Proposed legislation to ban mosques from using public address systems for their calls to prayer was withdrawn by the bill’s sponsor, far-right Bayit Yehudi MK Moti Yogev, from a scheduled vote on Sunday, March 6, in order to modify it.
Yogev’s bill would add the “loud or unreasonable” use of loudspeakers by places of worship to the infractions already covered by the existing Law to Prevent Nuisances. The proposed addition would prohibit calls to prayer which “disturb the rest of the public several times a day, including the early hours of the morning and at night.” In specific instances the minister of the interior would be authorized to make exceptions to the ban.
Opponents of the bill argue that the law is an attempt to curb freedom of religion under the guise of preventing excessive noise. “This bill is an integral part of the right-wing campaign against Arab citizens and their rights,” Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen (Hadash) told The Jerusalem Post. “Its aim is divisive and to spread hatred against our community,” he said, adding that if there really were a serious disturbance, as some have argued, “matters could be solved through constructive dialogue, not through a discriminatory bill.” In addition, Jabareen alleged that “The bill involves a clear violation of religious freedom” coming within the context of historical discrimination against Muslims. Asked if he thinks another attempt will be made to pass the bill, he replied “I hope the bill is dead, but I am afraid that, in the current political atmosphere in Israel, there will always be MKs who will raise the issue for cheap political gain.”
The Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) wrote to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation urging its members to oppose the bill, saying it was unnecessary since the current law already bans excessive noise. The IDI’s letter stated that the wording of the explanation for Yogev’s request to modify the existing law “raised significant suspicion that it is not designed to prevent noise disturbances,” seeing as it is also aims to prevent using houses of worship to deliver “religious or nationalist messages.” The IDI said that “Beyond the injury to freedom of religion, the proposal is likely, to say the least, to lead to confrontation and resentment among the Muslim public.”
Amnon Beeri-Sulitzeanu and Dr. Thabet Abu-Rass, co-executive directors of the Abraham Fund dedicated to enhancing coexistence among Arab and Jewish citizens, said “Relations between Jews and Arabs in mixed areas and cities require dialogue and a policy of inclusiveness” and that “friction cannot be solved by legislation,” adding that the same MKs who are behind this bill are the first to defend Jewish religious rights.