Indonesia’s Ministry of Religious Affairs issued new guidelines that slightly lower the volume of mosque loudspeakers, but the country’s major Islamic party has loudly criticized the regulations.
The ministry yesterday issued Circular No. 5/2022 regulating the volume of mosque loudspeakers in order for the call to prayer to sufficiently reach the ears of Muslims, while preserving harmony with adherents of other faiths at the same time.
Perhaps the most notable regulation contained in the circular is that sound from mosque loudspeakers cannot exceed 100 decibels (the equivalent noise level of a jet taking off from 305 meters away), where no such limit was imposed before.
The circular also limits the use of the loudspeakers to the five calls to prayer per day. Using the loudspeaker for Quranic recitals is now limited to 10 minutes, while sermons and other announcements must be delivered via internal speakers.
The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), an Islamic party in opposition to the government, naturally pushed back against the guidelines and said that the Ministry of Religious Affairs need not meddle with technicalities related to worship.
“Let the people manage [mosque loudspeakers] in accordance with their traditions,” PKS lawmaker Bukhori Yusuf said.
“The rules can differ from one village to another.”
Mosque loudspeakers have long been a sensitive issue in Indonesia. A set of guidelines was first issued in 1978, which specified that mosque loudspeakers be used by experienced personnel to prevent the creation of disturbing mechanical static that would degrade the quality of the audio and possibly create ill will towards mosques. It also asked that those giving the call to prayer have melodious voices.
Despite numerous guidelines being reissued in the following years, Indonesian mosques still generally use their loudspeakers as they see fit.
In 2018, a North Sumatra woman named Meiliana was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2018 for complaining about the volume of mosque loudspeakers. After serving two-thirds of her sentence, she was released on parole in May 2019.
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