Call Like An Egyptian

Apr 30th, 2012, in Featured, News, World, by

Are Egyptian mosques' call to prayer a role model for Indonesia's?

Vice President of Indonesia, BoedionoGiving a speech at a conference of the Indonesian Mosque Council, Indonesia's Vice President, Dr Boediono, made this comment about the call to prayer (a.k.a. adzan) at Indonesian mosques:

I feel, and perhaps other people feel the same thing, that adzan with lower volumes and heard from long distances will touch our hearts more than the hard, loud ones.

The Vice President has a reputation for avoiding controversy, but didn't stop there. Despite the potentially hostile audience, he also suggested that calls to prayer were "too loud", and their volume needed to be limited/regulated.Jakarta Post

In discussion of Boediono's speech, Indonesian mosques' calls to prayer were compared to those in Egypt. It is said that Egyptian mosques' calls to prayer have been "centralised", meaning that mosques can no longer broadcast their own call to prayer, only transmit a call to prayer broadcast by a government radio station.BBC This new policy was instituted after a 2004 letter to the Egypt's Ministry of Religious Endowments, complaining that the excessive volume of mosques' calls to prayer ruined its true spiritual significance.BBC

Should Indonesian mosques walk call like an Egyptian mosque?

I asked a friend who has lived in both countries (and currently resides in Cairo) about his experiences in this area:

1. How successfully have Egypt's new regulations on calls to prayer been enforced? Have you noticed any real difference?

They have never centralised the call to prayer.

They planned to, ran some trials, but general lack of enthusiasm and the revolution stopped any actual progress.

There has been no enforcement, no change at all. Everything is as loud as it once was.

The places that do it are Istanbul (Turkey) and Damascus (Syria), but I'm not 100% sure.

2. Where are the mosques louder - Indonesia (Jakarta) or Egypt (Cairo)?

Mosques are very loud in Cairo, but pretty loud in Jakarta, too.

From memory, Jakarta has fewer mosques than Cairo, where they are in every 3rd building or so it seems.

3. In both countries, is there any difference in mosque volume between larger cities and smaller cities, or more/less prosperous parts of Jakarta/Cairo?

Volume of the call to prayer essentially depends on how much money they have for amplifiers and speakers. More mosques in Cairo means louder volume.

Mosques are funded by the government, so they fund them in both poorer and richer areas.

Egyptian Call to Prayer

So, in reality Indonesian mosques already/still call like an Egyptian.


77 Comments on “Call Like An Egyptian”

  1. avatar timdog says:

    BB, I already provided annecdotal evidence to suggest that far more Indonesians speak Dutch than you or I would perhaps initially imagine.
    It was the same in Vietnam – “Nobody speaks French here anymore,” I blithely crowed (hey, you know, even “left-liberals” can’t help indulging in a little retrospective colonial triumphalism from time to time), until I met this French couple – “Um, actually they do…”
    (Also, incidentally, go to Bangladesh and Myanmar, and you’ll find that the English has withered away; the endurance of English in middle class India and Pakistan can probably no longer reasonably be attributed principally to the colonial legacy).

    Now, besides the fact that Indonesia just isn’t a literary country in the way that India is (despite being a much more literate country), there’s this:

    No writer in Indonesia gives a flying fuck about the colonial era

    Um, how about the single dominant (and thoroughly dreary) figure of Indonesian literature – Mr Pram?

    And, um, with the exception of historians taking a almost overwhelmingly critical line –

    “contrast that with the many Indian authors who write about the Raj”,

    which ones BB? You know I’m always keen for book recommendations.

    And the place names – seriously, how many Indian/Pakistani place names can you cite? I’ll give you a couple: Abbotabad, Dalhousie, Sleemanabad, but those, like the handful of similar ones, are attached to a place that was completely British-built, and I’m not entirely sure if “anyone could instantly recognise as British”…

    Ambassador cars are rapidly vanishing (and do you not think that 30 years ago on the streets of Indonesia you wouldn’t have found vehicles looking very much like the ones that were there 30 years earlier; and are you really basing this on a car?)

