Bill to limit mosques’ public call to prayer slammed by PA, Arab party

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Palestinian Authority said it would turn to the international community to fight a bill that would limit the volume of the muezzin’s call to prayer.

The call to prayer comes from a minaret of the mosque five times a day, including very early in the morning. In modern times, the mosques use loudspeakers to assist in making the call.

The bill, known as the “muezzin bill,” passed the Knesset’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday. It will now move on to the Knesset plenum.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threw his support behind the bill on Sunday at the weekly Cabinet meeting.

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“Muslims, as well as Jews and Christians, also suffer from this,” Netanyahu said of noise from public address systems in houses of prayer in Israel. ” 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. Israel is a country that respects freedom of religion for all faiths. Israel is also committed to defending those who suffer from the loudness of the excessive noise of the announcements. This is how it is in many European cities and in many places in the Islamic world, where the loudness of the announcements is limited out of consideration for the populace as a whole. I support similar legislation and enforcement in the State of Israel.”

The muzzein bill and a bill that would legalize some West Bank outposts, “will drag the region into a catastrophe,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesperson for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, told Palestinian media.

He said the PA would turn to the United Nations Security Council and “all international organizations” to prevent the measures.

The chairman of the Joint Arab List Party, Ayman Odeh, called the bill “racist” and “populist.”

“Its whole goal is to create an atmosphere of hatred and incitement towards the Arab public,” Odeh said. “There are already noise laws that apply to mosques and it is clear that the whole purpose of the bill is to label mosques as problematic.:”

The Israel Democracy Institute said in an opinion submitted to the Knesset committee that “even though the bill is worded in neutral language and defines a house of worship as a ‘synagogue’, ‘church’ or ‘mosque’, it is clear that in practice this law is aimed at limiting and harming the activities of mosques only. After all, only Muslim houses of worship make frequent use of public address systems.”