Czech mosques towerless, voiceless

By Aboul-Maaty Zaki, IOL Correspondent

CZECH, June 5 (IslamOnline) – Following much efforts by Muslim laypeople and diplomats in the Check republic to get the government’s approval to build two mosques, they were shocked by the conditioned approval which provided the mosques should neither have their indivisible towers nor should they sound any calls for prayers.

“Muslims have been collecting signatures and have tried all means to pressure the government to allow them to build a mosque,” said Moneeb Hassan El-Rawy, board chairman of the Islamic Waqfassociation in Moravia.

The government finally approved, but ruled that the mosque should not have a minaret (tower from which the calls for prayers [Azan] are made) and no microphones should be used to voice the calls for prayers.

The government also demanded that no sound whatsoever should be heard from the mosque, be it the weekly Friday sermon or any other.

“We accepted these conditions and the first mosque in the Czech republic was inaugurated in July 1998 in a ceremony attended by diplomats and officials from the Czech government,” El-Rawy said, adding that the second mosque was built in the capital Prague and was inaugurated in 1999.

El-Rawy explained that due to the lack of communication between Muslims in different towns in Czech, many of them unfortunately do not know about these two mosques. Immigrants in Czech are mostly Muslims who number around 10,000.

“Islam is not an official religion in the Czech constitution, and we are trying to, with the support of Muslim diplomats, to find a way to get some rights,” he added.

Concerning the issue of not allowing the Friday sermon and the call for prayers to be transmitted through microphones, El-Rawy said it wasn’t a one-of-a-kind procedure, since the government had previously prohibited church bells when Czechs complained about the noise they made.

The rest of towns have special rooms for prayers, especially on Friday, though the September 11 attacks have led many of them to be closed down, he said.

An annual five-day conference attended by around 150 Czech Muslims is a good opportunity to listen to lectures by Muslim scientists who answer all the questions Muslim youth have, he added.

As for Hijab (women’s headscarf), El-Rawy said that there are only 40 Muslim women in Czech cover their hair.

“We are trying to spread out the principles of Islam through voluntary and personal efforts, especially that Islam was introduced in Czech only after World War II.”

Abou Derar Omar, Imam of the capital mosque, told IslamOnline that around 400 to 500 Muslims come for the weekly Friday prayer in the mosque, which remains open all day long for people who want to perform the five daily five prayers, learn Arabic, read translations of some Islamic books, or just know more about Islam.

These activities take place more often during the holy month of Ramadan, when Taraweeh prayers are held each night and people are allowed to live in seclusion for a while and spend as many hours as they wish within the confines of the mosque, praying and reading Qur’an, he added.