Ultra-Orthodox block bill to muffle Muslim prayer call, fearing Shabbat siren is next
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Ultra-Orthodox block bill to muffle Muslim prayer call, fearing Shabbat siren is next

Controversial legislation to ban mosque loudspeakers goes back to the drawing board

Then-health minister Yaakov Litzman speaks at the 2016 Israel Medical Conference, in Jerusalem on August 16, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Then-health minister Yaakov Litzman speaks at the 2016 Israel Medical Conference, in Jerusalem on August 16, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox coalition allies on Tuesday scuppered a Knesset vote scheduled for Wednesday on a controversial bill that seeks to clamp down on the Muslim call to prayer broadcast on loudspeakers from minarets.

Netanyahu threw his support behind the Jewish Home and Likud party sponsored bill on Sunday, saying citizens of all faiths suffer from the noise of the loudspeakers, and noted that similar bans exist in many European and Muslim countries.

But Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party filed an appeal against the bill, arguing that its wording could potentially put the kibosh on religious Jewish communities using a siren to announce the commencement of the Sabbath on Friday evening.

A senior member of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party told Israel Hayom that his party also sees no need for the legislation, as it may be possible to find a solution to the problem through existing laws. The unnamed party official also expressed concern about possible implications for the Sabbath siren.

View of the a mosque in the Old City of Acre, in Northern Israel on October 24, 2016. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
View of the a mosque in the Old City of Acre, in northern Israel, on October 24, 2016. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

With the ultra-Orthodox parties expressing opposition, the bill would lack a Knesset majority and therefore goes back to the drawing table in the cabinet instead of onto preliminary parliamentary vote.

Since the bill was proposed and subsequently approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, it has been fiercely criticized as an attack on freedom of religion.

On Sunday, Joint (Arab) List leader MK Aymen Odeh blasted the proposed law as “another bill, in a series of populist bills, whose objective is to create an atmosphere of hate and incitement against the Arab population.”

“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.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Jordan’s Islamic Endowments Minister Abdul Salam Abadi said to Jordan’s official news agency Petra in regards to the proposed law that “an occupier cannot make any historical change to the city it occupies, and things (must) remain the same without any change.” He also said that any Israeli actions meant to alter Jerusalem are “false and insignificant” since the city is “under occupation.”

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