The Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted on Sunday, February 12, to provide government backing for a new version of the “Muezzin Bill,” a proposal to ban Islamic religious institutions from using outdoor loudspeakers at night.
MK Moti Yogev (HaBayit HaYehudi), who submitted the bill along with coalition chairman, MK David Bitan (Likud), praised the committee’s decision. The original text of the legislation would have prohibited use of outdoor speakers at any time. The changes in the bill were made at the request of senior politicians from the ultra-orthodox Jewish haredi sector, however, who pressured the cabinet to promote legislation that would not affect the Sabbath sirens that are sounded at sundown on Fridays.
According to the revised text, it will be forbidden to use outdoor speakers to sound the call for prayer in residential areas from 11 pm to 7 am. The legislation also includes a larger fine (NIS 10,000, around $2,500) for violating the law. Any “house of prayer” – including synagogues, churches and mosques – would be covered under the law.
Hadash and Joint List MKs expressed their discontent with the move and called it a dangerous violation of freedom of worship. They slammed the cabinet for the decision and labeled it as a racist move with the specific intention of harming the Muslim Arab sector in Israel. “It is another brick in the wall of injustices of this government. Their sole goal is to single out the Arab public as an enemy from within,” said Joint List Chairman MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash). “This bill is not about loud noise and not about quality of life – it is about incitement and racism against a national minority. The sound of the muezzin has been heard here in the region long before the racists in Netanyahu’s government, and will remain here long after them.”
Labor MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin said the objection to the bill is justified, comparing it to legitimate criticism of racially-based positions of far-right French leader Marine Le Pen. “This ‘Muezzin Bill’ is a racially-based bill by all accounts. It is a bill with no legal justification, just pure incitement against the Arab-Israeli citizens,” she said to Jerusalem Post.
Dr. Thabet Abu Ras and Amnon Be’eri Sulitzeanu, co-chairmen of the Abraham Fund Initiative that deals with Jewish-Muslim relations in Israel, said that the bill would only add to the tension between the religions. “It seems that the true goal of the bill is to harm the Arab sector,” they said. “Passing the bill will be foolish; it will load the interfaith relations with more religious animosity, which was relatively minor up until now.”