Call to prayer ruling in Canada causes controversy

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Masjd Al-Farooq in Mississauga. (Supplied photo)
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The Islamic Society of North America in Mississauga. (Supplied photo)
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Muslim Neighbor Nexus: Building the community together. (Supplied)
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Malton Islamic Center in Mississauga. (Supplied photo)
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Jame Masjid Mosque in Mississauga. (Supplied photo)
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Updated 08 May 2020

Call to prayer ruling in Canada causes controversy

  • Some municipalities are allowing mosques to broadcast the sunset adhan during Ramadan, prompting some to complain
  • ‘Hate groups will always be around to incite this type of prejudice,’ says one Muslim resident who used to live in Riyadh

DUBAI: Social-distancing measures during the global pandemic have caused mosques to close and public gatherings to be banned around the world. As a result, Muslims have had to adjust and adapt to a new reality — one without congregational prayers.

However, some municipalities in the Ontario province of Canada have started allowing mosques to broadcast the call to prayer, or adhan, at sunset, which during Ramadan marks the end of the day’s fast.

In a ground-breaking acknowledgment of multiculturalism and religious tolerance, Ontario’s Mississauga City Council passed a resolution on April 29 suspending its noise control by-law, thereby allowing mosques to sound the Maghrib (sunset) adhan. The resolution stated that the temporary suspension will remain in effect throughout Ramadan, that the prayer call can be broadcast once a day in the evening for a maximum of five minutes, and that it must not call people to gather together to pray.

In the past week, cities such as Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor, Brampton, Ottawa and Edmonton have followed suit with similar rulings, and Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in the US city of Minneapolis has also obtained a permit to broadcast the call to prayer.




Masjid Al-Farooq in Mississauga City. (Supplied photo)

The melodious Arabic adhan usually takes only two to three minutes to recite, but the decision by Mississauga city council has incited a fervent backlash from some Canadians who claim that its broadcast is an infringement of their rights and brings religion into the public sphere.

Some suggest the sound of the adhan could trigger post-traumatic stress disorder in Canadian soldiers who served in the Middle East. Others label the decision unconstitutional and an appeasement of radicalism, even going so far as to call for a legal challenge. There has been no official statement on the issue by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Hassan Ahmed, a former resident of Riyadh who now lives in Mississauga, and usually attends the Al-Falah and Muslim Neighbour Nexis mosques, believes the sounding of the call to prayer should not bother his fellow Canadians too much.

“The church bells that are heard on Sundays don’t infringe on my rights as a Muslim, and the call to prayer, which is temporary, just for one month because of these extreme circumstances, doesn’t infringe on anyone’s rights — it won’t really impact anyone’s day to day,” he said.

“There’s a sense of belonging and community that the mosque gives. With physical and social distancing measures in place Muslims can’t get that, so this is just a small step toward filling that void.”




The Islamic Society of North America in Mississauga. (Supplied photo)

Kanwal Saya, who has lived in Riyadh and Dubai and now resides in the city of Oakville, Ontario usually worships at the Islamic Society of North America in Mississauga. She explained that during Ramadan, Muslims gather at the mosque not only for prayers, but for classes, discussions, iftars and activities for children.

“It’s the overall feeling of belonging and rising spiritually, and it’s especially important for children to develop and learn about our religion,” she said. “In the current circumstances, as we are not able to visit mosques, a call to prayer can certainly help revive the spirit of the holy month.”

Canada enjoys an international reputation as a welcoming and accepting place for refugees and minorities, and the province of Ontario is especially diverse; according to the 2016 census, more than a quarter of its residents are from minorities.

Some fear the backlash to the call to prayer ruling is a sign that Islamophobic sentiment might be ignited at a time where the pandemic has already caused great instability and unrest. But Saya and Ahmed are confident that those protesting the decision represent only a tiny segment of Canadian society.

“Hate groups will always be around to incite this type of prejudice,” said Saya. “Yes, it will bring about heated discussions and online forum wars but will eventually die down. Canadians generally are not too concerned about this.”

