‘Muezzin Bill’ to restrict call to prayer, allow police to confiscate loudspeakers

PNN / Bethlehem

A report released on Monday by the Jerusalem Post suggests that the forthcoming ‘Muezzin Bill’ has been altered so as to increase the powers by which police can punish offenders, including the confiscation of loudspeakers and a minimum fine of NIS 10,000.

The ‘Muezzin Bill’ aims to amend the laws regarding noise restrictions so as to restrict the time of day and volume by which mosques can broadcast the traditional call to prayer.

The bill passed its initial reading in the Knesset in March 2017 under hefty protest by Arab members of the Knesset who called the bill racist and posed a risk to religious freedoms.

Orthodox Jewish members, Yehudah Glick (Likud) and Zuheir Bahloul (Zionist Union) also spoke out against the bill and reportedly held an ‘inter faith’ conference to discuss the matter.

Ultra-Orthodox members of the Knesset want the Shabbat siren to be exempt from the bill. The siren signals the start and end of the Jewish day of rest.

The bill’s sponsors, MKs Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) and Robert Ilatov (Bayit Yehudi) claim that the bill would alleviate pressures on Israelis living near, or in, areas with a large Palestinian population wherein the call to prayer may be ‘disruptive.’

‘The time has come once and for all to regulate the issue of loudspeakers in mosques,’ Ilatov said.

Ilatov claims that the bill would be similar to those in European countries, as well as some Arab countries, which restrict or in some cases even ban the call to prayer.

‘There is no reason for Israel to be different in this matter. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis who live in mixed neighbourhoods deserve to sleep in silence,’ he said.

Illatov’s version of the bill seeks to ban the use of loudspeakers entirely where his cosponsor, Moti Yogev, wishes to only restrict them, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Yogev claimed the bill was “important and moral for Jews and Arabs who want to sleep in silence… We received many responses from Jews and Arabs who asked to promote the bill.’

‘A century ago, there were no loudspeakers,’ Yogev calims, ‘and there’s no reason that the call to prayer should disturb people’s rest late at night or early in the morning.’

Yogev’s version of the bill would limited the use of loudspeakers from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m, similar to restrictions enforced in countries such as the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, France, the UK, Austria, Norway, and Belgium.

In Cairo, the call to prayer is recited from just a single mosque and broadcast throughout the city so as to control its length and volume.

The ‘muezzin’ to which the bill refers is the Islamic religious figure who calls the faithful to prayer five times a day and who in modern mosques is responsible for reciting and broadcasting the call.

The bill was approved by the Public Security Minister, Gilad Erdan, and Environmental Protection Minister, Ze’ev Elkinneeds, but will need to clear three more Knesset readings in order to become law.