    On the British atecedents of the courts and civil service, I’m pretty sure that those same things in Indonesia come from Dutch roots, don’t they? (again, you and I are not as well-placed as Arie and co to judge that).

    I would say that there probably are more instantly palpable colonial relics in India than in Indonesia, but you are massively overstating the one, and massively underplaying the other….

    Face it, I know that because I state something the timdog/Arie/Oigal triumvirate have a Pavlovian reaction to deny it

  2. avatar timdog says:

    Face it, I know that because I state something the timdog/Arie/Oigal triumvirate have a Pavlovian reaction to deny it

    Get a grip BB. If you have a rummage through the corridors of this site you’ll find Arie and I having several lengthy and somewhat caustic exchanges which consist principally of me taking him thoroughly to task for what I consider his inclination to a default position of positivity about the Dutch role in Indonesia…

  3. avatar Arie Brand says:

    BB on May 7:

    Indonesia has had more influence on modern Holland than vice versa.

    BB on May 9:

    Dutch literature connected to their empire is written by nostalgic Dutchmen with their rose tinted spectacles.

    BB I am waiting with bated breath for more of your revelations about the Netherlands and Dutch literature. So happy, that in a country where Dutch has been eroded away you remain as a linguistic monadnock.

  4. avatar stevo says:

    …monadnock.

    Or “Kopje” 🙂

  5. avatar berlian biru says:

    And yet no one has given me an example of Dutch influence that someone who came from say, Korea and Nigeria, would recognise as Dutch about Indonesia.

    Trains and architecture that could have come from anywhere do not prove anything.

    I happen to know a few people who speak Dutch here too tim, one or two, you know a couple too, there’s a few more that we might not realise speak Dutch, whoopity doo, out of a population of almost a quarter of a billion eh? After the Dutch ruled the place for three centuries, well ain’t that something? They’ll be opening Dutch call centres in Indramayu any week now I suppose.

    Just for the record one girl I knew came from an old Menteng Catholic family, she studied Dutch at the Erasmushuis I think, to please her grandad who was immensely proud of his role in assisting the Dutch run his homeland. She told me this thinking I’d be impressed.

    I hadn’t the heart to tell her that where I come from such an attitude is described as “shleeveen”, yes it’s every bit as contemptuous as it sounds.

    Incidentally I will admit to not really liking Indian authors very much but I’m surprised you haven’t come across a bloke called Salman Rushdie in your travels, quite popular I believe. Indian chap, writes a lot about India and its relation to the Raj among other things.

  6. avatar timdog says:

    Aside from the fact that Salman Rushdie belongs firmly to the “international Indian” variety, and is an American-resident British citizen, I wonder if you could tell me which aspects of his oeuvre are “about the Raj”?
    Midnight’s Children, no; Shame, no; The Enchantress of Florence, no; The Moor’s Last Sigh, no; The Satanic Verses, no; Haroun and the Sea of Stories, no… I’m struggling here, BB; have you ever actually read any Salman Rushdie?

    Still waiting for you to cite all these “many Indian authors who write about the Raj”. I’d be keen to hear some of those place-names you were on about too. I do know that “everything you say is always fact”, but I’m just curious…

  7. avatar Yaser Antone says:

    Dog,
    The Dutch speaking Indonesian is NON EXISTENT in Indonesia nowadays. There are some Dutch speaker in Jakarta, they are Dutch Ambassador, his wife, his staff and our beloved old chum Meneer Arie Brand. Dutch language is an archaic stuff. Trying to utter a dutch word in public speech would evoke an out loud laugh among audience. Yeah, there are of course, some students majoring law learning Dutch for research purpose, but the majority of them have no interest to learn conversational Dutch.

  8. avatar berlian biru says:

    Oh I see we have different categories of Indian now do we? When did that happen?

    What does the “midnight” in Midnight’s Children refer to?

    If you want to split hairs Pram mostly writes about 1950’s and 1960’s Indonesia, I wasn’t aware that he wrote about colonial Indonesia but then the man bores me rigid.

