspeakers at mosques in Dearborn, which has one of the largest concentrations of
Arab-Americans in the country.
   “I don’t think people in the city of Hamtramck are going to be annoyed,” said Imad
Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, based in
Dearborn. “It’s not a loud noise.”
   Though the calls to worship are in Arabic, Golen said she’s offended by words that
praise Allah.
   “He’s not my true God,” Golen said. “I can’t stay locked in my house with cotton in
my ears every time they do it.”
   “Hamtramck should live up to freedom of religion and religious expression, and
celebrate our rich diversity and tolerance,” Hamad said.

                               (continued on next page)
Cultures collide in diverse Hamtramck
Uproar over Islamic call to prayer pits tolerance, tradition
By Ron French and Kim Kozlowski / The Detroit News

                   Robin Buckson / The Detroit News

Traditionally Polish Hamtramck has
become a melting pot, with immigrants
from Europe, Asia and Africa settling
there.; Olinger; Vlahovljak

About call to prayer
The Islamic call to prayer is performed five times a day: at dawn, noon, late afternoon, dusk and evening (the exact times
can vary). Across most of the United States, the call is done inside the mosque; in much of the rest of the world, it is done
outside the mosque, often through loud speakers.
English translation of the Call to Worship:
"God is great" (four times);
"I testify there is no other God but God" (twice);
"I testify Muhammad is the messenger of God" (twice);
"Come and pray" (twice);
"Come and flourish" (twice);
"God is great "(twice);
"There is no God but God" (once).
Translation by Masud Khan, secretary of Al-Islah Islamic Center, Hamtramck

  HAMTRAMCK — From her front porch, Alice Dembowski has watched her city
change, one tidy house at a time.
  “Chinese, Polish, Bosnian, Polish, Bengali,” she recites, her finger moving down the
block. “They were all Polish at one time.

   “I’ve made friends. I go to their weddings. (But) we’re losing our tradition and I’m
getting mad,” Dembowski said. “If they’re going to live in America, why can’t they be
more American?”
   Next month, Hamtramck will become one of the few cities in the United States where
the Islamic call to prayer is broadcast onto public streets. The impact of that decision is
reverberating across the nation.
   Loudspeakers on an old brick building in Hamtramck have become a symbol of the
struggle between tolerance and tradition, and raise questions about what it means to be
   Bisera Vlahovljak, a Muslim who moved to Hamtramck 10 years ago from Bosnia said
the call to prayer is about religious freedom.
   “This is why I came to America,” she said. “I think more people should be respectful
of others’ traditions.”
   But Jamil Olinger, who lives near the Al-Islah Islamic Center, said the call to prayer
“gets on my nerves sometimes.
   “I hear (the prayers) at night,” Olinger said. “I try not to pay attention to it, but it does
bug me.”
   City Council President Karen Majewski said the controversy is about “change.”
   “People are hearing something in this story that may have very little to do with
Hamtramck,” Majewski said. “It has to do with change.”
   Tuesday night [April 27], the five-member City Council is expected to give final
approval to an amendment to Hamtramck’s noise ordinance that will regulate the calls to
prayer. Twenty days later, the amendment will go into effect, and the al-Islah Islamic
Center will be allowed to broadcast its call to prayer over loudspeakers.
   The call to prayer, lasting one to two minutes, has been an Islamic tradition for 1,400
years. Historically sung from the minaret of a mosque, today the call often is a recording
played over loudspeakers.
   Although it is a public event in other parts of the world, mosques in the United States
generally give the call to prayer inside their walls.
   In Hamtramck, the call will be made live, five times a day, between 6 a.m. and 10
p.m., said Masud Khan, associate imam and secretary at al-Islah.
   While only one mosque requested permission to broadcast the calls to prayer, the
ordinance would allow the city’s other two mosques to follow suit if they wish. The
ordinance applies to any kind of religious announcement at any house of worship.
   “We are just praising God and calling our brothers to prayer,” Khan said. “I’ve been
surprised by the reaction.”
Calls stay inside
   Most mosques even in heavily Muslim Dearborn do not broadcast calls to prayer.
   Imam Hassan Qazwini, spiritual leader of the area’s largest mosque, the Islamic Center
of America in Detroit, said his mosque has a call to prayer inside the mosque.
   “The reason we don’t do that is because our neighbors are not Muslim,” Qazwini said.
“Raising the call for prayer outdoors would be purposeless. The point behind raising the
call for prayer is to invite neighbors to come and pray.”
   For 15 years, Imam Mohamed Musa was the spiritual leader of the American Muslim
Society, the only known mosque in the area that broadcasts over a loudspeaker five daily
calls to prayer.

    The Dearborn mosque has issued the call to local Muslims for more than 15 years
because most of the people in the neighborhood are Muslims.
    Only once did a neighbor complain, Musa said.
    Musa’s current post, the Islamic Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills, does not issue
prayer calls because there aren’t enough Muslims living nearby. But he does support the
Hamtramck mosque’s plan.
    “Every religion has its different ways to call for the prayer. In Christianity, they ring
bells. In Judaism, they blow the horn,” Musa said. “If there is no violation of the law, we
have to accept each other and respect each other. We are neighbors in this great country.
It is a very unique country because every person has his own religion and he can practice
it. We are proud of that as Muslims, and non-Muslims should be proud of that also.”
    Hamtramck didn’t set a maximum decibel level for the calls to prayer. Police will
respond to complaints over the volume of the loudspeakers in the same way they now
respond to complaints of loud cars or music, Majewski said.
    “This is a ground-breaking effort, and I hope it will set a precedent for other
communities across the nation,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on
American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights organization in Washington, D.C.
    “It sends a tremendously positive message to the rest of the world at a time when we
face severe criticism. America supports religious diversity, particularly religious support
for its Muslim citizens.”
City of immigrants
   That such a controversy would arise in Hamtramck is not surprising. The city has
become Michigan’s Ellis Island, with immigrants from Europe, Asia and Africa settling
there. In the 2000 census, 41 percent of Hamtramck residents said they were born outside
the United States; English is the only language spoken in less than half of the city’s
homes; one-third of the 23,000 residents report speaking English “less than very well.”
   Between 1990 and 2000, the city’s Arab population jumped more than fivefold, while
its traditional Polish population dropped by more than a third.
   Shabad Ahmed, the city’s first Muslim City Council member, estimates that
Hamtramck’s population is now more than one-third Muslim.
   Hamtramck also is a city with a long and colorful history of political dissent. Many
elections are followed immediately by efforts to recall the winners. Currently, there is a
petition drive to recall three school board members. But even that tradition has bowed to
reality: Petitions are written in Polish, Bosnian, Arabic and English.
   “People are so passionate about the city’s character, whatever they may imagine it to
be,” Majewski said. “Here, it matters who your neighbors are and what you hear outside
your window. It’s a glorious thing and a maddening thing as well.”
Lawsuits threatened
   Residents are circulating petitions to ban the calls to prayer and are threatening
   Donald Herzog, professor of law and political science at the University of Michigan,
said he doubts a legal challenge could stop the calls to prayer.
   That hasn’t stopped the outcry from people who view the broadcast onto public streets
as forcing Islam on non-Muslims.
   Council members have received hundreds of e-mails and telephone calls from across
the United States, complaining about the ruling. Council member Ahmed said people

