Sonu Nigam said the right thing in the wrong way. Period.
There is a fine line between "freedom of speech" and "hate speech". A man like Nigam – Bollywood’s playback singer and a public figure with huge fan-following – should have been a bit careful with his choice of words. When one is in the limelight, he or she needs to put in extra care to check his or her emotions. Unlike common people, a celebrity's outburst has consequences for many.
Making taunting remarks about Prophet Muhammad, and later not apologising for them was also in bad taste. We expected something better from him. In this currently charged atmosphere, Nigam didn't turn out to be much different. I strongly condemn Nigam for the same.
Now the main point of his message that got lost due to his poor choice of words was the use of loudspeakers. Muslims need to do an honest introspection.
Why Do We Need Loudspeakers?
1. To wake up or to let people know about the time?
Here are the solutions:
- Alarm clocks can do the job as well
- Mosques can have an auto-calling facility where people in the neighbourhood can register their phone numbers, and they will get a message and call at the time of prayers
- Mobile apps can do the job fairly well
The possible problem would be that not everyone would have phones, let alone smartphones for mobile apps.
2. To spread Islam?
What we think:
- People will hear the azaan five times a day and would be reminded of Allah
- Non-Muslims will hear the azaan, and will get to know about our religion
What actually happens:
- The azaan is in Arabic. Many Muslims don’t even understand the meaning, let alone non-Muslims understanding it
- People can never be attracted to you if you cause inconvenience to them. Be it namaz by stopping traffic, azaan in full volume, or the religious processions that cause traffic jams
3. It is a tradition or part of our faith?
- Azaan is an integral part of our religion. It cannot be done away with
- It is just an announcement that the actual prayers are about to begin
What Can Be Done?
1. Make a standard. Limit the noise levels within it.
- Anything done in excess is bad. I have seen mosques in their attempt to spread their sound the farthest, making the nearby residents deaf. This is absolutely unacceptable
- Instead of one big loudspeaker, install a series of smaller ones spread across the area. Keep the sound limit down. Take the example of the Mecca
- The Muslim community should itself come forward with these standards. Don't wait for the government to do it for you
2. Only Announcements Should Be Allowed
Azaan is an announcement. You want to make an announcement that the majlis is about to start, the bhajan kirtan is about to start, you do it.
No complete prayers on the loudspeakers. No religious sermons before Friday prayers, no majlis and nohekhwani during Muharram, no bhajan kirtan right at sunrise. These need to be completely banned on loudspeakers.
If your compound is big, use speakers only inside your premises and pointed inwards. Those who are there should have a good experience, and should be able to hear clearly. Those who are not there were not planning to hear what you have to say anyway.
3. Anything in Excess Is Bad.
Until a couple of years back, it used to be peaceful in my village as far as the usage of loudspeaker is concerned. On my last visit, there were two weddings in the village, accompanied by late night dancing with music blaring on full volume.
Move a little forward to Muharram. We see no difference – with different young boys in different imambadas hiring big sound systems with nohas (or lamentation poetry) being played with ear-piercing volumes. Taking cue from this, the village temple has started to play the bhajan on a loudspeaker right before the morning azaan, and it keeps playing for almost an hour.
Is it a competition?
When will this stop?
It is time we start listening to our own hearts – and loudspeakers aren’t helping. They just make us go deaf.
(A social media strategist, Asad Haider Zaidi is the co-founder of ShouldertoShoulder movement, an initiative launched to promote universal brotherhood across different communities. His aim in life is to spread the message of goodness, humanity and love in society. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)