Jam them while you pray

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Disparate cell phone ringing tones during prayers often irk many inside the mosques. Some mosque management bodies have discovered and installed jammers inside mosques to altogether block cell phone signal in a small radius, and it works. Saima Bhat reports.

In conflict zones like Kashmir the word Jammer was always coupled with Indian forces’ camps, VIP residences and their vehicles. But now cell phone signal jammers have entered the domain of civilian use. Jamiat Ahailhadees Masjid in Nowgam, believed to be the oldest and the biggest Salfi Masjid on the outskirts of Srinagar, became the first public place where a jammer was installed.

This spacious mosque looks like any other from inside, but its exterior is decorated with tiles and Quranic verses on the rim (slab portion) floor after floor.  “When for the first time I heard a jammer has been installed in our Masjid, I was shocked and kept asking people how they made it possible because such things were only available to the elite, Indian forces and the state ministers,” said Haji Nazir Ahmad Bhat, 73, who went to the mosque to see the jammer for himself. For sometime doubted that they might have got it illegally with the help of government forces.”

Riyaz Ahmad Bhat, the Imam who leads daily prayers, in the Masjid except on Fridays and during festivals, says the mosque administration felt a need to jam all the mobile signals inside because people often forget to keep their phones on silent mode despite placards advising to ‘switch off your phone’. A ‘mayhem’ used to start when during nimaaz phones used to ring and different songs, Hindi and English used to play, he complains.

Almost a year back the Masjid authorities were installing a projector on the second floor of the mosque and they asked the projector dealer for suggestions to stop ringing of phones in the premises. Mohammad Yasir, a projector dealer had a Bangalore based Kashmiri friend, a technocrat who helped them in installing a jammer inside the mosque.

The Jammer, a digital device works on CDMA and GSM technology. “For Nowgam Jamiat Ahailhadees Masjid the range has been set 1200 square feet and at a time it jams about 200 to 300 mobile phones,” says Yasir adding no permission was needed for installing it. The Jammer is effective on all the mobile services available in Kashmir except Airtel, some users of the service say.

The Masjid authorities felt relieved by the cell phone silence inside the mosque but some shopkeepers, particularly a PCO owner outside the mosque complains that the jammer hurt his business. Initially, the mosque jammer blocked mobile phone signals up to the National Highway by pass some 100 meters away.

The jammer is put on before each Azaan and is usually switched off till the Nimaaz is over. It remotely controlled by the Imam of the Masjid but sometimes he simply forgets to put it off even after Nimaaz. And then Sameer has to go to the president, who k
Sameer Ahmad Shah, the PCO owner, the only cell phone recharge point near the Masjid, sees installation of the jammer as a problem. He says his business window has significantly narrowed down. “During evening hours there is no signal in my phones. Customers leave their numbers on a register and ask me to recharge their numbers later. But there have been cases when customers return next day saying they didn’t receive the recharge,” he said. “It is not my fault because money gets deducted from my account. I have told the Masjid authorities that this sin is theirs, not mine.”

Sameer, the only shopkeeper in mosque’s vicinity who does not live in the area, has not complained about the jammer to the Masjid authorities fearing more problems for his business. But he has politely requested them to shift from the wall of the mosque opposite his shop to the other side.

President keeps the keys of the Masjid, and request him to put the jammer off.

Kashmir Life tried to contact the Masjid president a number of times but he was reluctant to talk and didn’t allow other members of the Masjid management body to talk as well. This Masjid has an executive body of 40 members, all locals who have donated money generously for building the Masjid.

Yasir, who installed the jammer inside the Nowgam mosque, has installed similar gadgets at 10 more mosques around Srinagar and one in Shopian. Most of these mosques are managed by Jamiat Ahailhadees.

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