Morocco quietening call to prayer?


For many tourists visiting the Arab world, the calls of the muezzins summoning the Muslim faithful to daily prayers is both charming and a constant reminder of the heritage that they have come to discover.

But the rising decibel level of some of the amplified prayer calls in Morocco is deepening fault lines between a government drive to modernise and a wave of rigorous political Islam.

The country of 33 million people gets more than seven million tourists a year. Worries that some may be put off by the five heavily amplified calls a day are driving a wedge between Muslim purists, who argue that authorities are compromising religion to please Westerners, and the country’s liberal elite.

Nouzha Skalli, the minister for family and social affairs, is accused of seeking legislation to lower the volume of muezzins in tourist zones. Newspapers have asked whether Skalli, a feminist and former communist, is trying to curb Islam and impose secularism on the overwhelmingly Muslim society.

Earlier this year Annie Laforet, a Frenchwoman, was blamed for the closure of a mosque next to the luxury guest house she runs in the old town, or medina, of picturesque Marrakech. The claim, which Laforet denied, caused outrage in the local press.

Surprising some, a recent decision by the Council of the Ulemas, Morocco’s highest theological authority, has held that the pre-dawn prayer call should be quietened down.