A bill introduced into the Knesset to limit loud speakers at mosques from broadcasting is being labeled a threat to the Muslim communities in Israel and a move by the Israeli government to shut down mosques.
On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation will vote on the bill that was presented by Moti Yogev (Jewish Home), Miki Zohar (Likud), and Meirav Ben-Ari (Kulanu). It prohibits the use of loudspeakers to broadcast calls to prayer, religious messages, and “conveying religious or nationalist messages, or even words of incitement”. The interior minister will be able to determine which mosques could sound the call and when.
The bill is based on a study conducted by the Knesset Information and Research Center, which investigated the conflict of freedom of religion and resident’s rights. The study observed a rise in the number of complaints filed by residents of Jaffa, Haifa, Ramle and other cities over the disruptive noise and the lack of volume regulation.
The study also compared the situation in Israel with that in other countries. Muazzin (calls to prayer) in Egypt are synchronized, and their volume is monitored. In Saudi Arabia, the use of public address systems is restricted. In Austria, the Muazzin sounds only on Friday and only at Vienna’s Islamic Center.
Though the bill applies to all religions equally, it is generally understood to be directed against the Muslim five-times daily call to prayer, which includes pre-dawn messages blasted over a loudspeaker. Sermons are also broadcast over the public address systems.
The supporters of the bill said, “Freedom of religion does not have to be a factor undermining quality of life”.
“Hundreds of thousands of Israelis — in the Galilee, the Negev, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and other areas in the center of the country — experience regular daily suffering from the noise resulting from the calls in the mosques,” the bill says, according to Haaretz.
The bill is not expected to garner the support necessary to be passed into law. A similar ban was proposed in 2014 but failed to win the necessary support.
The Israel Democracy Institute has called on Israeli ministers to oppose it, saying it is an attempt to “encourage the destruction of Muslim communities” in the country. MK Zohir Bahalul (Zionist Union) condemned the bill as part of “the government’s persecution against the Arab minority”.