One social element in Jordan has always been the turning down of music whenever the athan (call) for prayer begins. It was probably one of the first things I noticed about the country when I came here as a child and learned to do the same. Even the non-religious or the non-Muslim in Jordan engages in that same activity and I always found that interesting, because to me, it was one of those daily, tangible identifiers of social harmony or cohesion, which is something often talked about, but not seen.
TV and radio stations used to follow suit.
I do remember a time – once upon a time – when broadcasts were cut off for 2 minutes and the athan was announced if not played on air. I think Jordan Television still does that but I haven’t watched TV in a very long time to be sure.
However, I do listen to radio some times, when driving in the car to-and-from a destination. Usually, if it’s not the BBC for the news, it’s one of the new radio stations that have popped up in recent years. And I noticed this social courtesy is no longer being paid by any of them, which is interesting in itself.
I discovered this, and am continuously reminded of it, firsthand.
As a 25-year old, I am guilty of turning my music up to unhealthy decibel levels, which means if the sound waves of the athan should happen to penetrate my closed windows as often happens, then I find myself scrambling to turn the radio off. It is a moment of confusion that sometimes elicits stares from disapproving motorists at a traffic light.
And I’ll also admit to the fact that I only turn my radio up to hear songs I don’t really want to hear, simply because it drowns out any potential gaps of silence that always lead me to over think the things happening in my life, which has never been a car-activity I’ve enjoyed. So for most of the time, I don’t pay attention to what’s being played, which is fine, because local Jordanian radio rarely plays something I would enjoy (what’s wrong with a little Counting Crows or John Mayer people?).
And I mention this not as a digression but because the process of drowning out one’s thoughts often leads to your mind wandering off. And then there’s a sudden conscious connection that’s made on a whole other radio wave of the brain, where the juxtaposition of a song whose lyrics revolve around a man who apparently wants to have intercourse with a woman in a club – amongst a list of other public places – stands in stark contrast to the athan outside, calling people to pray.
Hence, that moment of confusion.
So I wonder.
Should radio stations start acknowledging the athan as they once did?