Tel Aviv and Ramallah – Palestinian leaders and imams’ mosques denounced Israeli draft bill to silence call to prayer, saying it is racist and threatens Muslims’ right to freely practice their faith.
Sheikh Yusuf Baz, Imam of Lodd Mosque, said that this bill is wrong and came upon requests of people who claim they are annoyed by the call for prayers.
“The mosque has been there since before those annoyed citizens came and before Israel was established. Jews lived here before and they weren’t annoyed of the call for prayers,” said the sheikh.
He explained that every 15 minutes a plane flies over Lodd causing noise for everyone. He wondered why they are concentrating on the call for prayers which only last for two minutes.
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation debated the bill prohibiting religious institutions from using outdoor amplification before authorizing it for a parliamentary vote. It is likely to be passed, since it has the backing of the country’s ruling coalition.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his support to the bill, saying that “citizens of all religions” have complained about excessive noise from call to prayers.
Netanyahu said: “I can’t tell you how many times people have approached me, from all walks of Israeli society, crying out about the suffering that is caused by excessive noise reaching them from prayer house announcements.”
“Israel is committed to freedom for all religions, but is also responsible for protecting its citizens from noise,” the Israeli PM added.
Interior Minister and Shas party Chairman, Aryeh Deri, tried to postpone approval of the bill in an attempt to hold talks with Muslim religious leaders, but the right party refused to wait.
Members of the “Joint List” refused this bill unanimously. President of “Joint List” MP Ayman Awda said that bills like this one create hatred against Arabs. He added that there are laws for noise and disturbance which mosques comply with, so it is clear that this bill is targeting mosques by considering them a source of trouble.
Knesset member Haneen Zoabi said that those complaining of mosques are the ones who chose to live next to it, and just as they decided to settle there, they are welcomed to leave if they are suffering that much.
MP of Meretz Party Issawi described the bill as anti-sematic and asked the prime minister to remove it from the agenda. He added that if the noise was really the problem, there is a law for that. But the aim is to target Muslims just as anti-Semitism is targeting Jews in Europe.
Abraham Fund, and organization that works for co-existence between Arabs and Jews, also called on the ministers to reject the bill.
Leaders at the organization issued a statement saying: “Relations between Jews and Arabs in mixed areas and cities require dialogue and an inclusive policy and issues of friction cannot be gotten rid of by legislation that damages the fabric of ties between the groups. There are examples of local arrangements that have been achieved together with regard to the calls of the muezzin, as for example in Jaffa, where for more than a decade the loudspeaker system times and regulates the volume of the call – an arrangement also encouraged by the Arab inhabitants of the city.”
The statement added that the lawmakers behind the bill “are the first to defend the religious rights of Jews in Israel, even when these create hardships for other groups, for example, the lack of public transportation on Shabbat, but they do not hesitate to act in a bullying and destructive manner when it comes to the religious customs of Israel’s Muslim citizens.
“The recent Israeli measures are going to lead to catastrophe in the region,” said Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“The Palestinian leadership will turn to the UN Security Council and all other international organizations to stop those Israeli measures,” Abu Rudeina confirmed.
“The bill is pure discrimination against Muslims,” Sheikh Yousef Edais, Minister for Waqf and Religious Affairs, adding that if passed, the entire region could plunge into religious war.
“This [bill] expresses racism that goes beyond politics and delves into religion,” he said.
“The approval of this bill will not change the religious reality, but rather will make us more committed to our holy sites and religious endowments that express our national and political identity,” stressed Sheikh Edais.