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Issawiya residents inaugurate 'tallest minaret in Jerusalem'

March 18, 2017 7:37 P.M. (Updated: March 21, 2017 5:50 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Residents of the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya inaugurated what was described as the highest minaret in Jerusalem on Friday.

Activist Omar Atiyeh, who was among a number of locals who supervised the construction of the minaret, told Ma'an that the structure was 73 meters high.

According to Atiyeh, the concept for the mosque’s minaret emerged more than a year ago as an attempt to emphasize the Arab and Islamic character of the neighborhood, which he said has been "completely surrounded" by illegal Israeli settlements, a building belonging to Israel’s Hebrew University, and Israel’s Hadassah Hospital.

Organizers chose to build the minaret atop Issawiya’s oldest mosque. Atiyeh said the minaret cost approximately 1 million shekels ($27,5550) to build, and was funded by donations from Issawiya residents.

The inauguration of the minaret came a week after Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, passed a preliminary reading of the contested “Muezzin bill” -- which seeks to impose limits on the Muslim call to prayer in Israel and in occupied East Jerusalem.

Member of Issawiyya's local follow up committee Muhammad Abu al-Hummus said on Saturday that the minaret was a clear message to the Israeli occupation that "minarets won't be silenced and the adhan (call to prayer) will continue to ring out in Palestinian villages and cities."

He said that the mosque’s old minaret was built 47 years ago, and that due to increasing construction in the neighborhood, the sound of call to prayer coming from the minaret had been weakened over time.

Palestinians have denounced the proposed Muezzin bill as “racist” and “a violation of religious freedom,” and argued that the draft legislation was superfluous given existing noise regulations, and therefore could be construed as an attack specifically targeting the Muslim right to worship.

Palestinian Authority (PA) spokesman Yousif al-Mahmoud has said that the bill was a violation of freedom to worship in Jerusalem, highlighting that the holy city in particular and Palestine in general had a history of respect and harmony between all residents regardless of their religious beliefs.

Mosques in Israel and East Jerusalem have already experienced backlash for the potential ban, with a mosque in al-Ludd being fined $200 in November for using loudspeakers to broadcast the call to prayer.

Adnan al-Husseini, the Palestinian Authority (PA)-appointed governor of Jerusalem, told Ma’an in November that the sound of the call to prayer didn’t rise above an agreed-upon decibel level, adding that Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem were not annoyed by the noise, but by the adhan as a reminder of Palestinian presence in the city.

The fate of Jerusalem has been a focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, with numerous tensions arising over Israeli threats regarding the status of non-Jewish religious sites in the city, and the "Judaization" of East Jerusalem through settlement construction and mass demolitions of Palestinian homes.

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