Israel forges ahead to silence Muslim prayers
Israel moves forward with proposed ‘Muezzin Law’ aimed at silencing call to prayer at mosques across the country. Adalah demands lawmakers vote against law targeting rights of Muslim citizens with blanket categorization of mosque calls to prayer as ‘unreasonable noise’
An Israeli ministerial committee voted yesterday, 12 February 2017, to proceed with legislating the controversial muezzin bill aimed at silencing Muslim calls to prayer at mosques around the country.
Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent an urgent letter to senior Israeli government legal and legislative figures on 5 February 2017 demanding they vote against the proposed “Muezzin Law”.
An explanatory text accompanying the proposed law reads, “Hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens in the Galilee, the Negev, Jerusalem, and additional locations in central Israel suffer on a daily basis from noise caused by loudspeaker systems in houses of worship, which disturb their peace several times a day, usually during the early morning hours and overnight.”
The bill is expected to be brought before the Knesset plenum for a series of votes in the coming days.
Adalah Attorney Mohammad Bassam clarified in his letter, sent to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, and Environment Minister Ze’ev Elkin, that the actual purpose of the law is not to prevent noise pollution from all houses of worship, but rather to specifically outlaw loudspeakers in mosques.
“The language of the bill specifies ‘house of worship,’ defined broadly so that it could ostensibly apply also to synagogues, churches and any other buildings used for prayer or religious ritual,” Attorney Bassam wrote.
“However, its true purpose is to prevent calls over loudspeakers specifically from mosques: earlier drafts of the bill explicitly stated that citizens were suffering ‘as a result of noise caused by muezzins in mosques.’ Furthermore, the bill’s authors crafted the legislation to apply to Muslim houses of worship only, leaving other houses of worship unaffected. Mosques are the only houses of worship that make use of loudspeaker systems between the hours of 23:00 and 07:00,” the hours specified in the bill.
The Muezzin Law, if passed by the Knesset, would cause direct harm to the rights of the Arab Muslim public in Israel.
“The blanket ban on the use of loudspeaker systems during the hours stipulated in the law limits the Muslim public’s freedom of religion and ritual. It must be emphasized that the call to Morning Prayer issued by the muezzin is a central tenet of Islam, and therefore the bill not only offends the religious sentiment of the Muslim public, but also impedes the fulfilment of their basic religious obligations.”
The de facto blanket ban on Muslim calls to prayer is also disproportionate, Adalah stressed.
“The bill fails the test of proportionality, since it categorizes all loudspeaker broadcasts during the hours in question as loud and unreasonable noise, without setting forth clear, specific criteria to determine what constitutes unreasonable noise.”
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
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