This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of March, a monthly overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.
Date of publication: 8 April 2020
Author: Aurelién Marq
Media outlet: Causeur, a right-wing monthly magazine
Headline: “The muezzin and the bells. The cultural insecurity goes one step up”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: The article focuses on adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, during the coronavirus pandemic and on the reasons why it is problematic. It states that “mosques are taking advantage of the health crisis to sneakily sound the adhan” and that “it cannot be put on the same level as church bells”. Using very strong language, the author sees the Muslim call for prayer as a provocative act of dominating territory: “Yes, these adhans which resound - [...] in a foreign language - are demonstrations of force, provocations, attempts to occupy a territory: sound, physical, and even more symbolic occupation.” What prompted this Islamophobic reflection is an episode of solidarity which happened in the city of Lyon when mosques joined the church bells to support the morale of key workers during the pandemic. The author of the article in Cauzeur claims that Islam is a violent religion that “condemns to death apostates and atheists”, and “threatens and persecutes homosexuals”. He insists that the church bells cannot be compared to the Muslim calls to prayer because they are not a “cry of bloody totalitarianism”, and they are not the “explicit negation of all beliefs apart from those of those who ring them”.
Myth Debunked: The Muslim call to prayer is an integral part of the Muslim religion and culture, used to remind the faithful, five times a day, that it’s time to pray. In Muslim-majority countries, the call to prayer is broadcast via outdoor loudspeakers, but in Europe, there are restrictions to this public chant and, with few exceptions, it is played only inside mosques or community centres. The rector of the Lyon's Grand Mosque explained that playing the adhan on the 25th of March was a way of Muslims and Catholics to celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation together, as it has been done in the past few years. It was also used to express solidarity to all the people involved in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, echoing the decision of the Conference of Bishops of France to ring church bells at 7:30 pm. The leader of the National Rally, Marine Le Pen, was one of the first to claim that some mosques in France were “taking advantage” of the confinement rules and that the broadcasting was an “illegal occupation of public space through sound”. This narrative circulated in Britain too, generating demographic conspiracies theories on the intentional replacement of white people in Europe. Contrary to what Causeur and the far-right claim, chanting the adhan on 25 March in Lyon was not a provocation. It was an interfaith action as well as an act of civic participation. Several mosques across Europe have also broadcast the call for prayer to give Muslims some comfort during these difficult times. The counter-posing of Islam, as a violent and narrow-minded religion, and Christianity as a peaceful and tolerant religion, is a racialised discourse that others Muslims and perpetuates an exclusionary conception of national identity. The celebration of church bells, and rejection of the adhan as legitimate and illegitimate elements of a city’s soundscape, forms part of this discourse, normalising white Christian culture as national heritage. whilst excluding other religious practices as invasive and alien.
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