Ryan Dagur, Jakarta – The Indonesian government has addressed religious minority complaints about noisy mosque loudspeakers by issuing new guidelines which regulate their use in nearly 750,000 mosques across the country.
Minister of Religious Affairs Yaqut Cholil Qoumas released the guidelines on Feb. 21 aimed at local governments, the Indonesian Ulema Council, Indonesian Mosque Council, heads of Muslim organizations and administrators of mosques.
He said the use of loudspeakers in mosques is a necessity for Muslims as a medium for broadcasting Islam in the community but it is important to realize that Indonesian people are also diverse, including in terms of religion and belief.
"Efforts are needed to maintain brotherhood and social harmony. This guideline is published as an effort to increase peace, order and harmony among citizens," he said.
The guidelines amend several provisions in the old rules published in 1978.
One of them is related to amplified readings of the Quran that can be broadcast at least 10 minutes before the call to prayer, reduced from 15 minutes in the old rule.
In 2018, a 44-year-old Buddhist woman in North Sumatra was sentenced to 18 months in prison for complaining about the volume of the call to prayer
This new rule also limits the use of loudspeakers that point outside the mosque during daily prayers. The exception only applies to religious holidays such as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, where loudspeakers can point outside given that generally those who attend worship are outside the mosque.
The guidelines also regulate the volume and quality of the sound produced by loudspeakers, namely "a maximum of 100 decibels with good sound quality or not discordant."
Mosque administrators are asked to use good acoustic settings. When using loudspeakers with recording playback, attention should be paid to the quality of the recording.
The use of mosques' loudspeakers has often sparked protests over their noise from minority groups.
In 2018, a 44-year-old Buddhist woman in North Sumatra was sentenced to 18 months in prison for complaining about the volume of the call to prayer from a mosque's loudspeaker near her house in Tanjung Balai town.
In May last year, a man in Gading Serpong in Tangerang district of Banten province also protested a call to prayer, prompting hundreds of Muslims to stage a demonstration outside his home.
In October last year, the issue was also widely discussed following an AFP report that alluded to many complaints, including from Muslims themselves, regarding loudspeakers' noise.
Indonesia has 741,991 mosques across the country, according to official data.