Is­raeli pres­i­dent de­cries bill to qui­eten mosques


JERUSALEM: Is­raeli Pres­i­dent Reu­ven Rivlin spoke out Tues­day against a con­tro­ver­sial bill that would pro­hibit mosques from us­ing loud­speak­ers to sum­mon be­liev­ers to prayers early in the morn­ing.

The draft law, which sparked out­rage around the Arab and wider Mus­lim world, is set to be sub­mit­ted to its first read­ing in Par­lia­ment on Wed­nes­day.

Its orig­i­nal form was amended last week to not af­fect the sirens that an­nounce the start of the Jewish day of rest at sun­down each Friday.

Rivlin on Tues­day hosted in his Jerusalem res­i­dence a meet­ing of re­li­gious lead­ers “seek­ing to bridge gaps over the is­sue of the muezzins,” the Mus­lim lay of­fi­cials charged with call­ing the faith­ful to prayer across the coun­try, a state­ment from his of­fice read.

“I thought that per­haps such a meet­ing could have an im­pact on the whole pub­lic, and that it would be a shame that a law should be born which touches on the is­sue of free­dom of faith of a spe­cific group among us,” the pres­i­dent was quoted as telling par­tic­i­pants.

Rivlin, whose post is mainly cer­e­mo­nial, con­sid­ers the new leg­is­la­tion — sup­ported by Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu — un­nec­es­sary.

“The pres­i­dent be­lieves that the ex­ist­ing leg­is­la­tion on noise levels is able to an­swer prob­lems aris­ing from this is­sue, along­side di­a­logue be­tween the dif­fer­ent faith com­mu­ni­ties in Is­rael,” Rivlin’s spokesper­son Naomi Toledano Kan­del said.

Is­raeli gov­ern­ment watch­dogs have baulked at the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion, de­scrib­ing it as a threat to re­li­gious free­dom and an un­nec­es­sary provo­ca­tion.

Arab Is­raeli law­maker Ahmed Tibi has vowed to ap­peal to the High Court of Jus­tice if the Shab­bat siren is ex­cluded from the scope of the bill on the grounds that it dis­crim­i­nates be­tween Jewish and Mus­lim cit­i­zens.

The law would ap­ply to mosques in an­nexed Arab east Jerusalem as well as Is­rael, although the highly sen­si­tive Al-Aqsa mosque com­pound — Is­lam’s third holi­est site — will be ex­empted, ac­cord­ing to an Is­raeli of­fi­cial.

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