BANGKOK — Morning in Bangkok, the city awakes to bells of Wat Sai and the calls of Bang Uthit Mosque. But the awakening is daily, at 4am. And the citizens of high-rise condos want to sleep.
A day after district officials filed a complaint to demand Wat Sai lower the volume of their bell tolls, a local mosque revealed on Friday that they had also received similar warnings and refuted claims that their daily calls to prayer disturbed others in the same Bang Kho Laem district.
“Is our masjid really loud? If it is, we will lower the volume,” Anusorn Ongard, imam of the mosque said in an interview with Khaosod. “Our volume is within the standard limit, but I don’t want to cause trouble for our brothers of different faith. … But we are so greng jai nowadays that Muslims ask me why the volume is so low.”
The century-old Bang Uthit Mosque has five daily calls to prayer, including one at 4:30am. On July 3, the Bang Kho Laem district office sent a letter to the mosque asking them to lower their volume. Anusorn said district officials come ask them to lower their volume from time to time.
“You can come as many times as you want, but we are still within the volume range and following the rules,” Anusorn said.
The imam said that the mosque’s prime spot, across from the Asiatique Riverfront shopping area, helps to serve tourism in the area.
“Bang Uthit Mosque is the face of Bang Kho Laem. Right across is Asiatique. Don’t forget that Malaysians, Bruneians, Singaporeans and Indonesians are largely Muslim. We do our job of providing religious services to tourists every single day,” he said.
Thursday, the three-century-old Wat Sai came to public attention when the nearby Star View condominium pressed them to lower their 4am bell tolling. The abbot agreed to lower the noise, while everyone remotely related to the city leaped in to offer their two cents to the drama.
Bangkok Gov. Aswin Kwanmuang went to the temple and rang the bell himself to see if it was too loud.
“It’s not just the drama about the loud Wat Sai bell… come look at another production of Bang Kho Laem district officials. This 100-year-old mosque in the Muslim community has never had problems, but suddenly a letter from the district office came and asked the imam to lower the volume of the call to prayer,” wrote a Thursday night post by Songkran Menthong.
Aswin and the abbot agreed that the monks would lower the volume of the bell tolling rather than stop ringing it.
“District officials will go measure the amount of noise there to make sure it doesn’t go over the set limit, which I believe it won’t,” Aswin said. “But the temple can’t stop ringing the bell, as it’s a long religious tradition. It would be easier for people who complain to move.”
Frenzy erupted online as some tried to point fingers at anyone complaining about the bell tower, with one woman saying she had to report to the Computer Crimes Division for allegedly false posts attributed to her.
“Communities should be built on the basis of diversity…for me, hearing the temple bell is a normal thing,” imam Anusorn said, adding that he sympathized with the Wat Sai abbot. “When there are no sounds like the temple bell or call to prayer, society will fall into a darker place.”
Wat Sai bell tower tolling.