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.

78 Comments on “Call Like An Egyptian”

  1. Mahmud Abdullah says:

    This is a very sensitive issue & should not have been brought up by the Vice President.

  2. timdog says:

    In Xinjiang the Chinese government generally bans the broadcast of the prayercall through loudspeakers. It is, of course, part of their wider attempts to crush and corrall aspects of cultural expression amongst minority peoples.
    But still, the fact that muezzins there have to actually do what they were always supposed to to – climb the minaret and call prayer at the top of their voices – is rather nice, and sounds much better…

    Here and there the slow progress of technology, rather than the oppressive policies of a despotic state, means you encounter the same thing in electricity-free mountain villages in Morocco and Pakistan…

    But a major issue is the quality of the seakers and the quality of the voice. A loud prayer call through a good quality speaker by a man meant for the job is fine; howling through a cheap, distortion inducing loudhaler by a man who would definitely be getting a “no” at the audition stage of American Idol/X Factor is not… Has to be said that Indonesia seems to have an unusually high proportion of the unfortunate latter combo…

  3. Oigal says:

    Which of course brings me to a funny story I think I have told before. Purchasing our humble abode, itself a journey of dodgy land certificates and even dodgier government officials (is there even one honest person in uniform?). Anyway that done, the next step as we all know is to stand outside at prayer time to make sure that the wailers, screechers and god botherers are fair enough away you can hear yourself think.

    Well all good, you can hear them but muted, land titles all good, purchase price all good. Buy the property, first weekend nice Sunday lie in and suddenly a thousand voices beseeching me to come to god :-(. Damn I never allowed for them fundamentalist christians and their home churches. Sunday all day, songs and parking terror.

    Just goes to show, never think you have covered all the bases in Indonesia.

    And will someone please sell that horrible child whose sack has yet to drop and who grabs the microphone at every other mosque in the country. Surely there is a lab somewhere who needs a live specimen.

  4. Oigal says:

    This is a very sensitive issue & should not have been brought up by the Vice President.

    And why would that be Madmud? The VP is only suggesting that people show some consideration for others and after all isn’t the VP supposed to represent all Indonesians of all religions and creeds.

  5. Chris says:

    Hi Oigal,

    I also had a similar experience like you a few years back, when I sought a house in Citra Garden 2 in Pegadungan, West Jakarta.

    As well as the usual stuff (e.g. adequate water pressure), I made the following checklist:

    – No mosque nearby
    – No noisy neighbours who have their TV perpetually on maximum volume
    – No nearby noisy motorbikes that go frequently past the house

    The house we found ticked all 3 boxes, and we signed up.

    Soon after, a group of kite-flyers near Jakarta Airport ruined my best-laid plans.

    After a string of pilot complaints and ineffective enforcement on the ground, airport management decided it would be easier and safer than e.g. confiscating kites to have all take-offs every afternoon/evening go on the south/Terminal 1 runway and all landings on the north/Terminal 2 runway. (See map of airport and surrounding area here).

    Suddenly, we started copping aircraft take-offs (including Boeing 747s) over our house every couple of minutes in the afternoon/evening, as planes did a 270 degree right turn towards Sumatra, Singapore, or the Middle East.

    By the way, some Christians only meet in houses and shopping malls because they can’t get permission to build a Church – but that is a different issue.

  6. Oigal says:

    By the way, some Christians only meet in houses and shopping malls because they can’t get permission to build a Church – but that is a different issue.

    Yes Chris, actually its not really a big deal. They always leave room for me to get the car in (albeit a tight squeeze :-)). The reality is only day week mostly and so what if i have to turn the footy sound up a little for few hours. A bigger pain in the butt is the Mosque down the road that thinks it has the right to close a main thoroughfare every Friday.

    I guess the real point I was making was that habit of Indonesia to grab you by the treasures every time you have got things covered and no I would not have allowed for kites either 🙂

  7. Chris says:

    Hey Oigal,

    If you ever live in Bogor, perhaps you could live here with a Church and a mosque next to each other – get the best of both worlds!

  8. Oigal says:

    Yea, one of Indonesia’s sadder examples of intolerance and government inaction. Local mayor pretty much made a laughing stock of all national institutions from the President’s office down. Bizarrely he got away with it.

  9. Yaser Antone says:

    Rural Australia is the best place to live if you are a real spuddy ( spud kicker), No microphone, no azan. Enjoy your lovely kangarooes and smell their dungs. There is no one forces you to live in Indonesia, leave this country, end of the matter. We dislike you being here.

  10. Riki Purnomoz says:

    Its a matter of choice.

  11. Riki Purnomoz says:

    A CHURCH of England leader calls for a ban on building more mosques in Britain.

