Hamtramck, Michigan, a 23,000 strong community known for Polish food, strong Catholic values and the energizing strains of the polka will soon be moving to the strains of a new song- Islam. That is, unless residents defeat the town council’s permission for the Bangladeshi al-Islah mosque to broadcast calls to prayer five times a day.
Each call to prayer lasts around two minutes – so for 10 minutes a day all residents of this small mid-west town will be forcibly exposed to Islam in the name of multiculturalism. The first call will go out at 6 a.m. and the last one at 10 p.m. The mosque says these hours of curtailment do not necessarily fit in with the Islamic schedule, but the Imam is generously prepared to compromise.
Many Hamtramck residents are angry that the Muslims have permission to wail “Allah is most great. I bear witness that there is no god except Allah” into a loudspeaker five times a day.
“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. Though the calls to worship are in Arabic, Golen said she’s offended by words that praise Allah. “He’s not my true god,” she said.
Masud Khan, secretary of the al-Islah mosque, said the purpose of the call is not to proselytize.
“We are not inviting non-Muslims”, he said. “We are calling our Muslim people, reminding them they are obligated to come to pray.”
Some Muslims who are promoting the loud-speakered calls to prayer make a comparison with church bells, which they say are equally disturbing.
But the use of bells to toll away the hours can be traced back to agrarian times. The ringing of the bells signified when workers in the field could put down their tools and eat lunch and when it was time to go home. Church bells became a familiar guide to time in Europe before the Dark Ages. It is only within the last 100 years or so that watches and clocks became commonplace.
The Muslim apologists, however, don’t see the significance of the historical use of bells to tell time. They have taken to multiculti platitudes like a platypus to water, and are out in force to support the call to prayer. Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, based in Dearborn, chimed in with a lesson in tolerance for the Christians.
“Hamtramck should live up to freedom of religion and religious expression, and celebrate our rich diversity and tolerance,” he opined.
According to CBS, the Michigan chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee urged tolerance of the issue, loftily condemning the “resentment and negativity” expressed by local residents.
CBS also reported City Council member Shahab Ahmed, who is Bangladeshi and attends al-Islah, said he was surprised the call to prayer turned into a big issue. But he noted that he had previously experienced anti-Muslim sentiment in Hamtramck- particularly during his 2001 council bid following the Sept. 11 attacks.
Multiculti City Council president Karen Majewski was confident the council would unanimously approve the amendment allowing the call to prayer, and she was right. But as far as many residents of Hamtramck are concerned, that just means the Muslims won the first round. According to Click on Detroit, some claim it amounts to state sponsorship of a religion and it lifts Islam above all other religions in Hamtramck. Many say it violates their rights and challenges the nation's largely Judeo-Christian identity.
Wayne County News reports a petition drive is underway to get amendment disallowed.
Organizers say they are certain they’ll get the required 552 signatures to reverse the decision by the May 26 deadline.