Thousands of Arabs staged a protest march Saturday in northern Israel against legislation aimed at silencing mosque loudspeakers.
Some 3,000 men and women marched through the town of Kabul, holding Palestinian flags and signs saying: “The muezzin law won’t pass” or “Don’t silence the muezzin,” chanting against the legislation and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The call to prayer existed long before the right-wing politicians who have no connection to this land,” the town imam told Channel 2. “We will continue to sound our calls to prayer, we’ll even increase the volume of our muezzins.”
“If this right-wing government is looking to provoke Muslims, then that’s what they’ll get,” he added.
Echoing the outrage of the protesters was Joint (Arab) List MK Youssef Jabareen, who vowed his constituents would not accept the legislation quietly.
“The demonstration today is just the first in a series of mass protests and other measures against this racist and draconian law,” he said.
The Knesset on Wednesday gave preliminary approval to two controversial measures that would limit the time of day and volume that Israeli mosques can use for their traditional calls to prayer, addressing a longstanding complaint of some who live near Arab locales.
The bills were approved after a heated discussion that turned into shouting matches between ruling coalition members and Arab lawmakers, some of whom tore copies of the legislation and were ejected from the chamber.
While the bills in theory would apply to any religious place of worship, Muslims say they are clearly meant to silence Islam’s traditional call to prayer.
The measures have become commonly known as the “muezzin law” after the official charged with making the call to the faithful, often through powerful speakers mounted on minarets.
The notion of Israeli legislation silencing mosques has sparked outrage around the Arab and wider Muslim world, where it is claimed the bill unfairly clamps down on religious freedom for the country’s Muslim minority.
Supporters of the measures say the legislation is needed to prevent daily disturbance to the lives of hundreds of thousands Israelis, and that similar limitations are imposed in numerous European and Arab countries.
Wednesday’s bills were approved on a first reading after a heated Knesset discussion that turned into shouting matches between ruling coalition members and Arab lawmakers, some of whom tore copies of the legislation and were ejected from the chamber. The bill needs to clear two more Knesset readings in order to become law.