    General Synod member Alison Ruoff said new places of worship would lead to Sharia law and no-go Muslim areas.

    Mrs Ruoff, a member of the Bishop of London’s Diocesan Council, said: “We are still a Christian country – we need to hold on to that.

    “If we don’t watch out, we will become an Islamic state.”

    The former JP, of Waltham Cross, North East London, told Premier Christian Radio there were enough mosques for Britain’s Muslims.

    Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain said: “These are comments you would expect from the BNP, not the Church. It is one of the beauties of living in Britain that we have freedom of worship.”

  12. Oigal says:

    Ah Yaser, have you finished the socks already. Really it is a touch arrogant for a sock washer to speak for others don’t you think. However thanks for sharing, but go for fact or go for humor otherwise you just sound silly.

  13. agan says:

    Bule have different threshold level and zone altogether than Indos as to what bother them
    Their subuh sleeping time even their kentang lunch breaks are sacred, if they are bothered at the slightest at those time they may get quite nasty and you’ll never hear the bloody end of it.

    Bule needs to walk the walk and talk the talk the Indo way
    to live the moment and just wing it with more gusto and vigor.

    After all you are now in Big Durian not in Humpybong’s outback.

  14. Chris says:

    Thanks Agan for your comment,

    Regarding threshold levels and sleeping times, I do remember the only time an Indonesian complained about noise from my house. (I am just telling a story; I am not judging them).

    While I was on a trip back home, some nitwit bent the latch on my front gate (the one with the lock on it) so much that I couldn’t open the gate. Eventually, I forced the gate open, with the help of some neighbours who climbed the fence.

    A couple of nights later, I borrowed a hammer off another neighbour. (This is how I learned the Indonesian word for hammer – tang). I started hitting away to try and straighten the latch so I could open the gate relatively normally.

    Then, the guy from a couple of doors down came and complained about me being noisy; it was 07:50pm.

    While I think about it, some of the unusual things that happened in my first year/house in Jakarta:

    – A friend of a friend who visited my house thought that (being Western) I must have a large store of beer hidden in my house somewhere.

    – Getting a phone call late one evening from someone (presumably a neighbour) I didn’t know. They asked if some of their family from out of town could stay at my place, because I was the only one living there and I had “so much space”.

    – Someone (presumably the maid) in the two-storey house behind me throwing large buckets of laundry hand-washing water onto my (single-story house’s) roof, instead of carrying it downstairs or putting it down the drain. This damaged my roof and created several significant leaks.

  15. Oigal says:

    My my, touchy mob around here these days :-). Curious it was a funny (ish) story at my expense as was chris’s.

    Humpybong outback? No sure if that is beyond the black stump or just past Gracelands. It’s one of the reasons even being relatively fluent I try and avoid the use of local vernacular or jokes as it never really comes off.

  16. godmachine12 says:

    ‘Tang’ is actually the word for pliers but never mind. I feel you on the sometimes incessant and seemingly unnecessary noise. I suppose most Indonesians are just adjusted to it and don’t mind any more. That being said, it doesn’t mean that people couldn’t be a bit more caring and tolerant of other peoples’ privacy and right to live without noise pollution at all hours of the day and night. I don’t find the mosques troublesome at all but the motorbikes with the tailpipes modified to be louder, seemingly random construction and house repairs and virtually no respect for the fact that not everyone gets up before dawn or gets off in the early afternoon is a bit mystifying—especially if you’re new here. It’s just common courtesy and learning to live in a more civilized, caring manner rather than criticism.

  17. Chris says:

    ‘Tang’ is actually the word for pliers but never mind.

    Really? I got it from an (apparently not very good) English-Indonesian dictionary. Still, I suppose either would have done the job.

  18. Riki Purnomoz says:

    Tang = Tongs

    So I doubt the whole story.

  19. Oigal says:

    I think most people are quite tolerant of the noise, it’s more the qaulity. Unfortunately, loud screeching on cheap, distorted speakers is a travesty in and of itself. You wouldn’t want to listen to a fine piece of music like that as the artistry and message are lost, the same of apples to the call to prayer. Some people should not sing for the sake of others same goes for the call to prayer.

    Just to provoke some of the easily offended, the whole issue is about a general lack of consideration for others and a national theme of “I am Alright jack, bugger you”. You see it on the roads, I will stop here too bad for the people behind, inability to wait your turn at a counter, inability to enter a lift without pushing women and children over, the inability to even notice children living under bridges etc, etc. Unbearable mosque noise is just a symptom of a far wider malaise.

