News & Politics

Good News: Paterson, N.J., Gets Muslim Police Chief and Islamic Call to Prayer Over Loudspeakers

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The next Democratic debate isn’t in Paterson, New Jersey, but it should be: that unlikely city is blazing new trails in multiculturalism and diversity. On Wednesday, the City Council voted unanimously (with two members not voting) to grant preliminary approval to the Islamic call to prayer being broadcast over loudspeakers in the city. This followed the swearing-in earlier this month, on the Qur’an, of course, of Paterson’s new police chief, Ibrahim “Mike” Baycora, the first Muslim police chief in an American city.

Celebrate diversity, right? Sure. The problem is that it is by no means certain that this diversity will celebrate us. The Paterson noise ordinance says: “The city shall permit ‘Adhan’, call to prayer’, ‘church bells’ and other reasonable means of announcing religious meetings to be amplified between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. for duration not to exceed five minutes.”

So the Islamic call to prayer is just like church bells. Sure, and informed, devout Muslims are just Methodists with hats and beards. Reality, however, is not so rosy. The Islamic call to prayer, now to be sounded three times a day in Paterson, New Jersey (there are five daily prayers, but two of them fall outside the 6AM-10PM parameters of the ordinance), declares:

Allah is greater (Allahu akbar, four times)
I testify that there is no God but Allah (Ashhadu anna la ila ill Allah) (twice)
I testify that Mohammed is Allah’s Prophet (Ashhadu anna Muhammadan rasul Allah) (twice)
Come to prayer (Hayya alas salah, twice)
Come to success (Hayya alal falah, twice)
Allah is greater (Allahu akbar) (twice)
There is no God but Allah (La ilah ill Allah) (once)

Besides being screamed out by Islamic jihad terrorists all over the world (9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta said it “strikes fear in the hearts of the non-believers”), “Allahu akbar” is a clear demonstration of supremacism. It is often mistranslated in the Western media as “God is great,” but its actual meaning is “Allah is greater,” meaning Allah Is Greater Than Your God or Government. It is an aggressive declaration that Allah and Islam are dominant over every other form of government, religion, law, or ethic, which is why Islamic jihadists in the midst of killing infidels so often shout it.

That ain’t exactly an exact analogy to church bells.

Baycora’s swearing-in on the Qur’an presents a similar problem. Whenever this kind of thing comes up, there is no discussion of what the Qur’an actually says. It calls for warfare against (2:191, 4:89, 8:39, 9:5, 9:73, 47:4, etc.) and subjugation of unbelievers (9:29), second-class status for women (4:3, 4:34), hatred of Jews (5:59-60, 5:82, etc.), and more. Americans generally assume that every book that some group of people somewhere in the world thinks of as a holy book teaches love and magnanimity, generosity, tolerance, and peace.

Anyone who has read the Qur’an carefully knows that it doesn’t. So a case can be made that this was not the best course of action for Paterson officials to take. At the very least, a public discussion should take place.

That such a public discussion will take place, however, is about as likely as Bernie apologizing for his entire political career and endorsing Trump. Anyone who raises any question about the wisdom of any of this is immediately denounced as a racist, bigoted “Islamophobe.” In that vein, after the broadcasting of the call to prayer was approved, Paterson Council President Maritza Davila lamented: “The amount of things I saw on social media was so sad. It truly was disheartening.”

Something is indeed disheartening here, but that isn’t necessarily it. The idea that one cannot even raise questions about the wisdom of oath-taking on the Qur’an or the broadcasting of the Islamic call to prayer over loudspeakers, and that anyone who does so has thereby incriminated himself as a “hatemonger,” is in line with the left’s sinister and increasingly open authoritarianism. It is not, however, remotely in line with the American principle of free inquiry. If it’s so fond of messages amplified over loudspeakers, Paterson would have been better advised to start broadcasting the text of the First Amendment in the long run.

Of course, many would say that to oppose the amending of the Paterson noise ordinance and the swearing-in of public officials on the Qur’an is itself an infringement of the freedom of religion. It isn’t in either case. There is no Islamic command that the call to prayer be sounded over loudspeakers, which didn’t exist in Muhammad’s day, and the idea that any book would do for a swearing-in has already been made a mockery when St. Louis County Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway was sworn in on a Dr. Seuss book.

Ultimately, free and open discussion of the questions raised by the recent developments in Paterson won’t happen now, but it will not and cannot be foreclosed forever. Eventually, these questions will become absolutely unavoidable.

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 19 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Palestinian Delusion: The Catastrophic History of the Middle East Peace Process. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.