BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A number of Israeli settlers from illegal settlement of Pisgat Zeev protested in front of the house of Israeli Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barakat on Thursday morning over the ‘noise pollution’ caused by the Muslim call to prayer.
According to Israeli radio station Reshet Bet, Barkat responded to the settlers’ complaints by saying that the Jerusalem municipality would collaborate with Israeli police to enforce noise regulations regarding the call to prayer.
The call to prayer -- also known as the adhan -- is broadcast five times a day from mosques or Islamic centers.
A spokesperson for the Jerusalem municipality told Ma’an that Barkat, "in collaboration with the Jerusalem District police chief and local Muslim leadership, has developed a plan to protect the religious freedom of Muslim muezzin to announce the call to prayer, while ensuring reasonable quiet in Jerusalem's residential areas.”
The spokesperson went on to add that the municipality guidelines would include “increased instructions for muezzin operators regarding technical guidelines for optimal playback and sound amplification, increased mapping of city mosques, and continuous dialogue with local Muslim leadership."
Adnan al-Husseini, the Palestinian Authority (PA)-appointed governor of Jerusalem, told Ma’an that the call to prayer was one of the main Muslim religious rituals and an integral part of Jerusalem’s identity. He said that Israeli demands to lower the sound of the adhan was a threat which had been issued several times before in Jerusalem.
Al-Husseini said that the sound of the adhan doesn’t rise above an agreed-upon decibel level, adding that Israeli settlers were not annoyed by the noise, but by the call to prayer as a reminder of Palestinian presence in Jerusalem.
Former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Ekrima Sabri said that the call to prayer was not just a Muslim religious ritual, but an act of worship, and that attempting to ban the adhan would represent a violation of freedom of worship.
Sabri added that the real noise pollution was the sound of of Israeli military jets hovering in Jerusalem’s sky, the sound of Israeli military tanks raiding Palestinian cities and villages, and the noise of bombs fired at Palestinian citizens.
Meanwhile, Hatem Abd Al-Qader, a Fatah official in Charge of Jerusalem affairs, told Ma’an that Israel aimed to provoke Muslims by attempting to ban the call to prayer -- although no reports indicated on Thursday that the Jerusalem municipality was attempting to ban the adhan outright.
Abd al-Qader said that the Israeli settlers’ protest against the adhan came amid constant violations and raids of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem’s Old City, and demolition of Muslim graves
in Jerusalem, which he said were part of a broader Israeli plan to destroy the Palestinian Muslim and Christian identities of Jerusalem and replace them with a Jewish one, turning the Israeli-Palestinian political conflict into a religious one.
Palestinian communities in occupied East Jerusalem -- within the municipal boundaries and also beyond the wall in the occupied West Bank -- have long been targeted by Israeli authorities in what has been denounced as a policy of "Judaization" of the holy city at the expense of other religious communities.
This “Judaization” has been characterized by the continuous expansion of illegal Jewish-only settlements and a large-scale policy of demolition of Palestinian homes.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound has also been the stage of numerous tensions over the years, with Israeli forces imposing tight restrictions on Palestinian worshipers at the site.
Many Palestinians fear that right-wing Israelis are attempting to reclaim the holy site, as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood.