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Theology Thursdays: Fighting Hamtramck's Call To Prayer

Opponents of a noise-ordinance change that would allow mosques to issue the Islamic call to prayer on loudspeakers say they have collected enough signatures to block the move or submit it to the voters

Petitioners submitted 632 signatures to the city clerk's office Tuesday, and "there will be more coming," said Robert Zwolak, one of the organizers of the campaign.

The Hamtramck City Council voted unanimously last month to amend the noise ordinance to allow mosques to broadcast the call to prayer over loudspeakers five times a day between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Only 552 signatures were needed to block the amendment to the noise ordinance. If that many of the petition signatures are declared valid, the council can respond by reversing its decision. If it declines to do so, the measure will be suspended and the issue put on the ballot for voters to decide.

The signatures must be certified and the council notified of the certification by May 25 or the law automatically becomes effective May 26, City Clerk Genevieve Bukoski said.

The prayer call issue has sparked much debate in the blue-collar city of 23,000 that once was overwhelmingly Polish and Roman Catholic but now has a sizable Muslim population.

Some Muslims say the loudspeaker call, which lasts less than two minutes, is the equivalent of church bells. Opponents say allowing the Islamic call gives that religion preferential treatment.

City council member Shahab Ahmed, a Muslim, said earlier this month that the drive will revive what was becoming a non-issue.

"Now, it's going to divide the community more," he said. "How is it possible to stop someone from calling to prayer? We can stop the noise not the religion."

Muslims have come to the city from Bangladesh, Yemen, Pakistan and other Islamic countries. Only 23 percent of the city's residents specified Polish ancestry in the 2000 census. The enclave which is surrounded by the city of Detroit also has a sizable black population, 15 percent.

Note: This article was written by the Associated Press

Thursday, May 20, 2004

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