April 2013 – An early spring friday. While early believers already gathered inside the mosque, many others are rushing out as they hear the first notes of the call to prayer of the muezzin. A familiar scene, from Rabat to Istanbul via Beirut. But we are in the district of Fittja, a suburb south of Stockholm, and this is the first adhan (call to prayer) that rises in the Swedish sky.
More than a year and a half after its request, the Turkish Islamic association that manages the mosque finally prevailed. But if the debate has taken place in the Swedish society, it was not discussed in the media or in court. The Stockholm Police, in charge of all authorizations for the use of public space, made the final call. The soial-democrat municipality of Botkyrka (which Fittja depends on) did not object the police decision. The adhan can therefore take place once a week, for a three to five minutes.
Fittja is not a den of extremists. The majority of the faithful is Turkish in a district where 65% of the population comes from immigration. For now, the imam finishes his call to prayer in a crowded mosque. On the square, Ismail Okur, its director, films the minaret with his cell phone. A young and smiling man who beats his chest with his fist, videos the scene too.
On the women dedicated floor, Amani, a young Jordanian-Swedish, smiles, heart pounding. For her, as for the majority of believers here, the call to public prayer is a historic breakthrough. “In Jordan, we hear it all the time, of course. Hearing it here, in Sweden, where I lived for 7 years is something very strong.” In the crowd around the mosque, policemen keep a close watch.
Two representatives of the far right party Swedish Democrats, which owns 20 seats in parliament since 2010, also came to appreciate the situation. But the Fittja mosque is not in a residential area, and the sound volume of the Adhan is finely tuned so it’s hard to demand the ban of the call to prayer because of noise pollution.
Botkyra officials were very careful. Jens Sjöström, who handled the process, explains : “There was a consensus among all parties – except the Swedish Democrats – that this decision is not political and that it is the police who has to decide”. A line of argument for politicians not to get caught in an ultra sensitive debate with uncertain political gains. But for three months, between November and January, the town has held public meetings and debates, for people who wished to address their legitimate concerns . “In the end, those who raised questions were not residents of the municipality but lived elsewhere in Sweden and even in other European countries.” Emanuel Ksiazkiewicz, his assistant, was surprised to have received a lot of emails from french extreme right organizations.