Jordan’s highest religious authority on Tuesday slammed as “false and insignificant” Sunday’s approval by Israeli ministers of a bill to ban the Muslim call to prayer via loudspeakers. It was not clear as of Tuesday whether the bill would become law.
“An occupier cannot make any historical change to the city it occupies, and things (must) remain the same without any change,” Islamic Endowments Minister Abdul Salam Abadi told Jordan’s official news agency Petra. Any decision concerning Jerusalem by the “Israeli occupation authority” was “false and insignificant” because the city was “under occupation,” he charged.
Abadi, who is also director of the department for Al Aqsa Mosque Affairs, stressed that the call to prayer from the Al-Aqsa Mosque’s loudspeakers would remain forever.
Under the terms of peace agreements between the two countries, Israel respects Jordan’s special role administering Jerusalem’s Muslim holy places.
Located on the Temple Mount, the Al-Aqsa Mosque is considered the third holiest site in Islam. The Temple Mount is also the holiest spot in Judaism, where the First and Second Temples were located.
At Sunday’s meeting of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, ministers approved draft legislation to prevent loud calls to prayer and “conveying religious or nationalist messages, or even words of incitement.” The bill also seeks to ban sound systems at all houses of worship in the country, not only mosques.
Initiated by Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev, the bill was endorsed by party colleagues Bezalel Smotrich and Shuli Muallem-Refaeli as well as by Likud MKs Miki Zohar and Nurit Koren and Kulanu MK Merav Ben-Ari.
Outdoor loudspeakers, usually affixed to tall minarets, are used five times a day to call the Muslim faithful to prayer, sometimes as early as 4 a.m. Where there is more than one mosque, the calls often overlap.
Some 20 percent of Israel’s population are Arab, most of them Muslim, making the calls to prayer a familiar sound in many parts of the country.
“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,” reads the proposed legislation, which will now move for its first reading in the Knesset.
While the draft bill applies to all houses of worship, it is seen as specifically targeting mosques.
It has already earned the opprobrium of the Palestinian Authority which said it would protest the move through the United Nations Security Council.
The Palestinian Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs, Sheikh Yousef Id’es, has said the bill threatens to plunge “the entire region into a religious war,” according to the Wafa news agency. The Jerusalem Waqf is funded by Jordan.
Arab lawmakers attacked have the proposal as a hate-fueled assault on Muslim freedom of religion. Joint (Arab) List leader MK Aymen Odeh noted on Sunday “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.”
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his support for the bill. He said it was customary in many European cities to limit the volume.
Cities that have banned or restricted the use of loudspeakers by mosques include Mumbai in India, Lagos in Nigeria,and Egypt’s capital Cairo.