GEORGE TOWN, Oct 1 — Penang Mufti Datuk Dr Wan Salim Mohd Noor today denied that the state’s fatwa committee has issued a ban on the use of loudspeakers in mosques and suraus during the azan (Muslim call to prayer), saying the edict would only apply to other programmes.
Clarifying the matter at a press conference here, the religious cleric said the committee’s proposed ban was for programmes like the zikir before azan, sermons and recording of the Al-Quran.
"We made this decision in 2012 to stop the use of loudspeakers in mosques and surau before dawn but it was more of a form of advice and now, we are proposing to expand this decision to stop the use of the speakers for other activities other than azan," he said.
Wan Salim explained that the fatwa committee was merely proposing the ban to be gazetted and that it was not an actual fatwa yet.
"The process will take a longer time to make it a fatwa as we have to review it further and fine tune it and go through any other procedures first," he said, adding that if there is a need, the fatwa will be gazetted.
Religious affairs domestic trade and consumer affairs committee chairman Datuk Abdul Malik Kassim said there was no issue at all as the whole matter was being blown out of proportion by certain parties.
"It was not a fatwa yet, it was merely a decision by the Penang Fatwa Committee that has to be further discussed and reviewed by others such as the Penang Islamic Religious Department (JAIPP). It was not even brought up to the state executive council to be discussed yet," Abdul Malik said.
Abdul Malik pointed out that the fatwa committee often makes up to 15 fatwa proposals in its meetings, but not all will be gazetted.
He added that even if a fatwa is made on the subject, it may not necessarily be imposed, citing the example of the edict prohibiting Muslims from smoking.
He said this issue was deliberately blown out of proportion to damage the image of the Penang state government.
"This is a repeat of what happened in 2010 when the previous mufti gave the advice to mosques not to use loudspeakers for zikir or the reading of the Al-Quran before dawn, which led to false accusations against the state government of allegedly banning azan," he said.
On the ban in use of loudspeakers for activities in mosques other than azan, Abdul Malik said the public and non-governmental organisations can submit their views on it directly with the Penang Mufti Department.
"If their arguments are valid, the mufti department will invite them to have a discussion on it," he said.
The Penang state government came under fire in social media yesterday, particularly from Malay groups, for banning the use of loudspeakers in mosques and surau other than for azan.
The Persatuan Mukabuku Pulau Pinang called for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to intervene, while a poster calling for a “Red Shirt” rally to be held on Friday at Komtar also emerged.
Yesterday, Bernama reported that Penang will gazette a decision to ban the use of loudspeakers outside mosques and suraus except for azan or the call to prayer.
The report is based on a letter from the Penang Mufti’s Office dated September 1 that stated it had been agreed that the use of loudspeakers outside mosques and suraus is prohibited for the reading of the Quran before dawn, all programmes and meetings.
The external loudspeakers can only be used for azan, or the call to prayer, while only internal loudspeakers can be used for other programmes and activities at the mosques and suraus.