Bid to quieten Muslim call to prayer amplifies Israel tensions
A BILL backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ban mosques around Israel and annexed east Jerusalem from using loudspeakers to amplify late-night and early-morning calls to prayer has been approved by a ministerial committee ahead of a parliamentary debate and voting.
It has been temporarily blocked but the government is still confident of pushing it through.
The dispute around high-decibel minarets is not unique to Israel, which argues that other states, including in Europe and North Africa, have similar restrictions to those it is looking to implement.
But it has touched a raw nerve in Israel, where many in its minority Arab population – around 17.5 percent of the whole, and overwhelmingly Muslim – believe Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing government is systematically persecuting them.
They also worry that their connection to Al-Aqsa, the third holiest site in Islam, is under threat.
Large numbers of Israeli Jews view the azans (prayer call) as noise pollution, with the bill’s sponsor Motti Yogev, of the far-right Jewish Home party, arguing they disturb the peace of hundreds of thousands of people.
He has also claimed that in some cases they are used by religious leaders to incite against Israel.
In its current draft, the law would prevent the summons to worshippers from being relayed on loudspeakers.
Palestinians and Arab Israelis have organised protests against the ban, with an Arab Israeli MP performing the azan in Israel’s parliament to the fury of some of his Jewish colleagues.
Government watchdogs call the bill a threat to religious freedom and the Arab League has termed it “a very dangerous provocation”.
Arab Israelis, who largely identify as Palestinians, are the descendants of Palestinians who remained on their land after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. –
An Israeli flag flies on a building with a minaret of a mosque and the Dome of the Rock (right) in the background in Jerusalem’s Old City.