don’t realize that less than half of the Muslims in Hamtramck are from the Middle East.
Most are from Bangladesh, with other large Muslim contingents from Bosnia and
   “When there’s something new, people are afraid to change,” Ahmed said. “But as a
government official, I don’t see we could do anything differently.”
   The Rev. Stanley Ulman lives in a home and is the pastor of the Catholic church, St.
Ladislaus, across the street from al-Islah Islamic Center.
   He thinks the discussion about the prayer calls moved from noise to religion because
some community members don’t want to see their neighborhood change.
   “I sense a strong bias and an anger,” Ulman said. “There is this feeling they’re going to
lose something in this deal, their identity, their place in the city of the Polish Catholic
community. There is a sense that they may want to leave or have to leave or be forced to
leave or they won’t feel comfortable being here. It’s a change they don’t want to see
happen. But I think it’s an inevitable change.”
   Ulman was building relationships with some of the imams in Hamtramck but will soon
be leaving his parish after 25 years because he has been reassigned to a Rochester Hills
church. He hopes others in the community will not choose to leave because of their
   “That’s a pattern. When people don’t feel comfortable with people moving in, they
leave,” Ulman said. “The only way to counteract that is to dialogue, and the only way to
incorporate the newcomer is to make them feel welcome.”
   Majewski, a historian of immigration and former executive director of the Polish-
American Historic Association, said Polish residents of Hamtramck today should
remember that a century ago, they were the immigrants whom Americans feared.
   “At the turn of the (20th) century, there was a great fear that the U.S. wasn’t going to
be Anglo-Saxon Protestant anymore,” Majewski said. “They felt the whole fabric of the
U.S. was being destroyed” by Eastern Europeans who were Catholic.
   “They feared we were losing the America that our forefathers had created. In a sense,
they were right — America became much more diverse.”

                               (continued on next page)

audio file:

                            National Public Radio
                              Transcript of News Story

National Public Radio
Morning Edition

Analysis: Michigan town's residents divided on Muslim prayer calls being
broadcast over loudspeakers

City council members in Hamtramck, Michigan, vote tonight on whether to allow
Muslims in the Detroit suburb to broadcast their call to prayer five times a day over
loudspeakers. The debate has swung from concerns over increased noise to fears of being
forced to hear competing religious ideologies. Detroit Public Radio's Quinn Klinefelter

In the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, where public signs are as likely to be written in Arabic
as English, a loudspeaker mounted on a mosque delivers a daily ritual.
(Soundbite of Muslim call to prayer)

KLINEFELTER: It's the Muslim call to prayer, a call some Muslims in nearby
Hamtramck want played in each of the half-dozen mosques in their town, too.
Hamtramck City Council president Karen Majewski likes the idea, but says there are no
guidelines in the town's current noise ordnance to govern how loud prayer calls can be,
nor even any equipment to measure the decibel levels. And in a town of two square miles
with a racially diverse population of 20,000 Majewski says any sound travels far.
Ms. KAREN MAJEWSKI (Hamtramck City Council President): This doesn't surprise me
at all. This is Hamtramck, and we're a small place. Any decision that we make,
everything that happens on one street affects the next street. There's not that many streets.
(Soundbite of voices)

KLINEFELTER: But there are many differing opinions. At a recent city council hearing
on the issue, the roughly 100 people attending spilled into the hallway, debating both the
volume of the prayer call and its content.

Mr. BOB GOLLEM (Hamtramck Resident): You and I are never going to agree, so God
bless you...

KLINEFELTER: Hamtramckan Bob Gollem says he and the Bangladeshi residents in his
neighborhood are fast friends, in part because they refuse to foist their religious beliefs on

each other. So Gollem, a Christian who believes Jesus is God, says he shouldn't b e
forced to hear broadcasts that Allah is God and Jesus a prophet.

Mr. GOLLEM: To be subjected to the beliefs of their religion five times a day, seven
days a week, is asking too much of me as a Christian. It's a very small city. Do I have to
shut my windows and doors so I don't hear it? That's not fair to me.

KLINEFELTER: Yet preventing the call to prayer seems just as unfair to Muslims like
Syrian native Bashir Imam. He says he owns two medical offices in Hamtramck and
prays devoutly twice daily. But Imam fears since the terrorist attacks of September 11th,
even the sound of the Arabic language scares some of his fellow Hamtramckans.

Mr. BASHIR IMAM (Hamtramck Resident): I find this to be a pathetic thing to say that
the only time my fellow American citizens decided to understand what we say, only
when they thought it offend them.

KLINEFELTER: Imam and other Muslims in the council hallway say there are no rules
governing the volume of the Catholic Church bells and organ music which often ring out
over Hamtramck, so why, wonders, Rahiji Auoon, should her call to prayer be any

Ms. RAHIJI AUOOON (Hamtramck Resident): Just like we hear the church bells, which
I have no problem with that because I love the sound of the church bells, they should not
have a problem with our call for prayer. I mean, like I told everybody inside, we're all
one. Just as they're Americans, I'm an American citizen. I was born and raised in
America, and we should all be treated equally.

KLINEFELTER: The city council members appear to agree, and seem likely to approve
the call to prayer broadcasts. Attorneys for the council are also readying possible legal
defenses against lawsuits, depending on whether the majority of Hamtramckans hear
church bells and Muslim prayers as harshly dueling ideologies or a somewhat
harmonious duet.

For NPR News, I'm Quinn Klinefelter.

