Minarets are causing a lot of flack in countries like Switzerland and Germany these days, and rightly so. A referendum in Switzerland actually banned the construction of these Muslim spires, citing their “non-Swiss” architecture as reason. While I fully endorse anything that bans religious architecture– be it a Muslim spire or a Catholic basilica–I understand that we have to find a way to live together without killing each other. To get along, we have to make concessions. Historically, however, minarets are not a concession. They are wholesale surrender.

Most people figure that these tall towers are simply quaint remembrances of a time when there were no alarm clocks or telephones. An appointed caller would climb the minaret and summon people to prayer five times a
day. It’s become part of the folklore of Islam that these spires have always been a symbol of the devotion of Muslims. I put this right up there with hokey 18th century Christmas stories for mis-remembered religious history.

Minarets are not Islamic, per ce. They are political, not religious in nature. While they do indeed serve to call people to prayer, the architecture was designed to show the power of the Umayyad Dynasty, not the beauty of Islam. Muslims who were not subject to the rule of the Umayyads did not have a minaret. This whole thing stems from the Umayyad’s conquest of Damascus in 636. The original minaret was built to show that the Shrine of John the Baptist was now under Umayyad control. Like all mosques, the basic layot was designed to mimic
Mohamed’s home. The spire, however, was added as a way to gloat over their victory.

While the Umayyads are now gone, the tradition is still there. Minarets serve no real religious purpose. Plenty of mosques exist and function perfectly well with out them. But
the clear message of conquest that a minaret conveyed is still the same: “This is a Muslim City”.

Mohamed never had a minaret. If he needed people called to prayer, he’d get his slave to go to the roof and call them in. It was only when the politics got involved that these giant spires were needed as a sign of Islam’s claim on a city. While the politics behind them is subtler these days, the intent remains the same: Announce to the world that Islam has taken hold in the city where the minaret is constructed.

Granted, Christians and Jews have architecture that does the exact same thing, and I would oppose these as readily as I would minarets. But there is also another, more insidious side to the minaret that can not be ignored. They are used to “call people to prayer”. What this means is that, five times a day, some guy is going to go to the top of this structure and shout at the top of his lungs. If you live next to one of these structures you can be guaranteed that you will be woken up every day for the rest of your life somewhere between 4:30 and 5:30 in the morning, Muslim or no.

Whatever religious tolerance one has tends to fade quickly when confronted with the prospect of being woken up every day for the rest of your life by some guy screaming in Arabic.

Original Post: http://williamjhopper.com/02/15/1230/

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Comment by Sam in WV on May 24, 2010 at 1:36pm
Not to speak of the fact that the sing-songy "call to prayer" , more often than not is electronically amplified now ~~ shades of the loud speakers of 1984, anyone?

~~ interesting historical account! Thanks for posting.

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