The Ministry of Local Government (MINALOC) has shed light on the recent decision to ban Muslim call to prayer known as ‘Adhan’ that was taken in consideration of noise pollution related concerns raised by the general public.
The directive for activities producing noise pollution, prohibits loudspeakers between 10.p.m and 6.a.m.
The timeframe is of great significance to Muslims in Rwanda who usually use loud speakers to call followers to prayers five times per day.
These include the Adhan call at 4:30 a.m. reminding Muslims of prayers held 5:00 a.m. every day.
The Adhan lasts between two and five minutes.
The Minister of Local Government, Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi has said that the decision does not only concern Muslims but also other religious denominations that annoy people during night hours.
“Worshippers must continue their activities being aware of their limitations to avoid nuisance to others. I saw some people registering Christians to attend prayers in the evening, home based fellowship groups and morning prayers. These activities are not prohibited. What is prohibited is doing it in the wee hours, and play instruments that might disturb people or cause noise pollution violating their rights as they sleep,” he said.
Minister Gatabazi has said that Muslim’s call to prayer was practiced for far too long.
He revealed that some people not concerned with the Adhan expressed concerns that they are extremely annoyed over related noise pollution.
“The decision was taken because there are people who continuously file complaints that they no longer sleep because they are disturbed by repeated call to prayers. This happens in different localities. Residents raised alarm about the issue. Perhaps, they were not understood as they rose concerns but it is their rights,” he said.
Noise pollution, according to National Noise Pollution Guidelines, is determined when sound goes beyond 80 decibel (db). Decibel is the unit through which noise is measured and sound becomes “physically painful” when it goes beyond 80db.
Often neglected, noise pollution adversely affects the human being leading to irritation, loss of concentration, loss of hearing, sleeping disorder among other ill effects.
Minister Gatabazi revealed that the decision is based on the environmental law established in 2004 as amended 2018.
The law No. 48/2018 of 13/08/2018 on environment in its article 43, states that ; “Without prejudice to the provisions of the law determining offences and penalties in general, any person who causes noise pollution is liable to an administrative fine of Rwf500, 000.”
Under the new penal code, noise nuisance carries a penalty of a fine not less than Rwf500, 000 and not more than Rwf1, 000,000.
In case of recidivism, the penalty is imprisonment for a term of not less than eight days and not more than one month and a fine of more than Rwf1,000,000 and not more than Rwf2,000,000 or one of the penalties.
“First of all, the law was passed but did not go into implementation. Secondly, established guidelines did not go into force. Thirdly, concerned followers came to us complaining. They inquired into why we are stopping them yet the law was discussed before it was passed,” Minister Gatabazi said.
“We finally realized that these people misunderstood the decision. It was not meant to halt prayers. No one intends to stop prayers for Muslims, Catholic Church believers and Protestants among others,” he added.
Gatabazi revealed that there are no restrictions for prayers in the daylight while the harmful call to overnight prayers is prohibited.
The decision to avoid noise pollution also concerns restaurants, bars and other businesses.