In an effort to reduce the sound pollution caused by loudspeakers installed on mosques, Indonesia has started to cap the maximum volume of loudspeakers. The Indonesian Mosque Council has undertaken a project to check and fix the sound systems that cause high noise pollution in all the mosques in the country.
Indonesia is the largest Muslim country, with close to 13% of the world’s Muslim population. There are around 800,000 mosques across the country which poses a major problem because of the prayer calls at high volume over the loudspeakers. Reports suggest that 7,000 technicians are working on the project. They have already fixed the volume of speakers at over 70,000 mosques across the country and aim to check and repair the loudspeakers at all mosques.
Jusuf Kalla, Chairman of, Indonesian Mosque Council, said in a statement that around half of the mosques have loudspeakers with poor acoustics that are adding up to the noise problem. As a Muslim, IMC’s acoustics program coordinator pointed out that people in Indonesia believe that the loudspeakers should play prayer calls at high volumes so that worshippers can hear them from far away. “They consider it a symbol of greatness in Islam,” he said.
Ahmad Taufik, Al-Ihkwan mosque, Jakarta, used the program to get the speakers fixed though it is not mandatory. He said he wanted to ensure there was social harmony among the people of Indonesia. “The sound is softer now. That way, it will not disturb people in the neighborhood, not to mention we have a hospital behind the mosque,” he said.
Increased level of anxiety among the residents
Experts believe that speakers playing Azaan at high volumes in the wee hours is adding up to the anxiety among the residents around the mosques. Bangkok Post narrated the story of one Rina who has developed an anxiety disorder as the mosque near her house not only plays prayer calls but also wakes up people an hour before at around 3 AM. However, she was reportedly too scared to report as people had been jailed or faced backlash over such complaints in the past. Reports suggest that criticism of such practices can lead to accusations of blasphemy which may result in up to five years in jail.
Rina told AFP, “The loudspeakers are not only used for the call to prayer, but they also use it to wake people up 30-40 minutes before the morning prayer time.” There have been online complaints about the loud volume, but there is a serious lack of official statistics on the matter.
A Buddhist woman was jailed in 2018 over blasphemy charges after she claimed that the prayers were hurting her ears. Actress and influencer Zaskia Mecca were heavily criticized online after she spoke against the speaker volume during Ramadan.
Indonesia has been trying to control loudspeaker volume for long
This is not the first time that Indonesia has tried to control the speaker volume at Mosques. In 2012, the administration had met over 1,000 representatives of the Mosque Council and requested them to lower the volume of the call for prayers. However, the council did not budge and claimed “any lowering of the volume would be counterproductive because Muslims need to be “alerted” to their duties.”
In 2015, another attempt was made to tackle the volume problem. At that time, around 100 technicians were deployed to tune the volume of the loudspeakers at the mosques. Usman Roin, one of the technicians, was quoted by the Anadolu Agency saying that the main issue was the lack of maintenance of the loudspeakers and sub-standard equipment.
Yet another attempt was made in 2018 when Indonesia announced that it was planning to bring guidelines over the use of loudspeakers in the mosques. The step was taken after a Chinese-Indonesian Buddhist woman was jailed for 18 months over blasphemy charges for raising her voice against the loudspeakers at mosques.
Noise issues associated with loudspeakers at mosques
Indonesia is not the only country that has attempted to control the volume of loudspeakers at mosques. In June 2021, the Saudi Arabia government restricted the volume of loudspeakers in mosques after a series of complaints were filed over high volumes.
Several incidents have happened in India where people from two communities have clashed over loudspeaker volumes at mosques. Notably, as per Supreme Court’s guidelines, loudspeakers cannot be used anywhere, including places of worship between 10:30 PM to 6 AM. In June 2020, a young woman from Mumbai was hacked by Islamic fundamentalists after she requested them to lower down the volume. Rape threats were issued to a social media user after she asked Muslims to recite Azaan at a lower volume.