Israeli premier backs ban on call to Muslim prayers

Israeli premier backs ban on call to Muslim prayers

Sun Nov 13, 2016 6:33PM

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he would back a controversial bill aimed at limiting the sound of prayers calls coming from Palestinian mosques.

Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting on Sunday that he would support the bill, which would stop the use of public address systems for calls to Muslim prayers, adding that the prayers calls make excessive noise.

“I cannot count the times — they are simply too numerous — that citizens have turned to me from all parts of Israeli society, from all religions, with complaints about the noise and suffering caused them by the excessive noise coming to them from the public address systems of houses of prayers,” Netanyahu said.

The controversial bill has drawn criticism from an Israeli think tank, which has described it as a threat to religious freedoms. Democracy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, has described the legislation, drafted by an extremist lawmaker, as unnecessarily divisive.

The group also accused far-right Israeli politicians of dangerously using the issue to gain political gains under the guise of improving the quality of life.

“The real aim” of the bill “is not to prevent noise, but rather to create noise that will hurt all of society and the efforts to establish a sane reality between Jews and Arabs,” Nasreen Hadad Haj-Yahya, one of the watchdog’s officials, wrote in Israeli newspaper Maariv.

In early November, Israeli authorities enforced a ban on playing the Muslim call to prayers on public announcement systems at three mosques in a town in the west of the Tel Aviv-occupied West Bank. The ban came into force in the town of Abu Dis near Jerusalem al-Quds

This came after a number of extremist Israeli settlers staged a protest against the Muslim religious practice in northeastern al-Quds.

Subsequently, al-Quds’ mayor, Nir Barkat, wrote to the city’s police chief, saying those reciting the call were in breach of the regime’s “noise regulation” that enforces limits on the volume, duration, source, and timing of “noise” in the public sphere.

The Muezzins, or those reciting the call, can now be summoned to police headquarters, be investigated, and even be found liable to fines.

Palestinians make up some 20 percent of Israel’s population. They see the bill aiming to limit the sound of prayers calls as a form of Israeli discrimination.

The occupied territories have witnessed increased tensions ever since Israeli forces imposed restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem al-Quds in August 2015.

Almost 250 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in what is regarded as the third Palestinian Intifada (uprising) since October 2015.