    This has got stale tim, you believe that there is as much Dutch influence in modern Indonesia as there is British influence in former British colonies, or Spanish and Portuguese influence in their respective colonies. I think that is nonsense but because I think so you must automatically take the opposite viewpoint, I realise that so we’ll just leave it.

  9. avatar timdog says:

    Um, the “midnight” would refer to the very moment at which “the Raj” ended.
    Rushdie’s single most celebrated book begins precisely at the moment at which the British empire ended in the Subcontinent, and is about the decades which followed.

    If you want to split hairs Pram mostly writes about 1950?s and 1960?s Indonesia, I wasn’t aware that he wrote about colonial Indonesia.

    Sweet Jeezus… what is Pram’s single most famous work, BB? (clue: comes in four parts). What’s it about, and when’s it set, BB?

    Seriously BB, I am quite interested in the Subcontinent and have a decent interest in South Asian literature, and I’d really love to know about these “many Indian authors who write about the Raj” which I have somehow overlooked. I’d also like to hear some examples of enduring British placenames there.

    Getting stale? Surely you’re not, to paraphrase your own crowing, “running away with your tail between your legs having had your ass served to you on a plate” or anything like that, are you?

    you believe that there is as much Dutch influence in modern Indonesia as there is British influence in former British colonies, or Spanish and Portuguese influence in their respective colonies.

    No I don’t BB, and I stated as much very clearly indeed up above. But I do believe that you are engaging in wild hyperbole, by making out that there is absolutely nothing left from the Dutch in Indonesia (and I would reiterate, that I used to assume likewise, before realising that there was much more than I, a non-Hollander, would particularly notice).

    I also think that by going on about all these Raj-writing Indians living in towns called Little Shortbottom-under-Ganges, driving to their flock wallpapered offices in Morris Minors and talking to each other like Mr Cholmondley-warner . you’re engaging in a certain degree of hyperbolic fantasy too. Have you ever been to the Subcontinent, BB?

  10. avatar BrotherMouzone says:

    When I was in India, I was taken aback by just how French the whole place was… Although I did spend a lot of time in Pondicherry…

  11. avatar agan says:

    ^
    Pak Rabindranath Tagore during his Java sojourn was remarked to have said ” I see India everywhere but I don’t recognize it”.

    And now the proud tenants at Ciputra gated community unless dangdut is on air
    couldn’t tell if they are in the corner of Kelapa Gading, Hanoi, Pnom Penh, Berlin or California.
    It’s déjà vu all over again.

  12. avatar madrotter says:

    You haven’t read the Buru Quartet from Pramoedya BB???

    You missed out on that then, granted some of his other books are hard to get through, but the Buru Quartet is incredible, it really is, for many reasons, the story behind the books (Pram being a prisoner on Buru island for many years, all his manuscripts concerning those books and his library were burned down when he was arrested) and the books are, like I said incredible….

    Soliloquy Of A Madman is also very nice, about his stay on Buru Island….

  13. avatar Arie Brand says:

    There are some Dutch speaker in Jakarta, they are Dutch Ambassador, his wife, his staff and our beloved old chum Meneer Arie Brand. Dutch language is an archaic stuff. Trying to utter a dutch word in public speech would evoke an out loud laugh among audience. Yeah, there are of course, some students majoring law learning Dutch for research purpose, but the majority of them have no interest to learn conversational Dutch.

    I am sorry that you didn’t do too well in Dutch, Yasser. To judge from your English I doubt that the language has lost a great stylist in you but, nevertheless, I think it is regrettable that there is one more Indonesian who claims an interest in his country’s history but turns his back on Dutch. It is an inescapable fact that the bulk of the pre-1950, or let me be cautious and say pre-1940, literature about the country is in that “archaic stuff”.

