A trial public broadcast of the Islamic call to prayer (the adhan, azaan) in West London has been weaponised by the far-right on Telegram and Twitter to spread racialised conspiracies of hate.
The short video, which first appeared on Twitter on April 24, coinciding with the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, and would also appear a day later, after the journalist Aina Khan, shared the video, having remarked on its ethereal beauty, adding that public broadcast was a trial.
The azaan (Islamic call to prayer) is floating along the streets of west London for the first time, in a Ramadan unlike any other. I will never get over how ethereal it sounds.
— Aina J. Khan (@ainajkhan) April 25, 2020
Within hours, and in the days ahead, the video was presented in a different, more harmful context when messages began to link the clip to racialised conspiracies of forced demographic changes.
As reported last week, the racialised and conspiracist manipulation of out-of-context videos had appeared on far-right Telegram channels had re-circulated from the same Twitter accounts, with one account boasting more than 60,000 video views – a ten-fold increase on what some of the earlier, non-inflammatory posts had generated.
Academics have explored how the far-right continues to weaponise visual content on social media with attention paid to the neo-fascist British National Party (BNP). Broader research explores the use of meme culture, and how the far-right adapt to new technologies for hyperpartisan, ideological pursuits.
A regional BNP Twitter account had captioned the shared video, “Retweet if you think this is Noise Pollution.”
This idea of ‘noise pollution’ and mosques has been explored by various academics, who have compared complaints about the East London Mosque broadcasting the adhan over loudspeakers in 1986 to similar protests against the Liverpool Mosque founded by Abdullah Quilliam in 1889.
Due to the ongoing coronavirus lockdown, mosques remain closed nationwide, and to remind Muslims of their togetherness in this holy month, mosques in parts of Europe, the United States, and in Canada, have been granted special dispensation to broadcast the azaan over loudspeakers.
In the city of Halifax, for example, in the Ontario province of Canada, approval was given to broadcast the azaan over loudspeakers at sunset throughout Ramadan.
In Minneapolis, in the United States, Mayor Jacob Frey granted a permit for Dar Ul Hijra Mosque to broadcast the azaan five times a day for the public during Ramadan, with loudspeakers directing the prayers towards Muslims living in the Riverside Plaza apartments, as to not to disturb businesses and other residents.
Before Ramadan began, other cities like Paterson, in New Jersey, announced changes to its ordinance to allow for exceptions to its noise regulations for various religious worship. Some mosques in Paterson, however, were publicly broadcasting the azaan, others do not. Officials added that there was no record of mosques in Paterson receiving noise summons for broadcasting the call to prayer.
Tell MAMA continues to urge Twitter to deal with the far-right accounts pushing such incendiary, misleading content.