                               (continued on next page)

II. The City Council Meeting

The Debate

Hamtramck's noise ordinance offers up some strident debate
By Laura Berman / The Detroit News

   The small City Council room was packed with men wearing hats: Turbans, delicately
embroidered skullcaps called kufis, one bold green fez, baseball and trucker caps.
   A full array of multicultural millinery that you’ll never see at the mall.
   At 7:10 p.m. on Tuesday [April 27], the entire group, including the hatless and several
women, recited the Pledge of Allegiance, placing particular emphasis on justice for all.
   I’d like to report that all hat-wearers got along famously at the Hamtramck City
Council meeting. But tolerance battled tension, and the speakers invoked high principles
to question or defend the merits of what may be the most loudly debated noise ordinance
in history.
   Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from religion, minority rights, and
the Good Humor man — one small ordinance is unleashing Mel Gibson-sized passion.
   Abid Mohammed, of the Islamic Association of Michigan, read aloud the preamble
from the U.S. Constitution as a warm-up. A woman took the microphone to remind the
crowd that “yes, this is too a Christian country.”
   There were “David’s Mighty Men” — 10 Ohio men who say they “defend religious
freedom” — who drove five and a half hours in two vans. They wanted to tell
Hamtramck what they think of the new ordinance, which will permit a Bangladeshi
mosque to broadcast the Islamic call to prayer five times a day over a loudspeaker.
   Their leader, Pastor James Marquis (pronounced Marcus), said that minorities too have
rights and “the minority in this case may be those who do not want to hear the call to
   He urged the council to consider their decision “with great responsibility,” because it
could have unintended consequences. Another member of his church, John Johnston,
said, with what seemed to be ominous intention, “we understand you have had gangs and
riots before ... that could happen again.”
   Mighty Man John Johnston wore a hat that said JESUS and MESSIAH and carefully
removed his jacket to display his shirt.
   “Some of you may find this offensive,” he said, turning his back which read, in capital
letters: Allah is no God.”
   The crowd — packed tight in a room growing hot and close — barely stirred. In the
halls outside, Muslim men in robes stood, some praying in side rooms.
   Asked his origins, Johnston said, “I am an American,” and Muslims in the crowd
shouted, “We are all Americans.”
   But the public speeches might serve as handy reminders of that other American
principle, the separation of church and state.
   You don’t have to be imaginative to foresee vivid responses to the mosque prayer call:
One speaker asked if he could broadcast the Gospels at the same decibels, at the same
time, as the mosque prayer call.

   Vowing to return, Pastor Marquis, of Wellston, Ohio, said his goal “is certainly not to
divide the city. It’s about a prayer we do not wish to hear.”
   In Ohio?
   The meeting wasn’t about the community’s need to share public space that’s devoid of
religious passion.
   It was about an ordinance that’s creating its own escalating noise, the kind that some
people hear hundreds of miles away.

The Vote

   Hamtramck OKs prayer call over heated objections
          Unanimous vote passes measure; critics cite privacy

By David Shepardson / The Detroit News

   HAMTRAMCK — The City Council on Tuesday night approved an ordinance to
allow mosques to broadcast the Islamic call to prayer onto public streets over some
heated objections.
   The unanimous vote by the council makes it one of the few cities in the United States
to approve the practice.
   “This is about uniting our community,” said Shabad Ahmed, 37, a Bangladeshi
immigrant and the first and only Muslim member of the Hamtramck City Council.
   Supporters of the change outnumbered critics by at least three to one at the meeting,
and some quoted the Declaration of Independence or Bill of Rights in defense of the
   They said church bells and other noises are widely accepted — from ice cream trucks
to trains. A call to prayer — which is typically less than two minutes, five times per day
— will be regulated. If people think it’s too loud, they can complain.

  Critics said the calls would intrude on residents’ privacy and the right not to be
subjected to religious indoctrination.
  “I don’t want this shouted down my throat,” said Mary Urbanski, a longtime
Hamtramck resident.
  Hamtramck, the once-predominately Polish Catholic enclave — visited by the Polish
Pope, John Paul II, in 1987 — now is home to a growing number of immigrants. The
2000 Census reported that 41 percent of the city’s 23,000 residents were born abroad and
an estimated one-third of the city is Muslim.

  Thousands of Yemeni, Bangladeshi, Bosnian and other immigrants now live in
Hamtramck and pray in the city’s seven mosques, along with African-Americans who
have lived in the city for decades.
  The call to prayer has been an Islamic tradition for 1,400 years. Historically sung from
the minaret of a mosque, today the call often is a recording played over loudspeakers.
  Most mosques, even in heavily Muslim Dearborn, do not broadcast calls to prayer.
Only one has done so during the past 15 years, with only a single complaint.
  More than 100 people jammed the Hamtramck City Council chambers for Tuesday’s
meeting. More than 100 people couldn’t get in and one man was evicted from the
meeting for refusing to wait to recognized to speak.
  Hamtramck’s public grappling with the issue has gotten international attention,
appearing in newspapers and television networks worldwide.
  The ordinance is expected to take effect May 25, the city clerk said.

                               (continued on next page)

III. Reaction to the Council Vote

Saturday, May 1, 2004
Detroit News

Reader Debate

          Call to prayer fuels debate on noise, religion

   It seems ludicrous that any city government would allow a call to prayer announced
over a public address system when a Christian call to prayer isn’t allowed in the smallest
classrooms and simple visual reminders to pray (that is, Nativity scenes) are not allowed
on city-owned property. This is truly a double standard.
   Margaret Posch
   Grosse Pointe

  I can understand why people in Hamtramck do not want the Muslim call to prayer to
be done over loudspeakers five times a day, mainly because it can occur as early as 6 a.m.
and as late as 10 p.m. It crosses the line because people are in bed by 10 p.m., and some
people don’t wake up until 7 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. What I don’t understand is all the hostility
toward another religion.
  Shuaib Gill

  One man’s music is another man’s noise. If freedom of religion and separation of
church and state are a reality, the mosque in question would be able to do the calls to
prayer without having to ask permission. The call to prayer is a traditional religious
practice. It would be as accepted by non-Muslims as Christian church bells are by
everyone who is not Christian.
  Jeffrey Ragland

  Substitute the name Jesus for that of Allah and imagine the legal firestorm that would
descend on Hamtramck if city officials sanctioned it for daily public airing. I respect
every Muslim’s right to worship in his or her own way, but I also reserve my own right to
worship in mine without being told via a government-sanctioned message that my God is
not worthy.
  Leonard Was

   If the Hamtramck City Council wishes to give Muslims the ability to broadcast a “call
to prayer” five times a day, that is fine. However, this gives each and every religion in the

community the right to broadcast a “call to prayer” five times a day as well. I hope the
citizens of Hamtramck enjoy the prospect of an all-day loudspeaker shouting match
between churches.
   Lawrence Wisne
   Farmington Hills

