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Mosque in Israeli city fined for using loudspeakers to broadcast call to prayer

Nov. 21, 2016 5:01 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 22, 2016 4:08 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A mosque in the city of al-Ludd (Lod), located just south of Tel Aviv, was fined a penalty of $200 by the Israeli municipality for using loudspeakers to make the call to prayer on Monday, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz’s Hebrew site.

Haaretz reported that the fine was imposed in accordance with an existing Israeli “pollution and nuisances law,” which restricts the volume at which mosques can use loudspeakers to call out the adhan -- the Muslim call to prayer that is broadcast five times a day -- during nighttime.

The mosque's imam, Muhammad al-Far, said it was the first time Israeli authorities had imposed such a penalty on al-Ludd's mosque, and called it “a very dangerous step.”

“There is no doubt that the Israeli municipality is taking advantage of the current situation,” al-Far said, referring to a recent bill -- backed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- making its way through Israel’s parliament which would ban the use of loudspeakers for the Muslim call to prayer in Israel.

Al-Far said the penalty was issued in an attempt to scare community members, adding that the muezzins in al-Ludd who recite the call to prayer “will not fear [Israel’s] threats,” and that “everything can be solved by negotiations, dialogue, and respect, not by force.”

He added that local committee would meet on Tuesday to discuss the Israeli penalty and decide how to deal with such events moving forward.

Officials from Israel’s al-Ludd municipality told Haaretz that they had been “trying to find proper solutions for the issue of adhan noise pollution for years ... but with no results, confirming that the adhan is a violation of the law and disturbs the residence of the area.”

Though the draft legislation currently being discussed by the Knesset, which calls for barring the use of loudspeakers for any religious or "inciting" messages, does not explicitly target Islam, Israeli lawmakers are likely to add a provision making an exception for the siren that some communities use at the start of the Jewish sabbath, according to Haaretz.

Despite needing to pass several more readings and votes in Israel’s parliament for the bill to become a law, locals said that Israeli authorities banned the dawn adhan from being projected over loudspeakers in three different mosques in Palestinian town of Abu Dis in the occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem earlier this month, a day after Israeli settlers protested in front of the house of Israeli Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barakat over the "noise pollution" caused by the Muslim call to prayer.

Adnan al-Husseini, the Palestinian Authority (PA)-appointed governor of Jerusalem, told Ma’an at the time of the anti-adhan protest that the sound of the call to prayer didn’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.

Meanwhile, Abdullah Abbadi, the undersecretary of the Jordanian Ministry of Islamic Affairs, which is responsible for Muslim holy sites in East Jerusalem, said on Tuesday that the bill could not be applied to the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem.

"An occupier cannot make any historical change to the city it occupies, and things (must) remain the same without any change," Jordanian news agency Petra quoted Abbadi as saying.

Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi released a statement last week, saying: "With its legislation that violates freedom of worship, Israel is interfering in one of the most basic tenets of Islam. This is a direct blow to tolerance and inclusion, and it constitutes a serious provocation to all Muslims."

Palestinian communities in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem have long been targeted by discriminatory Israeli policies, whether through “divide and conquer” tactics, attempts at forcibly displacing Bedouin communities, and what has been denounced as a policy of "Judaization" of Jerusalem at the expense of other religious communities.

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