ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 139

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PA calls mosque-muffling bill an attack on religious freedom

Abbas says legislation ‘would drag the area into disaster,’ top Arab lawmaker says move is racist, vows call to prayer will outlast Netanyahu

A mosque in the West Bank city of Nablus (foreground) and part of the Jewish settlement of Elon Moreh in the West Bank, December 7, 2016. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)
A mosque in the West Bank city of Nablus (foreground) and part of the Jewish settlement of Elon Moreh in the West Bank, December 7, 2016. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

The Palestinian Authority on Sunday slammed proposed Israeli legislation prohibiting the overnight use of loudspeakers in houses of prayer, calling it an attack on religious freedom.

A new version of the so-called muezzin bill prohibits the use of loudspeakers for religious purposes from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. It was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday. Violators of the proposed legislation will be fined NIS 10,000 ($2,600).

PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday condemned the bill, saying it “would drag the area into disaster,” according to the official Palestinian news outlet Wafa.

The bill is a revised version of an earlier proposal, which would have banned loudspeakers over a certain volume at all hours, but which drew opposition from ultra-Orthodox lawmakers.

Critics say they new bill does nothing to address the proposal’s apparent targeting of mosques, which broadcast prayers five times a day. While the legislation won’t apply to West Bank mosques, it will silence those in East Jerusalem.

PA spokesperson Yusuf al-Mahmoud said that [the PA] “considers the bill… seriously damaging to the freedom of worship in Jerusalem, the capital of the Palestinian state.”

He said that historically there has been coexistence between Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem, but that the new legislation would change that.

“In Jerusalem and in the rest of our country, Palestine, people of different beliefs have lived throughout successive periods of history… in respect and harmony,” he said. “The Arabic, cultural and religious inheritance of Jerusalem stretches back to the depths of history, and in this respect, it is inconceivable that [Israel] could destroy this… by imposing a ridiculous and dangerous law that deprives those who follow the Abrahamic religions from upholding their faith, and performing their rituals and religious duties,” he added.

He called on Arab states and the international community to prevent Israel from passing the bill into law.

Joint (Arab) List party chairman Ayman Odeh reacts during a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Knesset on January 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Joint (Arab) List party chairman Ayman Odeh reacts during a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Knesset on January 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The head of the Joint (Arab) List in Israel’s Knesset also condemned the proposed legislation.

“This is yet another in a series of offenses committed by this government with the express purpose of marking the Arab community as an enemy within,” said Ayman Odeh. “This law is not about noise or about quality of life, but is solely racist incitement against the national minority.”

Odeh said the traditional call to prayer would outlast the current government. “The sound of the muezzin was heard here long before the racists of Netanyahu’s government and will remain after them,” he said.

If the bill passes its initial reading in the Knesset, expected to take place on Wednesday, it will be sent back to committee, after which it will again come before the plenum for its second and third readings prior to becoming law. The backing by the ministerial committee gives the bill coalition support.

Jewish residents of East Jerusalem and other areas of Israel have long complained about what they say is the excessive noise coming from mosque loudspeakers, as they say it wakes them up in the middle of the night.

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