Shalom Life | August 21, 2014

Royal Ontario Museum Did Not Broadcast Muslim Call to Prayer

Audio Art Installation Included Version of the Adhan

By: News Staff

Published: May 23rd, 2012 in News » World

Royal Ontario Museum Did Not Broadcast Muslim Call to Prayer

It was recently 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 7,000 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 throat singing.

“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 exhibition, Maya: Secrets of their Ancient World, a group of contemporary Maya men are shown on film chanting prayers at a shrine.

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