A German couple have won a landmark court victory to silence Islamic calls to prayer from a mosque almost a mile from their home.
And the decision to stop the use of a loudspeaker being used to summon the faithful was not based on noise levels, but on its rightful place in a Christian community.
Authorities in the town of Oer-Erkenschwick in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia granted the local mosque the right to use the loudspeakers for Friday prayers in 2014.
The following year, Hans-Joachim Lehmann, 69, and his wife – who live nearly 1km (0.62miles) away, won an injunction.
The local Christian couple had argued that the call to prayers violated their own religious rights.
But the Mu’adhin – the person appointed to lead and recite the call to prayer – continued his work.
On Thursday, the Administrative Court of Gelsenkirchen finally ruled they had to cease.
It found the town had not assessed the local Muslim community’s request properly in 2013, but a court spokesman said on Friday that this did not prevent the mosque making a new application.
‘It’s a singsong in a key that’s annoying for us. But we are mainly concerned with the content of the call,’ Mr Lehman said.
‘This represents Allah over our God of Christians. And I cannot accept that as a Christian who grew up here in a Christian environment.’
His lawyer told the court: ‘The prayer, the Adhan, contains phrases like: ‘Allah is great. I testify that there is no deity but Allah.’ This is an exclusively Islamic claim at the expense of other religions.’
A representative of the local council refused to revoke the permit and instead claimed ‘socio-critical and political motives’ were at play in the complaint.
It refused a request by the judge to sit down and talk with Mr Lehman and others who backed him.
Because ‘nothing had been researched on the ground’ in terms of how the loudspeaker calls to prayer affected people, the judge in the case decided to revoke its right to summon the faithful in such a manner.
It is understood to be the first such ruling of its kind in Germany which is home to millions of Muslims and numerous mosques that use loudspeaker systems to call people to worship.
Huseyin Turgut, a senior official with the affected mosque, said the court’s decision was disappointing.
‘The call to prayer lasts for two minutes, just around 1pm, but only on Fridays,’ he said.
‘We’ve never had any complaints and we have German neighbours who are much closer – just 10 metres away.’
Anti-Muslim sentiment and support for anti-immigration policies are growing in many parts of Germany after the influx of well over a million migrants from Iraq, Syria and other mostly Muslim countries, beginning in 2015.