Ahmed agreed, adding: “We live in a safe country, our communities are very intertwined and intermingled, and people are very culturally sensitive. So I think that while you might have the odd experience or spike in some of Islamophobic prejudice, as a whole it won’t affect us — at least that’s my hope.”


UK, US COVID-19 vaccines show signs of immunity in patients

Updated 15 July 2020

UK, US COVID-19 vaccines show signs of immunity in patients

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci: ‘No matter how you slice this, this is good news’

LONDON: Two of the world’s most promising studies to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 have said subjects in their trials have shown early signs of immunity. 

The trials, run by teams at Oxford University in the UK and pharmaceutical company Moderna in the US, have both received significant government funding in their bids to develop their vaccines before the end of the year.

The Oxford vaccine, being manufactured by AstraZeneca, based in Cambridge, England, has already had millions of doses mass-produced in the event of the trials proving a success. The team behind it says it is “80 percent confident” of it being available by September. 

It works by injecting altered COVID-19 genetic material, attached to a similar but benign virus called an adenovirus, which causes common colds, into the body, in a process known as recombinant viral vector vaccination. 

The aim is to facilitate an immune system response by mimicking COVID-19 itself, and training antibodies to attack the spike proteins on the virus’s exterior that it uses to attach itself to human cells.

When faced with COVID-19, in theory the immune system should then act in the same fashion.

The Oxford vaccine is currently in its second, expanded trial stage, featuring 8,000 people in the UK and up to 6,000 people in Brazil and South Africa.

Though no official results have been formally published, subjects exposed to the vaccine in its early phase were found to have developed antibodies and a certain type of white blood cell, called T-cells, which help fight infection

“An important point to keep in mind is that there are two dimensions to the immune response: Antibodies and T-cells,” a source at Oxford told ITV News in the UK.

“Everybody is focused on antibodies, but there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the T-cells response is important in the defense against coronavirus.”

Prof. Sarah Gilbert, the Oxford team leader, earlier this month said the vaccine could provide protection for several years at a time.

She told UK MPs on the House of Commons’ science and technology select committee: “Vaccines have a different way of engaging with the immune system, and we follow people in our studies using the same type of technology to make the vaccines for several years, and we still see strong immune responses.”

She added: “It’s something we have to test and follow over time — we can’t know until we actually have the data, but we’re optimistic based on earlier studies that we’ll see a good duration of immunity, for several years at least, and probably better than naturally acquired immunity.”

Moderna, meanwhile, reported that all 45 volunteers in its early phase had developed immune responses after receiving its vaccine, though with more than half its subjects experiencing mild or moderate side effects including headaches, fatigue and muscle pain.

Its vaccine, called mRNA-1273, uses ribonucleic acid to program human cells to make proteins similar to the spike proteins of COVID-19 cells, training the body’s immune system to identify and attack them.

Its initial studies found that higher doses of mRNA-1273 in the human system corresponded with higher levels of immunity in subjects, by injecting people with doses of 25, 100 or 250 micrograms of the vaccine in two instalments over 28 days.

Moderna will begin a second trial of 30,000 people later this month. The US government has so far pledged nearly half a billion dollars in funding for the Moderna vaccine.

The director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said: “No matter how you slice this, this is good news.”

Vaccines, though, are not the only potential route in the quest to find a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trials have already begun for an antibody treatment, manufactured by AstraZeneca, that would see patients given a three-minute infusion of COVID-19 antibodies that could provide protection for up to six months.

This would be a potential solution if the vaccine proves less effective in some people (especially the elderly), for those who suffer adverse reactions, or for people taking immunosuppressant drugs or undergoing chemotherapy.

Sir Mene Pangalos, head AstraZeneca’s research into respiratory diseases, said: “There’s a population who are elderly that (may not) get a particularly good immune response to the vaccine.

“In those instances you might want to prophylactically treat those patients with an antibody to give them additional protection.”