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Egyptian government unveils new prayer call system

Written by: Staff
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CAIRO, Apr 30 (Reuters) The Egyptian government unveiled today its project to synchronise the Muslim call to prayer in Cairo and said it might next ban the use of amplifiers by muezzins at small mosques outside government control.

Religious Endowments Minister Mahmoud Hamdi Zakzouk said the government had selected 25 muezzins to serve the city by broadcasts from a central location, instead of the 748 who now make the call to prayer from the minarets of the city's mosques.

Zakzouk said that using a single muezzin based at the Azhar mosque, broadcast and then transmitted from loudspeakers at the top of each minaret, would end the current anarchy in which different mosques make the call at slightly different times.

Under the current arrangements, the muezzin in one mosque may finish his call to prayer before the one in the nearest mosque has even started his version.

Since most of the muezzins use loudspeakers and are audible for hundreds of metres (yards), the result is a discordant mix stretched out over 10 to 15 minutes, five times a day.

At a ceremony to sign a contract to buy 4,000 radio receivers for the project, Zakzouk dismissed opposition based on fears that his ministry will try to standardise the Friday sermon or abolish the pre-dawn call to prayer.

''There is absolutely no intention to standardise the Friday sermon because the sermon in Garden City or Zamalek (wealthy parts of Cairo) differs from the sermon in a hamlet in Upper Egypt, because the congregation is different,'' he said.

He said the existing muezzins can continue to work as prayer leaders in the city's government-run mosques.

Asked about the city's zawyas -- small privately run mosques, some of which also have muezzins and loudspeakers, he said: ''We're looking for a solution ... so that the muezzin stands in front of the zawya without using a loudspeaker so he doesn't affect the sound of the standardised call to prayer.'' The new project will start operating later this year.

REUTERS CH RN2004

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