  To broadcast that Allah is God on a loudspeaker five times a day is, to many of us, an
incredible sacrilege.
  William Miller

   In America, we already have a system to call people to prayer. It’s called an alarm
clock. Prayer goers can set the clock to go off five times a day in the privacy of their own
homes and thank God it’s not being used to “call men to arms.” No one should be
allowed to disturb their neighbors for any reason.
   Estelle P. Diaz

  I always believed America is based on a premise of freedom for everyone. However,
some of these freedoms are being infringed upon.
  I will now be forced to listen to the Muslim call to prayer, five times a day, 365 days a
year, between six in the morning and ten o’clock at night. Muslims compare the call to
the ringing of church bells. I, as a Christian, do not need bells to tell me when to praise
the Lord.
  Caroline Zarski

  The prayer calls only last at most for three minutes, and it is only five times a day. It is
a matter of 15 minutes a day. No one is stopping born-again Christians from practicing
Christianity, and we live in a secular country.
  Aamir Ali

  Let’s not mix religion and government by the city of Hamtramck sanctioning the
Muslim call to prayer over loudspeakers. Translated, one section of the call says
Mohammad is a messenger of God, which is sacrilegious to many born-again Christians.
Church bells are not speaking words like this Muslim call.
  Lou Mender

  It is moronic to think this call to prayer is an issue to begin with. Sound the prayer at
will. There is so much noise pollution who would hear it? The concern is not about
“noise.” It is about hating Muslims.
  Ken Farhat
  Sterling Heights

  The mosque needs some version of church bells instead of a recorded message. St.
Florian Catholic Church has been chiming bells for most of the past 100 years.
  Phil Moore

   The call to prayer tells me to worship God and Mohammad. This is violating my
freedom of worship and forcing another’s religious practices on the public.
   E.J. Winterhalter

  It’s not OK to display a Nativity scene or the Ten Commandments in public, and it’s
not OK to have the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, but it’s OK to blast
out a call to prayer throughout a community?
    Debbie Fudalla
    Pleasant Ridge

                              (continued on next page)

Sunday, May 2, 2004

Hamtramck's call to worship tests treatment of noise and

 Muslim broadcasts amount to noise pollution; calls should be
              banned like Christian practices

By Barrett Kalellis / Special to The Detroit News
   If the mosques in Hamtramck start broadcasting the Muslim muezzin’s adhan, or call
to prayer, one predictable result might be that real estate values will nosedive, as lovers
of quiet decamp the area.
   Directly aimed at the Islamic minority in the middle of what formerly was a
predominantly Polish neighborhood, the move has understandably upset the surrounding
non-Muslim community, who object to the invasiveness and inescapability of these
   Stripped of its repetition, the adhan declarations include “God is great” and “I bear
witness that there is no God but Allah.”
   What would be the reaction of citizens if each church or synagogue broadcast pastors
and rabbis over loudspeakers throughout the town, exhorting everyone within earshot to
come to their services, extolling Yahweh and Jesus?
   The Muslims say Christian church bells function in the same manner as the muezzin’s
call, so they are only doing the same thing within their own religious tradition and
   These public announcements amount to nothing more than noise pollution, no matter
how well intended. If local communities are scrupulously going to ban Christmas manger
scenes on public property on the grounds of not endorsing sectarian belief, and prohibit
prayer in schools, why wouldn’t permitting the use of the city’s open air to be filled with
amplified sectarian calls qualify as government-sponsored endorsement of religion?
   And why can’t a pitchman from Joe’s Car Wash be allowed to drive through the town
with loudspeakers touting the latest Simonize?
   Church bell pealing in Hamtramck was accepted when Judeo-Christian values defined
American culture. But now that the ethnic demographics of the city have changed
substantially, an imported rival belief now wants to enhance local practice with its own.
   Can you imagine the din of both church bells and the muezzin’s bombardment of
listeners at the same time? Church bells or adhan, one man’s call to worship is another
man’s noise pollution. Why should Islam get a free pass?
   If civil libertarians and atheists argue that religious symbolism should not be tolerated
in a pluralistic society, surely calls to worship to the local community over loudspeakers
at all hours of the day and night should be similarly proscribed.
   The greater harm is that this is just another example of the increasing balkanization of
American culture. Immigrants of different cultures have settled, bringing values and
beliefs learned in their countries of origin.

   The ideal was that in succeeding generations, immigrants would assimilate into the
American culture and adopt the language and customs of their host country. With
increasing frequency, however, large numbers of immigrants have gained political power
to the extent that they can enact or lobby for laws to preserve or enhance their own
   This is similar to the Quebecois in Canada. The immigrants wish to maintain their
foreign culture, have it predominate in the areas in which they live and identify
themselves with their native countries.
   Some people love this multicultural brew, but historically it usually breeds strife
among incompatible beliefs and traditions.
   The concession to the Muslims in Hamtramck has already driven a wedge between
various factions in the community. Instead of promoting tolerance, it is beginning to
foment resentment.
   If Hamtramck leaders truly want to encourage the American melting pot, they should
probably prohibit all outdoor noise offenders, bells and chants, and leave any
exhortations to soap-box orators.

                             (continued on next page)

Sunday, May 2, 2004

Aaron Massey, left, a Hamtramck resident, comments Tuesday on amending the city's
noise ordinance to allow a Muslim call to prayer. The City Council approved the change.

Sunday, May 2, 2004
Hamtramck's call to worship tests treatment of noise and religion

  Cities should treat all religions the same; Muslim broadcasts
                    are just like church bells

