Lazy eyes listen
Saudi Arabia has announced a set of rules and restrictions for the holy month of Ramadan in the Kingdom this year, including a number of controversial ones such as a reduction in mosque loudspeakers, surveillance of worshippers who wish to seclude themselves during the month’s final ten days, donation limits, and a ban on filming or broadcasting of prayers within mosques.
According to a document released and distributed on Friday by Minister of Islamic Affairs Abdul Latif Al-Sheikh, the Islamic holy month of Ramadan will be governed by ten points to which all citizens of the Kingdom must adhere.
Among these commandments are that “imams and muezzins are not absent except in extreme necessity,” that Tarawih (evening) prayers are not prolonged, and that “the tahajjud prayer is completed in the last ten days of Ramadan, before the dawn call to prayer, with sufficient time, so as not to be difficult for the worshipers,” among other fundamental directives.
They also include “not using cameras in mosques to photograph the imam and worshippers during the performance of the prayers, and not transmitting or broadcasting the prayers in any media,” as well as “the imam’s responsibility for authorizing the i’tikaaf [seclusion in mosque for the previous ten days] and knowing their data.”
The Ministry also prohibited mosques from soliciting financial donations for the purpose of organizing meals to break the fast for fasting people, and any such meals were to be prepared and held in designated areas in mosque courtyards rather than inside the mosque itself, and to be overseen by the imam and muezzin.
Other controversial decisions announced by the Ministry include the limitation on the amount and volume of loudspeakers emitting the call to prayer – a continuation of the same decision made earlier this year and last year – and the complete prohibition on their emittance of prayers and recitations, as well as the prohibition on parents bringing children to the mosque for prayers.
The restrictions have sparked outrage and backlash from many Muslims around the world, with critics seeing them as yet another attempt by the Saudi government, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to limit the influence of Islam in public life through the use of restrictions long used by Tunisia’s former dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and the former Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, as critics point out, the Saudi government is increasingly promoting musical concerts and inviting popular Western artists and raunchy cultural figures to appeal to international audiences and open the Kingdom’s society.
In a phone interview with Al-Saudiya, the Ministry’s spokesman, Abdullah Al-Enezi, dismissed such concerns, saying that “the Ministry does not prevent breaking the fast in mosques, but rather organizes it, so that there is a responsible person who takes permission from it, and it will have facilities within the framework of preserving the sanctity and cleanliness of the mosque and not collecting donations other than official.”
He also addressed the ban on filming and broadcasting prayers, claiming that it was enacted to “protect platforms from exploitation and was not issued due to mistrust of imams, preachers, or lecturers, but rather to avoid any mistake, especially if it was unintentional.”