Free trip to Mecca for the winner

In Jaffa, ‘A Muezzin is Born’ to protest Israeli bill

30 young men compete to be the next great Muslim prayer caller, in response to proposed mosque-muffling legislation

A contestant in the "A Muezzin is Born" competition (Channel 2 screenshot)
A contestant in the "A Muezzin is Born" competition (Channel 2 screenshot)

Israel’s proposed “Muezzin Bill,” that would limit use of loudspeakers for religious purposes, has drawn widespread opposition from across the Muslim world, but perhaps the most unusual protest comes from Jaffa, where locals have organized their own “A Muezzin is Born” reality TV-style competition.

In order to draw attention to their under-fire craft, the city’s muezzins, who issue the Muslim call to prayer, are holding a talent competition to find the next great voice, Israel’s Channel 2 TV reported on Friday.

On a recent day, some 30 teens and young men gathered to show off their skills, each one issuing the call to prayer in front of a panel of tough-looking judges, all noted local muezzins.

Competitors received criticism and praise in the style of reality contests like “American Idol” and “The Voice.”

Judges in the "A Muezzin is Born" competition (Channel 2 screenshot)
Judges in the “A Muezzin is Born” competition (Channel 2 screenshot)

“Take a year and practice every day and you will be great,” judge Ahmed Abulsaan tells one contestant.

The competition was organized in response to the bill that is winding its way through Israel’s legislative process.

The bill will limit the time of day (late night and early morning) and volume that mosques can use for their traditional calls to prayer, addressing a longstanding complaint of some who live near Arab religious centers.

Critics say the bill unfairly clamps down on religious freedom for Israel’s Muslims. Proponents say it will ensure Israelis can sleep through the night undisturbed, and that similar limitations are imposed in numerous European and Arab countries.

Illustrative: Jaffa seen at sunset on February  6, 2017.  (Sebi Berens/Flash90)
Illustrative: Jaffa seen at sunset on February 6, 2017. (Sebi Berens/Flash90)

The contestants rejected the law, saying the call to prayer is an integral part of their religious life.

The competition has become the talk of the town and the final will be broadcast on the Al Jazeera TV channel, Channel 2 said. The winner will receive a free trip to Mecca.

But contestants said they were not in it for the prizes.

“We don’t do this for money and it’s not for the pay, we want to call people to come and pray,” said one contestant, 18-year-old Abed el-Fatah Zubeideh. “We will get our reward in the next life.”



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