  By Shahab Ahmed / Special to The Detroit News

The Muslim call to worship in Hamtramck has received a lot of national attention, but
there is nothing really controversial about it. A local community has made a judgment
about a local noise issue.
   The Hamtramck City Council’s approval of letting mosques broadcast the call to
worship five times a day from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. over loudspeakers recognizes the right of
the mosques to practice this ancient tradition. And the willingness of the al-Islah Islamic
Center to ask permission to do this, even though it didn’t have to, shows it wants to be a
good neighbor in a multiethnic, multireligious community.
   Critics worry that the call to worship is imposing religious views on people. But a look
at the facts proves this is not the case. It merely allows Muslims their government-
protected right to practice their religion freely.
   First, the al-Islah Islamic Center didn’t have to seek the government’s permission
under Hamtramck’s noise ordinance to make the calls to worship, which last one to two

minutes. The mosque has the religious freedom to issue these calls under Hamtramck’s
   But the mosque wanted to make sure it wasn’t bothering anybody. It didn’t want to
create a conflict. So its officials went to the council and asked to have its broadcasts
regulated. And the council agreed, and will now let the al-Islah Islamic Center and two
other mosques do so.
   This allows the city to tell mosques how loud their calls can be, how many
loudspeakers they can use and how long the calls to prayer can last.
   According to Islam, before any prayer, a muezzin goes to the mosque’s minaret and
makes the call to worship. These days, the loudspeakers replace the minaret.
   This is no different than Christian churches ringing bells to signal times of worship.
All religious institutions should be treated the same. While the call to worship is
unfamiliar to some people, it is nothing to be afraid of.
   Some critics have argued that there is a difference between the church bells and the
call to worship because the muezzin’s call is spoken and mentions Allah. But both church
bells and calls to worship are religious messages, whether as music or spoken word. They
are religious calls that people can embrace or ignore.
   The call to worship does have a religious message, but that doesn’t mean it should be
discriminated against. Americans share their religious views all the time. When Muslims
go out during the Christmas season, we hear Christian religious songs in the malls and
other gathering places.
   Muslims and non-Christians are essentially forced to listen to the music when
shopping. But we are not forced to adapt this religious tradition. When it comes to the
call to worship, Muslims in Hamtramck are merely asking that they be treated the same.
   There is a legitimate concern about whether the calls will disturb people. But it has
been my experience, as a Muslim from Bangladesh, that people get used to the calls and
they become background noise. My wife, who is an American, and I lived next door to
mosque in Bangladesh and after a short while were not disturbed. We slept through them.
   The same will prove true in Hamtramck. The mosque’s neighbors are already used to
the calls. If they become a problem, adjustments can be made. If necessary, the City
Council will control the noise, but not the religion.
   The call to worship debate should benefit Hamtramck. More than a third of the city is
Muslim. Allowing the calls to worship shows that the city embraces cultural diversity.
The noise ordinance tells the Muslim community that it will be treated the same as others
and will be respected.
   Hamtramck is a community where many different ethnic and religious groups live
harmoniously, side by side. Allowing the call to worship will unify the city and promote

                             (continued on next page)

Thursday, May 6, 2004

                       ACLU of Michigan:
              Hamtramck noise ordinance still needs work

Muslim calls to prayer are constitutionally permissible if the Wayne County
           city treats religious and nonreligious speech equally

By Kary L. Moss / Special to The Detroit News

In the past week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has received hundreds
of calls and e-mails from around the country from people asking our position on the
amended Hamtramck noise ordinance passed by the City Council. The change in the
ordinance occurred in response to a request that the Wayne County city allow a Muslim
call to prayer five times a day.
   The Hamtramck controversy cannot be viewed as governmental support of one faith
over another, although that is how many self-identified Christians calling our office seem
to feel. Instead, this issue concerns both the right to expression of all speech, whether
religious or political, as well as the need to reasonably accommodate religious
   In an effort to accommodate members of the Muslim faith, Hamtramck has allowed a
practice that would not have been possible under the original noise ordinance. That
ordinance, which also has First Amendment problems, makes it unlawful “for any person
to create, assist in creating ... any excessive, unnecessary or unusually loud noise, or any
noise which either annoys, disturbs....”

   The new amendment says: “The City shall permit ‘call to prayer,’ ‘church bells’ and
other means of announcing religious meetings to be amplified between the hours of 6
a.m. and 10 p.m. for a duration not to exceed five minutes (emphasis added).”
   Hamtramck must first make the original ordinance constitutional. Then, to
accommodate the needs of Muslims, Christians and members of other faiths, the city can
create what are called “reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions.” These
restrictions need to equally apply to other nonreligious but protected speech.
   The American Civil Liberties Union does support reasonable efforts by the
government to accommodate religious expression. This gets tricky and requires the
balancing of important constitutional rights — the right to religious freedom and
separation of church and state.
   The ACLU is a strong advocate of both religious freedom and the separation of church
and state.
   We believe government should remain neutral in matters of religion. It must not
suppress the free exercise of religion nor may it promote religion over nonreligion.
   It is because of the separation of church and state, not in spite of it, that Americans
enjoy such a degree of religious freedom, a freedom unknown to the rest of the world.
And Americans take full advantage of this freedom: The United States is home to more
than 1,500 different religions, with more than 360,000 churches, synagogues and
   To balance the rights, Hamtramck can make adjustments in its noise ordinance. For
example, it can limit the hours, duration and maximum noise level under which calls to
prayer and ringing of church bells are permissible. It should do so by adopting specific
neutral criteria that cover both religious and nonreligious noise.
   The maximum level of sound permitted under the ordinance should be scientifically
measurable and not subjectively based.
   The city must allow for reasonable accommodation of religious speech, whether it is
the ringing of church bells or the Muslim call to prayer or interdenominational holiday
decorations. This is also true in governmental workplaces.
   It is for this reason that the ACLU has supported federal regulations that allow
government agencies to accommodate personal religious expression by federal
employees, including the wearing of head coverings by Jews, Muslims or members of the
Sikh faith, if it does not impair workplace efficiency.
   Hamtramck has done its best to be sensitive to the needs of the community, and we
applaud city officials for doing so. The city has, unfortunately, gone too far with its noise
ordinance, but it is a problem that can be corrected in the interests of all those who live in

                               (continued on next page)

May 5, 2004

     Tension in a Michigan City Over Muslims' Call to
New York Times

HAMTRAMCK, Mich., April 30 -- To hear people in this blue-collar city tell it, things
were fine until the al-Islah Islamic Center petitioned to broadcast its call to prayer, or
azan, over an outdoor loudspeaker.

Masud Khan, the mosque's secretary, sat on the carpeted floor on Wednesday and
reflected on what he had learned about some of his neighbors in the last few months.
''How much they hate us,'' he said softly.

Jackie Rutherford, a librarian and youth-care worker, sat on her front stoop watching
three men in Islamic shirt-dresses and tupi caps at the house across the street. ''I don't
know what's going to happen to our little town,'' said Ms. Rutherford, 39.

''I used to say I wasn't prejudiced against anyone, but then I realized I had a problem with
them putting Allah above everyone else,'' she said, of the plan to amplify the call to
prayer, which mosques announce five times a day. ''It's throwing salt in a wound. I feel
they've come to our country, infiltrated it, and they sit there looking at us, laughing,
calling us fools.''

