WINDSOR, ONT. -- A special noise bylaw waiver by the City of Windsor will allow the Windsor Islamic Association to broadcast the Adhan - a Muslim call to prayer - at sunset until the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan.

The Adhan was broadcast for the first time on Tuesday just before 8:40 p.m. over a loud speaker, lasting about three minutes. The prayer will continue every night at sunset until the end of Ramadan, which falls on May 23 this year.

“A lot of people are really happy, excited, elated, they could not contain the joy when they were able to hear the Adhan,” says Mirza Baig, the president of the Windsor Islamic Association.

The city approved the request on Tuesday morning after members of the Islamic association petitioned Ward 10 Councillor Jim Morrison and Mayor Drew Dilkens for the noise bylaw waiver.

According to the mayor’s office, the waiver was made because the faith group is unable to congregate as a result of physical distancing measure in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a very temporary solution to help them, and they want to have a feeling of comfort and belongingness where they would normally be congregating right at this holy time,” says Morrison. “We’ve asked them not to be very loud so they respect the noise in the neighbourhoods.“

Baig says while a number of people came to the Mosque for Tuesday’s call to prayer, he wants people to stay home and practice at a safe physical distance for the remainder of Ramadan.

“It is just a symbolic event, just to uplift your spirit while you’re at home, breaking your fast, doing your prayers with your family inside, while observing all social distancing regulations,” he says.

The waiver is already being met with criticism. The “Concerned Citizens of Windsor” launched a petition against the city’s exemption.

“This is an unacceptable noise and isn’t necessary to practice a religion,” the petition read. “All should be able to recite whatever prayer in their homes without disturbing others. Please stop this.”

The petition has since been removed from the website.

“If they hear the call of prayer, I’m sure they will change their mind and have a more positive outlook about it just then that have now, just from heresy,” Baig says.

But it’s one of the reasons why the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at have decided against broadcasting their prayers to the neighbourhood.

“We want to give them that space, we want to allow them to feel comfortable at a time when everyone’s in difficulties, so despite all the difficulties, we don’t want to add any noise where our neighbours are not feeling comfortable,” says Imam Zeeshan Ahmed.

Imam Ahmed says for the remainder of the holy month of Ramadan — his congregation near Walker Road on Head Avenue will instead only say the Adhan within their halls - and continue their virtual prayers.

“So we’ve decided as a congregation that the rights to our neighbours are more important than the actual call that gets broadcast out into the community,” he says.

The city says any group is welcome to apply for a noise bylaw waiver. City council has delegated authority for noise bylaw exemptions to administration during the pandemic.