In a recent announcement, Mayor Eric Adams of New York City unveiled new guidelines aimed at promoting inclusivity by allowing the Muslim call to prayer to be heard more openly. According to these guidelines, mosques will no longer require a special permit to publicly broadcast the Islamic call to prayer, known as the adhan, on Fridays and at sunset during Ramadan. This change is significant as it aligns with the tradition of Friday being an important day for Muslims and marks the end of the daily fast during Ramadan.
Mayor Adams explained that the city's police department's community affairs bureau will collaborate with mosques to ensure compliance with the new rules. This collaboration will involve verifying that the devices used to broadcast the adhan are set to appropriate decibel levels. It was clarified that houses of worship can amplify their calls to prayer up to 10 decibels above the ambient sound level.
Mayor Adams emphasized that this step is aimed at removing previous restrictions and bureaucratic hurdles, allowing mosques and places of worship to freely broadcast their calls to prayer without requiring a permit. He spoke alongside Muslim leaders during a press conference at City Hall, stating that he is committed to ensuring that Muslim New Yorkers are not marginalized but rather empowered during his tenure as mayor.
While the adhan is commonly heard in predominantly Muslim countries, it has been less frequent in the United States. This announcement follows a similar move by officials in Minneapolis last year, where mosques were permitted to publicly broadcast the adhan.
The adhan itself serves as a proclamation of faith, declaring the greatness of God and the role of the Prophet Muhammad as a messenger. It encourages men, though not women, to attend prayer at the nearest mosque five times daily, a fundamental aspect of Islamic practice.
Various individuals have expressed their support for the new guidelines, recognizing the adhan's significance as a unifying and community-building call. Afaf Nasher, the executive director of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, noted that this step would foster greater understanding and respect for the values and traditions of the Muslim community.
Somaia Ferozi, the principal of the Ideal Islamic School in Queens, shared that the city's updated rules convey a positive message to her students. She highlighted the adhan's role in reinforcing the students' sense of identity and belonging.
"Our children are reminded of who they are when they hear the adhan," said Ferozi, who attended Adams' news conference. "Having that echo in a New York City neighborhood will make them feel part of a community that acknowledges them."
Mayor Adams, a Democrat, has maintained strong relationships with leaders from diverse faith traditions and has championed the role of religion in the public sphere.
"State is the body. Church is the heart," Adams said at an interfaith breakfast earlier this year. "You take the heart out of the body, the body dies."
However, some have expressed concerns about his stance on the separation of church and state, referencing his comments that likened the state to the body and the church to the heart. Adams' spokesperson clarified that his intention was to emphasize the influence of faith on his actions rather than advocate for the merger of religious and governmental institutions.
By allowing mosques to amplify this call without the hindrance of special permits, Mayor Adams' initiative extends beyond the borders of New York City, echoing through the hearts of Muslims far from home. The effects are profound. This move not only provides a sense of validation to the Muslim diaspora but also underscores the importance of cultural and religious diversity in a cosmopolitan society. The diaspora often grapples with issues of identity and integration, and the recognition of the adhan as an essential aspect of communal life validates their experiences and expressions.
Furthermore, as news of these guidelines spreads across the world, other communities and cities might take inspiration from New York City's progressive step. It could potentially encourage dialogues and changes that allow Muslim communities in various countries to celebrate their faith openly and harmoniously, aligning with their cultural practices and spiritual beliefs.