For the population of Hamtramck, a city of 23,000 surrounded by Detroit, the battle of
the loudspeaker, which the City Council approved on Tuesday, has revealed a crossfire of
religious, ethnic and lifestyle grievances, aggravated by the lingering memories of Sept.
11, 2001, which left many Muslims here feeling they were under suspicion.

Once an enclave of Polish immigrants, Hamtramck has since the 1990's become a haven
for immigrants from Bangladesh, Yemen, Pakistan, Bosnia and other countries, including
a large Muslim population. In the 2000 census, 41 percent of the city's population was
born outside the United States.

On spring afternoons the sidewalks of Joseph Campau Avenue echo snatches of Polish,
Bengali, Arabic and hip hop, punctuated by the sound of bells from several Catholic
churches. Three mosques have opened in the last few years, increasing in size while the
congregations at neighboring Roman Catholic churches dwindle.

Yet for all this churn, the ethnic populations coexisted with little overt friction.

''Even after 9/11 we had no problems,'' said Abdul Motlib, the president of the al-Islah
mosque, which serves a mostly Bangladeshi membership (the other two mosques are
primarily Bosnian or Yemeni).

Then last year Mr. Motlib applied for approval to amplify the call to prayer, a sonorous
invocation in Arabic that lasts up to two minutes.

For some longtime residents, like Joanne Golen, 68, who described herself as a born-
again Christian, the request crossed a line. Mrs. Golen said she had always gotten along
well with the Bangladeshi families in her neighborhood. She noted that at Easter one of
her new neighbors brought her a turkey that he had gotten at work. But she said the call
to prayer was too much.

''My main objection is simple,'' she said. ''I don't want to be told that Allah is the true and
only God five times a day, 365 days a year. It's against my constitutional rights to have to
listen to another religion evangelize in my ear.''

At City Hall on Tuesday, before the final vote on the loudspeaker, a crowd of more than
100 crammed into a room, with dozens more listening or arguing in the hallway outside.

Chuck Schultz, 49, a computer programmer from nearby Grosse Point, spoke against the

''Everyone talks about their rights,'' Mr. Schultz said. ''The rights of Christians have been
stripped from them. Last week there were Muslims praying downstairs, in a public
building. If Christians tried to do that, the A.C.L.U. would shut us down.''

Some residents complained about the potential noise. Others, like Veronica Wojtowicz,
81, reminded neighbors of a time when life in Hamtramck was simpler.

''My parents came to this country and worked hard,'' Ms. Wojtowicz said. ''I think the
grace belongs on the other side. The intolerance doesn't come from the people who
object, it comes from the other side. We all lived in peace and had no problems. You
moved too fast.''

In response, Abdul Latef, the imam at Masjid Al-Falah, a mosque in Detroit, asked the
community to be patient.

''You can make history,'' Mr. Al-Falah said. ''This is part of our religion. If it is too noisy,
then you can complain, and they will stop it forever.''

Council members emphasized that there was nothing technically preventing the mosque
from amplifying its call to prayer, even without amending the city's noise ordinance, and
compared the amplification to the chiming of church bells. The amendment just gave
government officials leverage to limit the volume and hours of the broadcasts, said
Councilman Scott Klein.

Mr. Motlib said the mosque applied for approval ''because we want to be good

Paradoxically, the call to prayer is one that even most of the Muslims at al-Islah mosque
cannot understand, because they speak Bengali rather than Arabic, Mr. Khan said.

Yet for many Muslims in town, the dispute seemed less about noise or the content of the
azan than about insecurities of an older immigrant population feeling threatened by a
newer one.

''They see we are coming more and more, and they think we are taking their city,'' said
Abusayed Mahfuz, 34, the editor of Bangla Amar, a local Bengali magazine and Web
site. ''It's not really a religious problem. It's about migration, which is a reality.''

Mr. Musad, who moved to Hamtramck from New York in 1999, said he understood the

''It's human nature,'' he said. ''You feel an invasion. It could happen to me also.''

Like others in his mosque, Mr. Musad said, he was drawn to the Muslim community here
not for its engagement with the rest of America, but for its distance.

''What attracted me was seeing school girls with veils and burkhas,'' he said. ''It's more
authentic here than in New York, more roots. There's village life.''

His regret was that Muslims were not even more isolated from the other cultures around
them. ''Parents feel they need to force their kids to follow their religion, or they're going
to lose their kids,'' Mr. Musad said.

And for the Polish community of Hamtramck, the clash of immigrant cultures was
nothing new, said Greg Kowalski, chairman of the town historical commission. When the
first waves of Polish immigrants began to outnumber their German-American
predecessors after World War I, the fissures were even more profound, he said.

''The Germans looked at these Eastern Europeans and thought they were all communists,''
Mr. Kowalski said. ''There was a lot of fear. So we're really repeating history.''

Opponents of the City Council decision on the loudspeaker said they would try to reverse
it, either through the courts or by a voter referendum. Unless they are successful, the
mosque is expected to begin broadcasting the call to prayer in a couple of weeks. Several
mosques in Detroit and nearby Dearborn already use loudspeakers, without incident.

Bashar Imam, a Muslim who runs three medical centers in Hamtramck, smarted at the
venom the conflict had brought out.

''These people get treated in my medical clinics, and that's what they think of us?'' Mr.
Imam said.

But he added, ''This is healthy. This is how we get to know each other.''

May 20, 2004

    Hamtramck prayer flap attracts group of diversity
By Laura Berman / The Detroit News

The din surrounding the Hamtramck mosque keeps getting louder: It’s a clarion call to
hate groups and provocateurs.
   The National Alliance, a neo-Nazi-like group whose national clubhouse is based in
West Virginia, is circulating fliers to oppose the noise ordinance change, which allows a
Hamtramck mosque to broadcast its call to prayer by loudspeaker.
   The ordinance has made international news. At a recent City Council meeting, a
charismatic Christian group from Ohio drove 5 1/2 hours to protest the mosque’s “noise.”
   One little mosque’s request for a legal variance has been heard around the world,
largely because it’s viewed as an emblem of the ongoing culture wars: multiculturalism
versus Eurocentrism, religious freedom versus freedom from religion.
   So many rights. So little time to fight about them.
   Or, as the National Alliance flier sneers, “Has alarm clock technology not found its
way to the Middle East?”
   The National Alliance, whose hotline recording describes itself as an advocacy group
for “white people,” is attempting to insinuate itself into a Hamtramck petition drive to
overturn the ordinance. Hamtramck organizers have insisted they aren’t allying
themselves with the fringe-group Alliance, which likes to say it’s a “race-based
   Uh huh.
   In Hamtramck, petitioners submitted 632 signatures to the city clerk’s office on
Tuesday, more than the 552 required to override the council vote and force the issue onto
a citywide ballot.
   National Alliance spokesman Shaun Walker claims that Michigan is becoming a newly
strong state for his organization.
   “We’re getting younger, more educated members,” he said, “and we’re recruiting at
   But Walker wouldn’t say whether the organization has 6,000 members — or six. And
he refused to put me in touch with any local members, saying that none is yet authorized
to speak to the media.
   “We’ve been around for 34 years, and it has always been our policy we don’t give
those numbers to the media.”

