Turn It Down! Ex VP Urges Volume Control for Noisy Indonesian Mosques

Good news, maybe, for all those poor folks who like a decent night’s sleep!

Jakarta Globe 31/7      A relatively quieter Ramadan may be in store this year after former Vice President Jusuf Kalla called on the Indonesian Council of Ulema to help control the volume of mosques’ call to prayer.

“There is no other country in the world except Indonesia where the call to prayer is deafening,” he said in a speech on Saturday addressed to the council, also known as the MUI, that was broadcast by local television stations.

He’s darned right, too. My local mosque isn’t too cacaphonous, or maybe I’m just used to it. But there are plenty of folks around who find it irksome to hear those voices ululating across the rooftops of Jakarta.

Umar Shihab, one of the chairmen of the MUI, told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday that the council responded positively to Kalla’s advice. “We have to admit that there are many complaints about the loud calls to prayer during Ramadan, as if there is a competition,” Umar said. “Apart from that, some of them start calling for prayers an hour or two hour before the schedule, when it it’s better to be done just 30 minutes before,” he said.

Umar said the MUI would ask mosques to heed the call and be more orderly.

Well, so the council of ‘scholars’ – who seldom show much sign of having studied more than Islamic texts – can listen to criticism without issuing a fatwa. I suppose Mr. Kalla’s being immensely rich and politically significant does help.

One of the things foreigners newly arrived here tend to comment on is the level of noise everywhere. Many Indonesians evidently prefer to yell rather than talk at normal volume – this can be initially alarming to those of us who assume that raised voices indicate ire, but it isn’t (usually) the case.

By way of contrast, many locals can lower their voices to such an extent that you have to ask them repeatedly to repeat themselves or  speak up. This phenomenon is an effort to be polite – a ‘halus’ (smooth, refined, ergo lowered) tone is deemed highly courteous, even if you can’t figure out what’s being said!

And it is also a fact that girls who normally chirrup at each and every person within range can render their voices almost inaudible when it suits them.

Many a time when a foreign friend has brought his lady-love to visit, the womenfolk disappear into the kitchen. The silence therefrom is so deafening that one starts to fear they have taken an instant dislike to each other, but they emerge fully versed in every detail of our shared life-experiences!

So no wonder that even their own former VP recognises that Indonesia is unique in its attitude to loud noise.