The Danish debate about prayer calls has again flared up, following a local mosque calling its worshippers to gather in a nearby football field amid the coronavirus pandemic. According to the liberal-conservative party Venstre, there is no tradition for loud prayer calls in Denmark.
Several Danish parties have urged the government to investigate the possibility of banning calls to prayer such as those heard from mosques, arguing that they are “very disruptive”.
Venstre, the Danish People’s Party, the Conservatives, and the New Right have presented a resolution in parliament, Danish Radio reported.
The debate flared up after a Muslim call to prayer in Gellerupparken near Aarhus in April. It happened as the local Mosque of Peace was closed in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic, and worshippers were called to pray in a nearby football field instead.
Nevertheless, the parties’ resolution does not specifically mention Islam, instead referring to a ban on prayer calls using speakers in a public place. A ban only affecting Islam might contradict both the Danish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.
“For Venstre, this is not about a single religion, although I realise that prayer calls are often linked to Islam. Prayer calls are not something we have a tradition for in Danish society. We think that it will be very disruptive in Denmark”, Venstre MP Mads Fuglede said.
Fuglede called the current situation, where there is no legal basis for granting permission or prohibiting prayer calls, completely unacceptable, urging to clear up the situation and develop clear rules.
The bill is in effect a development of a proposal made by the New Right a few weeks ago, which was only supported by the Danish People’s Party. However, after it was rephrased to specifically exclude Islam, the other members of the right-of-centre “blue” bloc, except the Liberal Alliance, are ready to support it.
“Venstre and the Conservatives had a hard time with the wording that Islam is the problem, so we agreed on this draft”, New Right leader Pernille Vermund said.
The ruling Social Democrats, according to spokesman Rasmus Stoklund, “essentially agree” that there should be no prayer calls in Denmark. At the same time, according to the Social Democrats there is no evidence that prayer calls are a problem that requires legal intervention.
“Muslims have lived in Denmark for four or five decades. And during all that time, only one prayer call has occurred to me, in Gellerup a couple of months ago”, Stoklund said. He also assured that should the phenomenon start to spread, legislation should be taken against it.
Integration Minister Mattias Tesfaye is already investigating whether it is possible to ban prayer calls, as several ministries and municipalities have received inquiries from Muslims, including the Islamic Faith Society, about the possibility of launching prayer calls.
“We still hope they listen to the signals we are trying to send from a fairly wide majority in the Danish Parliament, that we aren’t interested in this sort of thing in Denmark”, Stoklund said.
Islam is Denmark’s largest minority religion at over 300,000 Muslims, or 5.4 percent of the total population.