  “Because we don’t.”
  The National Alliance believes in an even playing field for all minorities: Its members
appear to despise Jews, Arabs, Hispanics and African-Americans in equal measure.
According to their Web site and literature, they’re disturbed by ethnic diversity of all
  Walker claims that “Michigan has come to fruit only within the last six to nine
months,” perhaps because of growing tensions in the area, perhaps because he led an
organizing seminar last year in — as he says — “the whitest suburb in Detroit: Livonia.”
  He said they chose Livonia as their site in part because “we have a lot of members
there,” and described it as a “nice place ... I enjoyed it.”

Sunday, May 23, 2004

This Week's Issue

           Call to prayer is unsettling in Hamtramck
              Despite the outcry, mosque to proceed with religious practice

By Ron French / The Detroit News

HAMTRAMCK — A controversial noise ordinance allowing a mosque to broadcast
daily Islamic calls to prayer over loud speakers is set to go into effect Wednesday.
   But it probably won’t go into effect because of a petition protesting the ordinance.
   But it probably won’t matter because the mosque plans to broadcast the calls to prayer
   Confused? The Hamtramck City Council will try to sort through the mess Tuesday in
the latest round of what is becoming a lesson in democracy, freedom of speech and
freedom of religion.
   Leaders of the Al-Islah Islamic Center asked the council for permission to broadcast
calls to prayer — a centuries-old tradition in Islam. A prayer is sung five times a day to
invite Muslims to pray. They’re often broadcast by loud speaker in predominantly
Muslim countries, but are seldom broadcast in the United States.
   The council wrote and approved an amendment to the city’s noise ordinance, sparking
waves of outrage from Christian groups across the country that claimed Hamtramck was
giving special rights to Muslims.
   Last week, citizens turned in petitions with an estimated 630 signatures asking that the
noise ordinance amendment be suspended. If 552 of the signatures are certified by the
city clerk’s office, then the council Tuesday will be required to reconsider the
   The council could vote down the amendment — which seems unlikely — because the
amendment has passed unanimously several times.

  If the council votes to approve the amendment, it still doesn’t go into effect. Instead,
the amendment would be put on hold until it can be put on a ballot for city voters to
  All the political gyrations may not matter.
  Masud Kahn, the associate imam of the mosque, said the mosque will begin the calls to
prayer Friday, as planned, no matter what happens with the petition and the council.
  Kahn and council President Karen Majewski say the mosque didn’t need the city’s
permission to broadcast the calls to prayer in the first place.
  Because the mosque is a religious institution and because it is broadcasting from its
own property, the city has no control over the calls to prayer beyond regulations
contained in the noise ordinance.
  The calls to prayer last about two minutes. While mosque leaders are still discussing
their options, Kahn said the mosque tentatively plans to begin the broadcasts at about
1:30 p.m. Friday.

  Wednesday, May 26, 2004

           Hamtramck mosques to air calls to prayer
         Council rejects drive to stop broadcasts; now, voters to decide

By Ron French / The Detroit News

Islamic calls to prayer will be broadcast over loudspeakers onto the streets of Hamtramck
beginning Friday.
   A petition drive intended to stop the broadcast of the religious messages, which has
become controversial in this city, appears to have backfired for the moment.
   The petition drive was intended to stop a noise ordinance amendment regulating the
religious messages. The City Council voted unanimously to reject the petitions and place
the issue before city voters in the next election.
   “I am appalled by the level of racism I have seen,” Councilman Scott Klein said. “The
people opposing this amendment (that allows the calls to prayer) have nothing on the
boys from Birmingham (Ala.).”
   But Robert Zwolak of Hamtramck, who led the petition drive, was just as upset by the
council's actions.
   “The damage has been done. This is Chernobyl,” Zwolak said, referring to the nuclear
power plant disaster in Ukraine in 1986. “The fallout will last for many years.”
   As a result of the council's decision Tuesday night, the city has no power to regulate
the volume or the time of day the calls to prayer may be broadcast.
   Masud Kahn, secretary of the Al-Islah Islamic Center, said after the meeting that the
mosque would go ahead with plans to begin broadcasting the calls to prayer, beginning at
1:30 p.m. Friday.
The call to prayer is an integral part of the Muslim faith. It is made five times a day, and
lasts between one and two minutes.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

           Embracing Muslim prayer pays dividends
By Thomas Bray / The Detroit News

The voters of Hamtramck will go to the polls on July 20 to decide whether to overturn a
recently enacted ordinance allowing the city’s mosques to broadcast their call to prayer
over loudspeakers.
   The dispute appears to raise a number of fundamental issues — among them whether
Americans believe they can come to terms with Islam in the wider world or whether a
“clash of civilizations,” in Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington’s famous term,
is inevitable. There also are many who believe Islam is incompatible with the democratic
traditions of what the U.S. Supreme Court in 1892 called a “Christian nation.” Coming
on the heels of the September 11 attacks, Muslim calls to prayer in Hamtramck strike
some residents as calls to religious battle.
   On the facts, though, the Hamtramck situation would seem eminently manageable. The
town’s existing noise ordinance, which is still in effect until the referendum takes place,
flatly bans any form of public amplification without a permit. But at least one church in
Hamtramck has long used a recording in place of church bells, and even the City
Council’s new ordinance permits regulation of the noise level and duration of the calls to
   But the City Council’s action nevertheless triggered an immediate backlash. City
Council meetings devolved into shouting matches; Christian activists from other states
showed up to march in protest. A petition drive quickly succeeded in rounding of enough
signatures to force a referendum.
   “When you call to prayer, you are proselytizing, and as a citizen of the United States I
don’t want to hear it,” 68-year-old resident Bob Golen was quoting as saying.
   But nothing in either the U.S. Constitution or American tradition prohibits
proselytizing. Indeed, the free exercise of religion includes the freedom to try to persuade
others through lawful means to join your particular brand of religion. As many observers
have noted, such competition tends to strengthen a religion, not weaken it. Nor is there
any threat of Arab jihadists overrunning the United States.
   Only 12 states have more than 100,000 Muslims, and 35-40 percent of those come
from Southeast Asia, not the Arab world. Another 30 percent are homegrown African-
American Muslims. Hillel Fradkin, director of Islamic and Jewish Studies at the Ethics
and Public Policy Center of Washington, D.C., estimated in a recent issue of The Public
Interest that more than half of the nonblack Muslims have incomes of $50,000 a year or
more — hardly fodder for revolution. In Hamtramck, which for years has been struggling
financially, Muslim entrepreneurship may provide the best hope for a renaissance of the
   Most Muslims are here for the same reason as other immigrants: because this is a land
of opportunity and freedom, including religious freedom, in which they hope to share.
Like other immigrants before them, they may for a time feel tugs to their old countries,
and there may be bumps in relationships with their countrymen. Some Muslim radicals

