Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday backed a bill that would prohibit the use of loudspeakers at mosques during the Muslim call to prayer due to what lawmakers argue is a reduced quality of life as a result of the noise.
”The Muslims, the Jews, and the Christian are all suffering from this,” Netanyahu said ahead of a vote on the bill in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. ”I can’t tell you how many times people have approached me, from all walks of Israeli society, who are crying out about the suffering that is caused by excessive noise reaching them from prayer house announcements.”
The call to prayer, or adhan, is broadcast five times a day between dawn and night-time, at different hours according to the time of year.
Right-wing lawmakers have attempted unsuccessfully on multiple occasions to introduce legislation banning the call from being amplified over loudspeakers, arguing they are unnecessarily loud and contribute to ”noise pollution.”
Arab lawmakers have criticized such proposals as an attack on Muslim freedom of religion.
GALI TIBBON (AFP/Archives)
”Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, October 9, 2016”
Netanyahu pointed to similar restrictions in European and even some Muslim countries as justification for the law.
”Israel is a country that respects freedom of religion for all,” Netanyahu said. ”Israel is committed to protect anyone who suffers from the excessively loud calls. That is the custom in many European cities. That is the custom also in various places in the Muslim world, where they limited the volume of the calls out of consideration for the general public.”
This latest attempting to silence the minarets was originally put forth by Habayit Hayehudi MK Moti Yogev, and was initially intended to prevent the broadcasting of nationalistic messages and incitement over mosque loudspeakers. The bill was reworded following criticism and now cites excessive noise as the reason for prohibiting loudspeakers.
”Hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens — in the Galilee, Negev, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and other places in central Israel — suffer regularly and daily from the noise caused by the call of the muezzin from mosques,” the proposed legislation reads.
”The noise made by these public calls disturbs the rest of the citizens several times a day, including in the early mornings and at nighttime,” it says.
Ahmad Gharabli (AFP/File)
”Israeli Arab political leader Ayman Odeh heads the Joint List, which groups the main Arab parties in the Knesset”
Arab lawmaker MK Aymen Odeh of the Joint List Party criticized the legislation as ”another bill, in a series of populist bills, whose objective is to create an atmosphere of hate and incitement against the Arab population.
”There are noise laws and regulations that also apply to mosques, so it’s clear that the sole purpose of the bill is to mark the mosques as a problem source. It is a clear attack on Muslim freedom of religion and the continuation of a wave of persecution that the prime minister is leading,” Odeh said.
In proposing such bills to restrict the adhan, MKs say that quality of life is more important than freedom of religion.
”The bill presents a worldview by which freedom of religion should not constitute a factor damaging quality of life, and proposes prohibiting houses of prayer from using loudspeakers to call worshippers or to broadcast religious and nationalistic statements and sometimes incitement,” Yogev wrote in the new bill, according to Ha’aretz.
While the draft bill applies to all houses of worship, it is seen as specifically targeting mosques.
The Israel Democracy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, spoke out against the proposal accusing Israel’s right-wing politicians of dangerously using the issue to gain political points under the guise of improving quality of life.
This is not the first time such a proposal has been tabled. In late 2014, Yisrael Beiteinu MK Robert Ilatov suggested a similar ban, although it ultimately failed to win the support needed to pass various Knesset readings and be voted into law.