In the article written by Claudia Theophilus entitled “Azan controversy draws mixed reactions” published in Malaysiakini on 12th August 2004, Prof Mahmud Zuhdi Abd Majid of the Islamic Studies Academy warned that religion should be politicized as it “defeats our efforts to create a peaceful multi-racial, multi-religious society in Malaysia”. He said that such matter can only be discussed with an open mind. Unfortunately, the grassroots tend to react defensively, a sentiment which is often manipulated to suit the interests of certain quarters.”
He advised the people (non-Muslims) who were unhappy over the loud azan should approach the state government. The state would refer the matter to the religious department and decide against the use of loudspeakers for anything else other than the azan. Mahmud said that in the 1980s, the Kelantan state government, following complaints from non-Muslim citizens, had ruled that loudspeakers in mosques and suraus should only be used for the azan, especially in dense residential areas. Perak Mufti Harussani Zakaria agreed that loudspeakers should only be
used for the azan and nothing else. “There is no need to use loudspeakers to air the pre-recordings of the tarhim, Quranic recitals or selawat preceding the azan,” he said.
On the other hand, Harussani – a member of the Malaysia Mufti Council defended Shah Alam UMNO’s move to lodge a police report. He said that UMNO was merely upholding its motto to defend, protect and preserve religion, race and country by lodging the report, not to gain publicity.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat vice-president R Sivarasa believes that such issue will not occur if there is an open discussion about this so call sensitive issue. “We should instead talk about how to practice our respective religions without interfering with another person’s quiet time. The fundamental thing is not to use oppressive laws to intimidate
people into silence because this is not the way for Malaysia to grow into a genuine multi-racial society,” he said.
Echoing Sivarasa’s call for open discourse, Sisters in Islam legal
adviser Nora Murat said Muslims should take into account the feelings of others. “We must consider how we as Muslims would react if we were the minority in a country. That is why we must be able to dialogue with non-Muslims. It is good to remember the ethical principles of the Quran which is to engage and accept the differences within the society leading to a peaceful co-existence.” Nora said Muslims should not turn away from talking about these issues and should refrain from using the notion of racial disunity or religious sensitivity as a shield to suppress an opportunity for greater understanding. “Prophet Muhammad himself had great empathy towards believers of other faiths and never forced them to accept the Muslim practice,” she said. “So, how can we now force our respective practice unto others?”