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Mecca trip postpones prayer dispute

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A quarrel between members of the Parkchester Jame Masjid and non-Muslim neighbors was postponed on Monday, November 16 when the mosque’s leaders hopped a holy flight to Mecca.

The mosque has temporarily tabled its request to use electronic amplification for “Adhan” – the Muslim call to prayer, Community Board 9 chair Enrique Vega told close to 100 unhappy neighbors at a public hearing on the request. The mosque needs a Police Department permit.

Parkchester Jame Masjid leaders planned to deliver a multi-media presentation on what they refer to as an innocuous but necessary religious custom but had to skip the hearing at I.S. 125 when a planned pilgrimage to Islam’s holy city ran into a snag. A flight booked for Wednesday, November 18 was cancelled at the last minute and members of the mosque had to grab an earlier trip, Parkchester Jame Masjid and CB9 member Mohammed Ahia, who stayed behind, said.

Although the mosque’s contentious request has been tabled, Vega asked neighbors of the Virginia Avenue house of worship to testify. Parkchester Jame Masjid plans to resubmit its request for amplified Adhan in January 2010, Ahia said. Vega hoped those who testified would stick to the sound issue but a handful touched on religious issues.

It appears that members of the mosque think they are better than neighbors and other worshippers in the neighborhood, Gleason resident Gwendolyn Brown said.

“I used to be a Muslim,” Brown said. “I know that Adhan is loud. Why [the mosque] thinks it can impose on everyone in the neighborhood, I don’t understand.”

Adhan is performed five times a day, every day, first in the early morning and last late at night. In response to a tense and well-attended public hearing at CB9 on Tuesday, October 20, Parkchester Jame Masjid leaders agreed to request permission to amplify Adhan four times a day, rather than five.

But neighbors who testified on November 16 were hardly placated by the change. An amplified call to prayer would damage property values, disrupt naps and frighten children, they said.

“This is a really big deal,” Reverend Clark Bradley of Fourth Presbyterian Church on Newbold Avenue declared. “What about nurses and security guards who work at night and sleep during the day?”

If the city grants Parkchester Jame Masjid a sound permit, it’ll have to grant sound permits to other mosques, churches and temples, Bradley said. Gerri Lamb, who attends Church of the Revelation, across from the mosque on Virginia Avenue, termed the request “inappropri­ate” and asked Parkchester Jame Masjid members, who are principally immigrants from Bangladesh, to abide by the adage “when in Rome.”

“I was born in this country and raised here,” Lamb said. “I choose to serve the God I choose to serve and I don’t have to hear yours in order to serve mine.”

Members of the mosque have argued that each amplified Adhan would last less than two minutes and wouldn’t disturb non-Muslim neighbors. The call to prayer would be audible no more than three blocks away, they said.

Ahia described Adhan, a sort of song or chant in Arabic, as a pleasant sound and suggested that neighbors at the hearing represented only a thin-skinned subset of the neighborhood. The neighborhood will accept amplified Adhan sooner or later, he said. Parkchester Jame Masjid set up shop on Virginia Avenue in 1989 and constructed a new house of worship in 2004.

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