I am fortunate to be living in a spiritually blessed area. There are five mosques, each located within half to one kilometer of the epicentre that defines my current address. While the mosque managers violently disagree with each other on every matter of faith, their unanimity on the issue of torture to mankind is exemplary and boundless. The equipment of mass disturbance they use for this purpose is a high frequency, high pressure, loud speaker. Its usage while limited by law only to ‘Azan” and “Friday Khutba”, is illegally extended to many hours during day time and throughout most Ramazan nights.
One knows that no sound amplification devices were used in the early days of Islam – traditionally accepted as an era of ‘best practices’ and ‘bench marks’. How come we switched over to using equipment that is contrary to our best practices ? Pakistan’s law on the use of loudspeakers clearly stipulates that, “No person shall operate or use a loudspeaker or a sound amplifier in a mosque, church or temple in a manner or at a volume whereby any sound from such loudspeaker could be heard outside the immediate precincts of such mosque, church or temple.” Additionally Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (PEPA) defines that the noise level in residential areas be limited to 55 dB(A) during day time and 45 dB(A) during the night. As the PEPA has never heard of an instrument called ‘decibel meter’, it has never bothered to use one and find out the results for itself. A short survey suggests noise levels that exceed 90 dB(A) when the loudspeakers are used any time during the day or night.
The noise torture program is not limited to holy loud speakers. It has its many unholy secular versions as well. In a seamlessly orchestrated maneuver some 20 minutes after the ‘Sehri’, the loudspeakers fall silent and the ‘Miseries’ (technicians) building the house next door take over. Equipped with industrial saw machines, power drills and pneumatic hammers, they see to it that the neighborhood is kept as noisy as their counterparts at night.
The 55 dB(A) during the day and 45 dB(A) during the night limits for noise in residential areas do not differentiate between the secular or religious nature of noise. There are organizations, Housing Societies, Cantonment Boards and other agencies who must monitor and control these violations. Clearly by remaining indifferent they appease the powerful and the noisy at the cost of the well being of common citizens.