Indonesia's Ministry of Religious Affairs has issued a circular on azan or the Islamic call to prayer, with guidelines on when and how it ought to be broadcast by mosques across the country, amid an outcry over the jailing of a woman who had griped about azan volumes to a neighbour.
Titled "The use of loudspeakers in Mosques, Langgar, and Musholla", the circular released on Friday (Aug 24) urges religious institutions to follow the instructions of the director-general of Muslim guidance, Tempo news portal reported on Saturday (Aug 25). Langgar and Musholla are terms used in Indonesia for Muslim prayer houses.
The directive came three days after a 44-year-old woman of Chinese descent and Buddhist faith was found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to 1 1/2-year jail by the Medan district court.
The woman, named Meliana, complained to her neighbour in 2016 about the volume of azan broadcast by a mosque near her home in northern Sumatra. But the neighbour told others about it and soon rumour had it that Meliana was trying to ban azan.
The resulting outrage led to a rampage by Muslims on several Buddhist temples in what is believed to be the worst bout of anti-Chinese violence in the country since 1998.
After Meliana was sentenced on Tuesday, civil society groups and lawyers denounced the verdict as excessive and silly. The two biggest Muslim organisations in the country, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, also questioned the use of the blasphemy charge against the woman.
The religious affairs ministry's instructions on azan runs over six points according to Tempo:
1. Loudspeakers in mosques should be handled by experienced personnel to avoid droning sounds, humming, and other noises that would potentially arouse antipathy towards mosques.
2. Those issuing the azan must possess a melodious and good voice.
3. Do not raise sound levels while conducting a prayer.
4. Except for the azan, do not broadcast sounds when most people are likely to be sleeping, resting, and praying.
5. Azan must fulfil basic requirements including being melodious and easy on the ears.
6. Azan should be broadcast at appropriate times like during the subuh prayer at dawn. Activities such as Quran reciting should utilise only indoor speakers.