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No Adhan for Ottawa Muslims

Published: 03/09/2012 04:18:25 PM GMT
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CAIRO - Despite having eight mosques in the Canadian capital, the Muslim community in Ottawa has never heard the adhan (the public call for prayers” coming from any of them.“We have to acknowledge that we're in a predomina (more)

CAIRO - Despite having eight mosques in the Canadian capital, the Muslim community in Ottawa has never heard the adhan (the public call for prayers” coming from any of them.

“We have to acknowledge that we're in a predominantly Christian land … It ends up being really just a matter of identity,” Omar Mahfoudhi, executive director of the Islam Care Center in Ottawa, told Ottawa Citizen.

“If we can accomplish that better by having loudspeakers then yes, that would be great.”The Adhan (The Call to Prayer)

Mahfoudhi believes that he has never heard the adhan in any mosques in most Canadian cities.

“But the way our communities are, we're very dispersed, people will come to the mosque … I don't live anywhere that's near a mosque and even most of the people that come to prayer here at the center, they live very far away,” he said.

Muslims make around 1.9 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the North American country.

Muslims make up nearly 3.9 percent of Ottawa population, according to the 2006 census.

Out of the city's eight mosques, only one mosque has a minaret capable of performing adhan, though it has never been used to do so.

“From my past knowledge, no, it hasn't been used,” said Mohamed Ghadban, the president of the Ottawa Muslim Association.

“The time in the morning, for example, is early morning and to wake up the neighborhood is not a good idea … You won't hear it, not in the Western world as much as you would in the Middle East.”

The adhan is the call to announce that it is time for a particular obligatory Salah (ritual prayer).

The adhan is raised five times a day.

Living in a Christian-majority country, Muslims have always known that calling to daily five prayers would not be allowed.

In Ottawa, for example, the adhan would be considered a violation of Ottawa's noise bylaw.

While the by-law does not strictly prohibit the Islamic call to prayer, it provides no exemption such as the one granted to Church bells.

“No person shall ring any bell, sound any horn, or shout in a manner likely to disturb the inhabitants of the City provided that nothing herein contained shall prevent the ringing of bells in connection with any church, chapel, meeting house or religious service…,” the bylaw reads.

Adhan App.

Without a public call to prayer, Ottawa Muslims resorted to technology to keep track of changing prayer times.

“Right now, I only hear [the call to prayer] when I go to a mosque, within the confines of the mosque,” said Amira Elmi, a practicing Muslim and a policy analyst at Environment Canada.

“Personally, I feel like the purpose is kind of served by virtue of having Internet and having so many ways to know what time it is to pray.

“I think we're so dispersed nowadays that it's not like everybody is in one area and they'll all hear it and go. I'm not sure it's necessary in that sense.”

Like most Canadian Muslims, Elmi relies on technology to know the time of the daily prayers.

“When there weren't digital watches, no atomic clocks, and all these ways to tell time, people needed to hear something, or people needed to tell each other what time to pray,” she said.

“I usually just Google the time.”

As for Mahfoudhi, the executive director of the Islam Care Center in Ottawa, a smart phone application has solved the adhan problem.

“We've gotten around the restriction of not being allowed to do it publicly, and we actually have a little app,” he said.

“We have software, we have apps—it's all around us. In fact, sometimes I'll be with my wife and we're at home and my phone will go off and her phone will go off and her computer will go off, all of them with the call to prayer.

“So you almost end up feeling like you're in some Muslim land where the mosques are calling off.”A recent survey has showed the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian.

Reproduced with permission from