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Israel moves forward with bill to ban Muslim call to prayer over loudspeakers

Nov. 14, 2016 4:22 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 15, 2016 12:19 P.M.)
A mosque in Ramallah. (MaanImages/Anna Kokko, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved on Sunday draft legislation which could ban the use of loudspeakers to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer in Israel.

The bill, which calls for barring the use of loudspeakers for any religious or "inciting" messages as part of the call to prayer, would need to go through several readings in the Knesset -- Israel’s parliament -- before making it into law, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Sunday.

The call to prayer -- also known as the adhan -- is broadcast five times a day from mosques or Islamic centers.

In a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came out in support of the bill.

“I cannot count the times, they are simply too numerous, that citizens have turned to me from all parts of Israeli society, from all religions, with complaints about the noise and suffering caused them by the excessive noise coming to them from the public address systems of houses of prayer,” Netanyahu said.

While Netanyahu used the non-denominational term “houses of prayer,” the issue of the Muslim call to prayer -- or adhan -- has come under the spotlight in recent weeks, most likely leading to the resurgence of the bill, which was first presented in March by Knesset member Moti Yogev of the Jewish Home party.

Locals said that Israeli authorities banned the dawn adhan from being projected over loudspeakers in three different mosques in the Jerusalem district town of Abu Dis 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.

A number of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship slammed the bill on Sunday as yet another instance of discrimination against non-Jewish citizens of Israel.

"Should this bill be passed, it would be a devastation of democracy in this state," the imam of the al-Jazzar mosque in the northern city of Acre, Sheikh Samir Assi, told Ma'an.

He added that such a bill would cause a "relapse in the relations between Arab and Jewish" citizens of Israel.

Meanwhile, MK Ahmad Tibi of the Arab Joint List said the bill was the latest of "frequent attempts to harm the feelings of Muslims, under the trivial pretext of preventing noise."

In a Knesset session on Monday, Tibi expressed his rejection to the proposed legislation by reciting to the plenum the Maghrib prayer, the fourth of the five daily Muslim prayers, which is prayed and broadcast on mosque loudspeakers just after sunset.

PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi released a statement on Monday saying, "With its legislation that violates freedom of worship, Israel is interfering in one of the most basic tenants of Islam. This is a direct blow to tolerance and inclusion, and it constitutes a serious provocation to all Muslims."

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.

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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