Incident On A Parking Lot

January 7, 2008 | By | 6 Replies More

Personal anecdote time.

Yesterday (Sunday) we went shopping.  We stopped at Office Depot to buy a new chair.  As we approached the entrance, I spotted a friend of ours and called her name.  We gathered outside the entrance to chat.

As we talked, a man approached us, begged our pardon, and asked for a personal opinion.

“Do any of you know what that is?” he asked, pointing across the parking lot.

That is a tower under contruction adjacent to a one-story building that used to be a bank and is now The Islamic Community Center.  We’ve been watching the tower rise for months now, a very careful construction project because it is at least fifty feet tall, maybe more, a fluted column with other motifs on its white surface.

“Oh, it’s a minaret,” our friend said without missing a beat.  Of course I thought makes perfect sense.  “For call to prayer,” she continued.  “Which is beautiful if you’ve ever heard it.”

“Do you think that’s appropriate?” the stranger asked.

“Why not?” I asked.

“You know the first one is at five in the morning,” he said.  “I just wonder what the neighborhood around here will think.”

I turned around and from where we stood we could see three church steeples.  “Probably no more than they think of the bells ringing on those.”

“But not at five A.M.” he said.

I looked at him.  “What the problem?  Bells are okay but a muezzin isn’t?”

“Well, this is a christian community.”

“I live in this community and I’m not a christian.”

He looked at me oddly.

“Get a petition up to shut down the bells ringing,” our friend said, “and we’ll back a ban on call to prayer.”

“I just wonder if anybody was asked what they thought,” this guy said in a huff and started to walk off.

“Evidently,” I said, “or they wouldn’t have gotten a permit to build the damn thing in the first place.”

He didn’t answer, just stalked off.

It won’t surprise me in the coming months to have a canvasser show up at my door now with a petition to have hearings on whether Those People should be allowed to make noise in This Community.

What part of tolerance don’t folks understand?

Oh.  I forgot.  As long as it’s not where we can see or hear it, we’re as tolerant as anyone.


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Category: American Culture, Censorship, Civil Rights, Culture, Politics, Religion

About the Author ()

Mark is a writer and musician living in the St. Louis area. He hit puberty at the peak of the Sixties and came of age just as it was all coming to a close with the end of the Vietnam War. He was annoyed when bellbottoms went out of style, but he got over it.

Comments (6)

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  1. Alison says:

    Well, if the community records its town meetings and broadcasts them on a cable channel, it would be easy enough to find out. Boring to watch, but if you record it you can fast forward. The building would have been permitted by the planning board, but the noise issue, if it violated any existing statues in town law, would have to be heard by the town council rather than the planning board. If the group that's building abides by the law as it stands, then there's nothing to complain about.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    There's a Catholic church about 3 blocks from my house. The bells ring periodically and they are ugly, absolutely grungy and out-of-tune bells. It's a blight on the ears and it's been going on for years.

    It was quite a surprise to me, then, to hear recently (at a neighborhood meeting) that those bells aren't really bells. They don't have functioning bells. Instead, they have an electronic sound system.

    So now I'm wondering why a church would (in a world where sound recordings are a dime a dozen) decide to broadcast a recording of out-of-tune bells. I will continue my investigation.

    On the one hand, I tempted to say that all religious organizations should keep their sounds inside of their own walls. Anything else is sonic graphitti. On the other hand, I do like to hear the sound of well-tuned church bells in the distance. I haven't yet heard a call to prayer, but I'm open to the experience.

  3. Well, I know how it is to hear the muezzin call for prayer in the morning and let me tell you, it ain't fun. 😀 I remember dimly to have heard that some also use loudspeakers and recorded tapes, but I'm not quite sure about this.

  4. Vicki Baker says:

    I wonder if anyone has thought of using one of those automated phone call systems to do the call to prayer. The phone rings at 5 am and a recorded voice says "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet." Sort of like Dial-a-Prayer but in reverse.

  5. Dan Klarmann says:

    Here's a couple of snapshots from my phone showing the tower in question. I had biked over to Office Depot (and they didn't have what I needed), and it caught my eye. Pardon the quality.

    Standing in its shadow

    <img src="; alt="in the shadow of a prayer tower" title="In the shadow of a prayer tower in South St. Louis">

    Pigeons like it, too

    <img src="; alt="St. Louis Islamic Center" title="Pigeons and prayer">

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