Call to prayer

Colin Jooste, Observatory

What has become of us that even a call to prayer has become a source of irritation (“Call to prayer will still sound, for now”, Tatler, May 16)?

The Apostle Paul in one of his epistles asks: “Who has bewitched you?” District Six has always had a proliferation of churches and mosques where people of all religious persuasions have co-existed peacefully. And now out of the blue comes an anonymous individual who has a problem with the imam’s calls to prayer? Goliath when faced with David who toppled him, asked: “Who is this infidel?”

Why in tarnation does the City of Cape Town still entertain this infidel who is averse to the Muslim call to prayer? We – Christian or Muslim – have grown accustomed to the bilal. The call to prayer has become an integral part of our heritage – a lifestyle.

The late André Blom of Springbok Radio fame, on a visit to the now very troubled Palestine and Jerusalem, ran back to his hotel to fetch his recorder when he heard the simultaneous calls to prayer of the rabbis and imams just to illustrate on air the harmonious result of two musical masterpieces. To this day the listenership of the radio station still speaks about the magic of that harmonious recording.

How can any individual call this noise pollution? For two years I had to go about my ministerial activities as a priest in Maitland congregation using public transport. Walking from Observatory to Salt River market for a taxi was a beautiful experience. Jealousy filled my heart when I heard the imam’s call to prayer and I wondered why Christians do not use the same method of communication. This modus operandi is like a two-edged sword, cutting to the heart of both the believer and unbeliever. Some may view it as archaic but still for all intents and purposes very innovative.

A modern-day man of God from Canada, Apostle Michael Kraus, heeded the call to start a church in Jamaica many decades ago. He, however, couldn’t understand why congregants arrived late for services. On closer investigation he found they had no watches so he installed a bell to alert everyone it is time for their call to prayer. Sadly, we no longer hear the ringing of bells heralding in the Sabbath; for various reasons of course.

When I visited Germany a few years ago with Karl Moik and Muzikantl Schtadl, I woke up to the sound of bells tolling in Bremerhaven. I was convinced of my arrival in heaven. Rudely awoken though, I quickly realised this was normally how everyone in that naval town was woken from their night-curtained slumber.

Tolerance is the key and solution to our erstwhile friend’s problem. The alternative is that this individual should move out of the area and out of earshot of the imam’s call to prayer and the tolling bells of churches for this is going to be his next bone of contention.

Tolerance is anchored in our deep love and respect for our neighbour, regardless of religious persuasion and their chosen mode of worship.