Only Sverigedemokraterna voted against it in the City Council
A green light has been given for the muezzin – at least if the politicians in the Swedish municipality of Botkyrka have their way. The question whether Islamic call to prayer from the Fittja mosque can be permitted has been dragging along since autumn, but now things are speeding up.
With the votes 58 to 3, the City Council decided on February 21st that the ban against Islamic prayer calls prescribed by the zoning law since the construction of the mosque during the 1990s is not valid. The matter will now be forwarded to the police for their opinion if such prayer calls can be considered a disturbance of the public order.
“A really weird decision. One doesn’t simply shred the old zoning laws, which clearly stated that calls to prayer are not to be permitted. Rather, they now believe that the ban itself is invalid,” says Robert Stenkvist, member of the Botkyrka City Council for Sverigedemokraterna.
The discussion in the City Council was, according to Stenkvist ”surprisingly clean”, without ugly attacks or other disorder.
“One almost had the impression that some were disappointed that no more fighting took place,” says Stenkvist.
After a number of committees and even the municipal lawyer had found that, in a nutshell, it is not a municipal matter to ban or permit prayer calls, the issue now lies with the police. But it is far from certain that the police will get to have their say in the question, for that would open the doors to “chaos”, according to Robert Stenkvist. The matter arouses powerful emotions, for as well as against. Local newspapers have been bombarded with emails about the calls to prayer, most of them negative.
“the call to prayer is a relic from a time when no clocks existed. Now we have clocks and even apps that can help keep track of prayer times.”
The Sweden Democrats are frequently accused of being reactionaries, but just what is this? It is an intrusion in the secular society,” says Robert Stenkvist.
The comparison between calls to prayer and church bells he entirely dismisses – this is not the same issue, thinks Stenkvist.
“There are two great differences. Firstly, church bells have a historic pedigree; they are a part of our cultural heritage that has existed for 900 years. Secondly, the prayer call has an articulate message, which the church bells do not. Those are not comparable.”
The drama about the calls to prayer in Botkyrka is set to continue. Dispatch International will obviously keep our readers informed, and, when a final decision is made, will also hand over our list of protests, containing thousands of names, to the proper authorities.
The case about prayer calls in the Fittja mosque in the municipality of Botkyrka started with a citizens’ proposal from the spokesman for the Islamic Cultural Society of Botkyrka, Ismail Okur, last fall. Okur filed three alternative proposals for the municipality to decide upon:
Proposal 1: That on each Friday, in context with the Friday prayer, the mosque would be permitted to make public calls to prayer.
Proposal 2: If this could not be granted, permission would be granted to make prayer calls on the first Friday of each month.
Proposal 3: Permission to make two public prayer calls annually.
The cultural society wrote that the call to prayer has great symbolic significance, just as the church bells have for the church. The prayer calls would be more quiet and be of approximately the same duration as the ringing of church bells. There is no housing close to the mosque, ad thus no neighbors would be disturbed by the calls, according to the society. Rather, it expressed its hopes that “this would create very positive thoughts in the area, not only in Botkyrka but in all of Sweden”.