Islamic Call to Prayer in the Royal Ontario Museum
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The Islamic Call to Prayer have no place in such an institution

Islamic Call to Prayer in the Royal Ontario Museum

 By Guest Column: Thomas Bryan Stone  Monday, May 21, 2012

On Monday, May 21st (Victoria Day), I was guiding the children of a friend around the Royal Ontario Museum when I heard the Muslim call to prayer belting out of the PA system. After the full call was recited, there was an announcement that all would be welcome to join the prayers. I didn’t recognize where the room was in the building (perhaps because of the sound of my teeth grinding). Then the Muezzin’s call wailed on again. After that, presumably for ‘balance’ some church-bells dinged away for a little bit.

The Royal Ontario Museum is an agency of the Ontario Ministry of Culture. The 21 members of the Board of Trustees (15 of them appointed by the Provincial Government) is responsible for the conduct of the Museum in accordance with the Royal Ontario Museum Act. The ROM also has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Culture and has a board of governors to conduct private sector fundraising.

The Islamic Call to Prayer (and presumably all five calls are used) have no place in such an institution, particularly from a religion with far too many adherents who lack any respect for other religions and whose constant practice with regard to relics and sites that predate Islam is to destroy them.

Alternatively, if this is some exercise in multicultural diversity, then presumably the attending public should also be treated to:

  1. The appropriate Orthodox Jewish use of a Shofar Horn (and any other noisy calls to prayer that might be part of Judaism);
  2. The appropriate bell use for Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, Vespers and Compline in traditional Catholic usage);
  3. The recitation of appropriate Buddhist Mantras and Prayer Chants – no doubt replete with the appropriate gongs and horns… Tibetan practices are quite interesting, no?
  4. Likewise, some research be undertaken into appropriate Hindu, Confucian/Daoist, Shinto and Sikh practices, so that they too can receive their fair and just share of attention in the ROM.
  5. Nor should our Aboriginal cultures likewise be slighted either.

Naturally, in the case of conflict, religions should go in order of seniority. Needless to say, as our respect for all religions must be equal, they should all be equally broadcast throughout the museum at the same volume.

Response to Muslim Call to Prayer, a Component of John Oswald’s A Time to Hear for Here

May 22, 2012
Response to Muslim Call to Prayer
A Component of John Oswald’s A Time to Hear for Here

(Toronto, Ontario – May 22, 2012) It has been reported that the Muslim call to prayer was broadcast loudly over the Royal Ontario Museum’s PA system, followed by an announcement inviting visitors to join in prayer. What was heard was three minutes of an audio art installation called A Time to Hear for Here by acoustic architect and composer John Oswald. Neither the Museum nor the artist is making any religious statement with this installation.

This work of art features approximately 7000 sound events, including a version of the adhan (the call to prayer) performed by Sashar Zarif, which plays once in the 24-hour long work of art and is timed to take place with sunset in Mecca.

There is no announcement for visitors to gather and pray in the Museum at any time.

The work of art plays in the Thorsell Spirit House every day and is distributed through the 35 speakers in this space only. It was installed in June 2007 with the opening of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. In addition to the adhan, the work also features other sound elements with religious and ceremonial connotations including Beniamino Gigli’s Ave Maria by Strauss and Tanya Tagac’s solo throatsinging.

“The ROM clearly understands its role as an agency of the Province of Ontario and does not promote any particular religion, but is respectful of the diversity of faith,” says Janet Carding, Director and CEO. “As a Museum of World Cultures, however, we often discuss religions, faith-related customs, sacred objects and ceremonies.”

The Museum regularly examines religion in our exhibitions and programs. For instance, the ROM’s successful exhibition Dead Sea Scrolls included chanting prayers in Hebrew, which was broadcast in the introduction to the exhibition and in the area where the scrolls were on view. These recordings included the Song of Ascents (shir ha-ma’alot). In the recent

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Response to Muslim Call to Prayer, a Component of John Oswald’s A Time to Hear for Here
May 22, 2012
For more information on A Time to Hear for Here, please visit


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