Muslim Calls to Prayer in the Swedish Welfare State

This article discusses the heated public debate which erupted in Sweden in the spring of 2018 regarding the right of Muslim congregations to issue public calls to prayer by means of loudspeakers. Critics complained that the calls were noisy and disturbing, while advocates emphasized the right to religious freedom. However, the real issue at stake in this debate concerns an issue of ontology — what Swedish society is and what it should be. Sweden, all Swedish politicians assert, is a perfectly modern country guided by rational principles. The question, in other words, is whether Islam is compatible with modernity. A more basic question, however, is whether modernity is compatible with the human condition. The continuous rationalization of society which the Swedish welfare-state represents makes it it ever-more difficult to confront the fundamental irrationality of human life. By answering the Muslim call to prayer, Swedes have an opportunity to acknowledge the sameness of the other as well as the otherness of the self.

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