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City gives tentative OK for Muslim prayer calls

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City gives tentative OK for Muslim prayer calls

April 21, 2004

By CECIL ANGEL

FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

The Hamtramck City Council gave initial approval Tuesday night to allowing mosques in the city to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer over loudspeakers.

The issue, which has divided many of the city's Muslim and Christian residents, has attracted national attention and has evolved from a debate about a noise ordinance to one about religious freedom and tolerance.

Tuesday's meeting became contentious as many residents of the 2.1-square-mile city said the call to prayer would add to noise pollution.

Others said they didn't want Islamic beliefs imposed on them. The prayer, which is in Arabic, occurs five times a day from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Supporters said the issue is religious freedom and an Islamic tradition. They cited the city's church bells, which ring at least every hour, as comparable.

In the end, the vote on the five-member council was unanimous.

"I have no doubt that no matter how we vote, this will be an issue for the courts," said Councilman Scott Klein. The final vote will be at the council's 7 p.m. meeting next Tuesday. The measure would take effect May 26.

Resident Bob Golen, 68, said he'll fight to stop the ordinance.

"This is only the beginning. There are many avenues open to us," said Golen, who added that residents would circulate petitions to put the issue on a ballot for voters to decide. If that fails, Golen pledged to take the issue to federal court.

Masud Khan, 48, of the Al-Islah Islamic Center, which first asked the council for the amendment to the noise ordinance in January, said it took courage to approve the plan.

"I'm very happy," he said. "Allah is great. God is good. We really appreciate their effort.

"Hamtramck is going to be a pioneer city for the whole United States."

City Councilwoman Karen Majewski said the decision was "taken with the consideration of the whole community."

In recent years, the city -- once known for its large population of people with Polish ancestry and Catholic faith -- has become increasingly Islamic.

Muslims have come to the city from Bangladesh, Yemen, Pakistan and other Islamic countries.

Shabad Ahmed -- the city's first Muslim councilman -- said he'd been bombarded with phone calls. "You should see my e-mails," he said.

Contact CECIL ANGEL at 313-223-4531 or [email protected]

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