may try to intimidate co-religionists who assimilate into American society as traitors,
notes Fradkin.
   But Muslims in most communities have shown a great willingness to play by the
locally acceptable rules, including noise ordinances governing calls to prayer. If the still
small but growing Muslim population can come to terms with America — and vice versa
— that will carry an important message back to regions where America has genuine
national security interests. It would show that Muslim extremism is not the only path that
Arab peoples can take in their effort to join the 21st century.
   It’s important that moderate American Muslims assert leadership, among other things
by rigorously denouncing terrorism. On the other hand, other Americans must be willing
to proffer an understanding hand. Our national security may depend on it.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

               Hamtramck will vote on call to prayer
 This Week's Issue; Ordinance allows use of loudspeakers for Muslim ritual

By Christopher M. Singer / The Detroit News

   HAMTRAMCK — This 2.1-square-mile enclave of 23,000 residents Tuesday is
holding a plebiscite on the First Amendment.
   Voters in this formerly Polish-Catholic stronghold will be asked whether to repeal an
amendment to the city’s noise ordinance that makes the adhan, the Islamic call to prayer,
protected speech.
   “It’s not a religious issue,” insisted Robert Zwolak, a former city councilman, city
clerk and an elected member of a commission drafting a new City Charter.
   Zwolak helped circulate petitions to get Tuesday’s referendum added to a previously
scheduled recall election ballot.
   “This is not a ‘clash of cultures,’ ” Zwolak insisted. “I am not against the call to prayer.
This is the final recourse for the citizens of Hamtramck to object to the amendment to the
noise ordinance.
   “We don’t want an amplified call to prayer.”
   As immigrants from Poland assimilated and moved to Warren, Troy and Sterling
Heights, new immigrants from Yemen, Bangladesh, Pakistan and war refugees from
Bosnia and Somalia replaced them.
   According to A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam, by I.A. Ibrahim,
devout Muslims are required to: tithe to aid the needy; fast during the holy month of
Ramadan and to pray five times a day.
   The adhan is sung five times each day to notify people.
   By agreement with the City Council, the mosque on Caniff at Jos. Campau broadcasts
the adhan three times daily, in early afternoon and twice in the evening. The call can be
heard as far as a half-mile away, residents say.
   City Councilman Chuck Ciergenski recalled that officials from the Al-Islah Islamic
Center on Caniff at Jos. Campau two years ago approached him and fellow councilman,

Rob Cedar, about using loudspeakers for the adhan. But the council then was deadlocked
two votes to two votes, so an amendment to the noise ordinance was impossible.
   After the November 2003 election, a new council approved the amendment
   In the Catholic tradition, church bells are rung three times a day — morning, noon and
night — as a call to pray the Angelus, commemorating the Annunciation.
   “Yes. It would be considered a call to prayer,” noted the Rev. Mark Borkowski, pastor
of Sweetest Heart of Mary and St. Josaphat Catholic churches, in the old Poletown
neighborhood of Detroit. “It dates back to the time when farmers worked in the fields
outside of town before anybody had watches. But they could hear the bells.
   “There’s a painting (The Angelus by Jean-Francois Millet) that shows farmers in a
field pausing to pray.”

                              (continued on next page)

  IV. The Final Outcome
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

  Voters in Hamtramck fail to quell Muslim prayer call
           Council amendment stands to regulate volume and timing

By Christopher Singer / The Detroit News

HAMTRAMCK -- Voters on Tuesday narrowly upheld a law allowing the city's Islamic
mosques to have amplified calls to prayer, 1,462 to 1,200.
   “I feel wonderful,” said Abdul Motlib, president of the Al-Islah Islamic Center. “Now
we truly have approval from the residents of the city. We can feel proud of Hamtramck.”
   But Willy Jones, 67, voted against allowing the calls to prayer.
   “It's a noise hazard,” he said after voting at a Catholic school across the street from the
Al-Islah mosque.
   The City Council in April unanimously amended Hamtramck's noise ordinance,
making the adhan -- the Islamic call to prayer -- protected speech. The amendment allows
the call to prayer but regulates its volume and timing.
   Jones questioned the assertion by Muslim leaders that the calls are no different from
church bells.
   “The church has been doing this for years. This is not calling people to prayer. It’s
(giving) the time of day,” he said.

   In the special election, about 29 percent of the city's 9,179 registered voters who went
to the polls also recalled three school board members who were accused of barring the
public from parts of board meetings.
   The election was monitored by the U.S. Justice Department. They also monitored the
2001 and 2003 elections for mayor and City Council, following complaints of
discrimination in the 1999 election. There were no reported incidents during Tuesday's
   The call to prayer amendment was passed after a local mosque asked for permission to
begin broadcasting the Arabic chants, which are traditionally issued five times a day.
   After the council's action, there was an outcry among some of Hamtramck's 23,000
residents, who collected petitions calling for the referendum on the issue. The longtime
Polish Catholic enclave has undergone cultural changes in recent years, as the city has
seen an influx of immigrants from Bangladesh, Yemen and other countries.
   Earlier Tuesday at the Al-Islah Islamic Center, the Muslim mid-day prayer was
followed by a prayer service held by the Hamtramck Interfaith Association.
   Motlib smiled when he said: “Whatever will come in the future, no one knows. We
would like to end this story (the controversy and public vote) today.”
   It was Motlib who last year approached two City Council members, asking if his
mosque could amplify the adhan, or call to prayer. Devout Muslims are required to pray
five times a day. The council this April voted unanimously to amend the city's noise
ordinance to include the adhan and ringing church bells as protected speech.

                                     [end of articles]


Shared By:
Description: Proposal for Play to Be Performed at a Church for Pay document sample