    The motorbikes are just funny, putting a turbo muffler on a 125 screamer does not change the fact you are riding something that a real man would not let his 10 year old daughter ride in any other country for fear of being called a girlie man, seriously you might as well put little tassels on the handle bars. Oh and for heavens sake, show some pride and don’t wear fake club colours and mince around on bikes with washing machine engines.

  20. berlian biru says:

    I suppose most Indonesians are just adjusted to it and don’t mind any more.

    Exactly, I remember the first time I moved into my apartment in London, it was a lovely place till I went to bed and discovered that the railway the bedroom overlooked was the mainline into Paddington station.

    For the first two nights I could hardly sleep with the roar of the intercity trains rushing in or out. After that I never noticed it and it wasn’t until I went back to stay in my mother’s house I couldn’t sleep it was so quiet.

    To live in the world’s largest Muslim majority nation and complain about the sound of the mosques is rather like moving to Scotland and whining about the cold and rain. To continue doing so after living here for years borders on the psychotic.

    To me the adzan is only ever noticed in the evening as a nice reminder to crack open a cold one or in the morning to let me know I can roll over for another couple of hours sleep while everyone else gets up to work.

  21. berlian biru says:

    I suppose either would have done the job.

    Where I come from a hammer is called an “Irish screwdriver” and is the favoured tool for any job.

    Actually Chris as you are the air travel expert I must ask you about something you eluded to. I also moved into a house which turned out to be under a flightpath, but a seemingly rather unique flightpath in that it is only used by military aircraft, presumably flying into Halim.

    I enjoy it as it gives me a chance to indulge in a spot of anoraky plane spotting. Now on big anniversaries we get the jet fighters and I’ve recognised some of them as Sukhois but I’m wondering what the small four engined craft are.

    There are also a variety of “civil-type” planes, Boeing 737s and the like and what looks like a Lear but they have a plain white livery with what looks like a single orange band on the tailplane, any idea who they might belong to?

    And quite why does the TNI-AU feel the need to fly half a dozen Hercules into Jakarta every Thursday and Friday morning? The first time I saw it I thought they were invading East Timor again but it seems to happen every week.

    Oh and that reminds me, the other day I saw what looked like a C-130 but which had six engines, what on earth could that have been?

  22. Oigal says:

    Well that was even easier than I suspected :-). Still I think I will continue to agitate for class and tone over distortion, over bass and screeching 🙂

  23. Yaser Antone says:

    It is just too bad.

    We can’t change it to cater Humpybong’s warrior.

  24. Oigal says:

    Socks, socks, socks Yasar..

  25. Chris says:

    Hi BB,

    There are also a variety of “civil-type” planes, Boeing 737s and the like and what looks like a Lear but they have a plain white livery with what looks like a single orange band on the tailplane, any idea who they might belong to?

    While it is primarily a military airport, Halim is still permitted to serve domestic flights up to one hour away. During/after the floods of 2007, Merpati Airlines moved some flights there temporarily. These days, there are flights to Bandung, Lampung and Pangandaran.

    The Wikipedia page for Halim is a bit out of date, so here are the three possibilities in order of likelihood:

    1. Pelita Air
    Pelita Air Fokker 100

    2. Susi Air
    Susi Air plane

    3. Merpati Airlines
    Merpati Xian MA60 plane

    Sorry, can’t help with you with military aircraft questions – maybe someone else can.

  26. berlian biru says:

    No, I’m fairly certain they’re not civil aircraft, they are in a wide variety of models but plain white with an equally plain orange band across the tailplane.

    The odd thing is that no commercial aircraft use this route, I wonder do the civil airlines and military use separate approaches to Halim, assuming that it is Halim they’re going to and not that other airfield on the windy road to Bogor.

  27. berlian biru says:

    You know what? The internet’s a wonderful thing, I just entered “TNI-AU Boeing” into Google image and heaps of pics show up of exactly the planes I am talking about. They do belong to the air force.

    Sorry to bother you, a wee bit of research goes a long way.

  28. Arie Brand says:

    ‘Tang’ is actually the word for pliers but never mind.

