Monday, February 04, 2008

Mixed feelings about the call to prayer in Oxford

There is a part of me that feels sympathetic towards Muslims who want the call to prayer broadcast in Oxford.
When I'm in Jerusalem, I love being near the old city at sunset and hearing the simultaneous sound of the church bells ringing and the Muezzin's call to prayer. It underlies the centrality of Jerusalem to the world's great faiths.

But Oxford isn't Jerusalem, and because of recent events, the call to prayer feels a lot more sinister, an overt attempt to convert the rest of us to Islam. Nevertheless, Oxford's Muslims have every right to broadcast the call to prayer, providing it is within the cities' noise limits and providing it is not broadcast at an ungodly hour (excuse the pun).

Those who want to broadcast the call to prayer may have an ulterior motive, but on this issue, Oxford's residents are in a no-win situation. Islam is flourishing in the vacuum left by 40 years of multiculturalism and the absence of any organised religion. Whether the mosque broadcasts the call to prayer or not makes little difference, the battle has already been lost.