Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, passed in a preliminary vote a new law aimed at limiting the volume of calls to prayer from Mosques across the Jewish state. Supporters of the bill say it is aimed at improving the quality of life of people living near mosques who have been losing sleep as a result of the calls, which are usually sounded through loudspeakers mounted on minarets a little before 5 in the morning.
“This is what the law means. This is a social-minded law that aims to protect citizens’ sleep, without, God forbid, harming anyone’s religious faith, either from Islam, Judaism or any other faith in God. This faith is common to us, Allahu Akbar, God is great,” said Motti Yogev, Knesset Member – Jewish Home Party.
Opponents of the law claim the legislation, sponsored by right-wing parties, impinges on the religious freedom of Israel’s Muslim minority, that makes up almost 20 percent of the population and has long complained of discrimination.
“The sound of the Muazin (who calls for prayer) was never a hazard or an environmental noise. It’s an important Muslim ceremony. And here in this house we never interfered with any religious ceremony relating to you, to Judaism. Your act is a racist hazard, you interfere with the most sensitive issue for Muslims and hurt the religion of Islam,” said Ahmad Tibi, Knesset Member – Joint-Arab List Faction.
Two versions of the law, which refer in general terms to “houses of worship”, won the initial approval and will go to a Knesset committee for further discussion before any final vote in parliament, in what could be a lengthy process. One of the bills would ban a summons to worship via loudspeakers between 11 pm and 7 am, effectively muting one of the five daily calls emanating from mosques. The second proposal would bar amplification in residential areas at all hours of the day and imposes a 10,000 shekels fine for any violations, which is equal to some 2,500 euros or 2,700 dollars.
Meanwhile Jordan condemned the new bill. Jordanian Minister of State for Media Affairs & Communication Mohammad Momani said that Israel was obligated under the bilateral peace agreement with the Hashemite Kingdom to respect the role of Jordan in all matters pertaining to the mosques and holy places in East Jerusalem, while warning that the new bill was a violation of the peace treaty and Israel’s legal obligations. In response to both domestic and international condemnations of the bill, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page that Israel’s citizens, Christians, Jews and Muslims, have the right to sleep in silence. Thus, we will continue this legislation, as is done by many countries around the world.