    It is for those who are already acquainted with English not all that hard to learn, especially when they only want reading skills. Reputedly Tolstoy learned it in a few months because he had heard that the most accurate bible translations were in that language. When the Japanese only had the Dutch in Decima as their link with the outside world they quickly trained dozens of interpreters and neatly bureaucratized them (the British novelist David Mitchell has written a marvellous book about this: “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet”).Now these people had to do that from a background of Russian respectively Japanese whereas Dutch is close to English. The linguist Mario Pei even calls it the national language closest to English (Frisian is closer but that is not a national language).

    This situation has been obscured by the British penchant for mock-horror statements about it (“double Dutch” “a cow of a language” etc.) – statements that date back, I believe, to Anglo-Dutch rivalry in the 17th Century.

    Your story about your throat inflammation because of the language’s guttural “g” is not very credible – and, at any case, you don’t have to pronounce that when you are merely reading it.

  14. avatar Arie Brand says:

    A few facts are in order here. Yasser’s spleen has only led to disinformation.

    The Universitas Indonesia has already had since decades a Seksi Belanda. According to a publication of 2007 by SICA (Dutch Centre for International Cultural Activities) that was taken care of then by 19 Indonesian teachers of Dutch who were teaching 200 students who had the language as a major, and more than 300 students who wanted to acquire reading skills in relation to another major such as law, history, archaeology, islamology, javanology, linguistics etc. In addition, at the Erasmus Taalcentrum in Jakarta the language is taught to about 1500 students a year. There are also courses at private schools and other institutions in Semarang, Bandung, Surabaya, Jogyakarta, Medan and even Biak. Wikipedia reckons that the language is studied by more than 10,000 Indonesian students per year and that after English, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese it is the most popular language subject in Indonesia.

    This is of course a far cry from the situation in 1940 when an estimated one and a half million Indonesians (on a total population then of sixty million) were fluent in Dutch. Rudy Kousbroek, whom I have quoted before, even reckoned that the most beautiful Dutch is (was) spoken by older Indonesians who were not influenced by the indifference towards the language frequently found in Holland.

    But the general conclusion here is that Yasser doesn’t know (doesn’t want to know) what he is talking about.

  15. avatar berlian biru says:

    Fair enough I’ll concede the writers element and as I have admitted that I don’t particularly like Indian authors and Pram is a tedious old fraud I will simply have to plead a genuine ignorance, however that was a very small part of my entire argument.

    Yes I have been to India, I have also been to Malaysia, Singapore, Bahamas, Hong Kong and many other former British colonies where I have instantly recognised the very obvious British legacies, most blindingly obvious being the language element. I have also been to former Spanish and Portuguese territories and again, language being the obvious element but not the only one, have instantly recognised their imperial legacies.

    I say it again, hyperbole or not, there is nothing of any significance, nothing, remaining of the three hundred year Dutch rule of the Indonesian archipelago that could be recognised by a non-Indonesian or Dutch person. It’s as simple as that.

    Arie who has great fondness for a particularly shameful period in his country’s history can dispute that, Indonesians do not. They have little but contempt for Dutch rule and have done all they can to wipe all trace of it from their modern society.

    They have been successful in their efforts.

    I am not running away from the argument when I say that I have really nothing much more to add to this boring topic, but should you wish to continue it beyond its useful life I suppose I will have to indulge you.

  16. avatar Arie Brand says:

    Arie who has great fondness for a particularly shameful period in his country’s history can dispute that, Indonesians do not.

    We are by now thoroughly acquainted with your tendency to come up with sweeping statements based on very little information or rather disinformation.
    Your ignorance of this period of Dutch history is only surpassed by that of the Indonesians who have made comments on this topic here.

    Why don’t you read a decent book on the matter for a change instead of relying on shoddy Indonesian newspaper articles or what your (or others’) kids hear at school. You can start with J.S. Furnivall, Netherlands India: A Study of Plural Economy, 1939. Furnivall knew what he was talking about and having been a member of the ICS he was in an excellent position to compare British and Dutch colonial policies (as particularly in his Colonial Policy and Practice: A Comparative Study of Burma and Netherlands India).

    Does Arie have a “great fondness” for this period of Dutch history. I would rather say that he has a great distaste for the type of cheap disinformation spread by you and others of your type.

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