    The word “tang” is one of those Dutch loanwords that have survived in Indonesian. It has been estimated that there are in between 5,000 – 9,000 of those words – sometimes so indonesianised that they can’t be recognized at first glance. They are, for obvious reasons, especially found in technical vocabulary, specifically in things having to do with cars. Here is a small general collection (one can find a far more extensive one at ):

    Bahasa Indonesia Nederlands
    amatir amateur
    andil (persoonlijk) aandeel
    anemer aannemer
    arloji horloge
    arsip archief
    aterèt, atret achteruit
    ban band
    ban(g)kir bankier
    bengkel garage, werkplaats voor bromfietsen of auto’s (winkel)
    bensin benzine
    berita bericht(en)
    buku boek
    buncis boontjes (bonen)
    dinas dienst
    dongkrak dommekracht (= krik)
    doorsmeer het doorsmeren
    duit geld (duit)
    ember emmer
    ercis erwtjes
    formulir formulier
    gaji gage (loon)
    garasi garage
    gelas glas
    gorden, gordyn gordijn
    handuk handdoek
    hapermut (?) havermout
    hotperdom godverdomme
    hem hemd
    indehoy in de hooi (vrijen) = niet mer gangbaar
    insinyur ingenieur
    kakus WC, toilet (kakhuis)
    kantor pos postkantoor
    karcis kaartjes
    kelar klaar, af
    kerkop kerkhof
    komplit compleet
    koper koffer
    kopi koffie
    kortsletin, kortslet kortsluiting
    kulkas koelkast
    kurs koers
    kwalitet kwaliteit
    laci laatje
    lampu lamp
    listrik elektriciteit (?!)
    losmen, losemen logement
    maskapai maatschappij
    mebel meubel
    ongkos (on)kosten, uitgaven
    operasi operatie
    otomatis automatisch
    pabrik fabriek
    panci pannetje
    panekuk pannenkoek
    paraf paraaf
    partai partij
    peci petje
    pedal pedaal
    pelat plaat
    pelek velg
    peloper voorloper
    pensiun pensioen
    pereman burger (vrij man)
    persneling versnelling
    persekot voorschot
    pikir denken, piekeren.*)
    pil(e)m, filem film
    pit fiets
    polisi politie
    prahoto (Indon.: truk) vrachtauto
    praktek praktijk
    p(e)reman burger (vrij man)
    rebewis rijbewijs
    ritsletin(g) ritssluiting
    sakelar schakelaar
    salem zalm
    sekilwak schildwacht
    sekring zekering
    sekrup schroef
    selai gelei (jam)
    geweer, spuit.
    snaphaan een oud type geweer
    s(e)toples stopfles
    sirsak (buah) zuurzak (vrucht)
    skorsing schorsing
    sekolah school; latijn scola
    selokan slootkant = open riool, goot, waterafvoer
    senar snaar
    senewen zenuwen, zenuwachtig
    sepor spoor
    setir stuur
    s(e)trum, setrom stroom
    setrika strijken
    sokbreker schokbreker
    sosis brood saucijzenbrood
    spanduk spandoek
    spooring het doen sporen van de wielen van een auto
    sprei laken, sprei
    stempel stempel
    stoples stopfles = fles met een gzaen stop.
    taplak tafellaken
    tradisional (tradisionil) traditioneel
    universitas universteit
    wastafel (!) wastafel
    wortel wortel
    sadel zadel

  29. Arie Brand says:

    Dutch has, in its turn, been influenced by Indonesian and other languages of the archipelago. Dutch vocabulary more in general knows at least 19,000 words that have to do with the Dutch presence in the Indies, not necessarily Indonesian words though they can be. They have been brought together in this “Indisch lexicon”:

    Some words have had an interesting career. The Dutch word “gage”, specifically used for the salary of sailors and actors, became “gaji” in Indonesian. From there it came back to Dutch as “katje”, a naval term for the same thing.

    Here is a small collection of originally Indonesian words in Dutch (the insertion of the word handdoek – handuk seems to me a mistake – that is clearly originally a Dutch word):

    amok amuk
    amper (bijna) hampir
    bakkeleien (ber)kelahi
    gladakker (niet deugen) geladak
    branie brani
    goeroe (onderwijzer) guru
    handdoek handuk
    kakkies kaki
    kasar (grof) kasar
    ketjap kecap
    klewang klewang
    kongsi (vereniging, club) kongsi
    oorlam (borrel) orang lama (oud mens -> indische oudgast ->drinkebroer)
    pakkie-an pakaian (kleren)
    pasar (bazaar) pasar
    pasar malam (lett: avondmarkt) pasar malam
    pienter pintar
    piekeren pikir
    pisang pisang
    senang (blij; prettig) senang
    soebatten sobat
    soesa susah
    tabee tabé
    toko (Chinese winkel) toko

  30. berlian biru says:

    You omit my favourite which I saw in a hospital sign indicating that the bedpan, as we politely call it in English, was in a cupboard, except that in Indonesian it was called delightfully the ‘pispot’ no doubt from the more earthy Dutch term.

    In fairness however, given that BI derives from Melayu which was heavily influenced by English I suspect many of the words come from English. Many English words of course come originally from Dutch, and vice versa, so I suppose it’s a bit of a chicken and egg.

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