You would think that the half million Israeli settlers spread across the occupied West Bank would have little to complain about. After all, they enjoy control of almost half the land, water sources, swimming pools and private roads, with security provided by the Palestinian Security Forces. But that’s not enough. They are, apparently, disturbed by one thing; the call to prayer from the mosques of “strangers”, the indigenous residents of the West Bank, which is made five times a day. The settlers’ leaders have taken this issue to their extreme right-wing government, which in turn has addressed the complaint to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, asking for a swift response so that the settlers are not disturbed any more than is necessary.
According to Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, the Palestinian Authority “understood” these “fair” demands of the settlers, and an “understanding” has been reached between the Civil Administration of the Israeli army and PA ministers and imams. This provides for lowering the volume of loudspeakers through which the call to prayer is broadcast, prohibiting the muezzin (who makes the call) from saying or reading anything other than the set words of the call to prayer (the Azan), and for Friday prayers to take place in just one mosque per village. The newspaper described the Azan as a “nuisance noise”, especially the call for the dawn prayers.
A complaint from the settlers who have usurped the land of the West Bank from its owners is almost to be expected. However, for the Palestinian Authority, its president, the Minister of Religious Endowments and the mosque imams to respond to their complaint in this way is a scandal to be added to the long list of scandals of the past two decades. Nothing is left now apart from the settlers to interfere in the Islamic faith itself or restrict the prayers and determine the number of mosques and how many people pray therein. It would just be for the Palestinian Authority and its officials, including the security forces, to hear and obey.
This is neither authority nor Palestinian to succumb to such outrageous demands which are inconsistent with the teachings of Islam and its sources, the Qur’an and the Sunnah (example) of the Prophet (peace be upon him). If there really was any authority in Ramallah it would have responded to this complaint by demanding that mosques raise the volume so that the call to prayer echoes around the West Bank and causes as much inconvenience as possible to the illegal settlers and their government. But the PA did not do so and it will not. It is worth considering that Israel never raised this issue in either the occupied West Bank or the occupied Gaza Strip when there was no Palestinian Authority.
It is both embarrassing and shameful that the new “understanding” on the “noise” from the mosques was implemented last week. However, we should not be surprised. The instructions were issued by the same people who told imams across the West Bank to launch attacks on Shaikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the head of the Muslim Scholars Association, insulting him and questioning his knowledge and faith. It would not surprise us, therefore, to hear that the new “understanding” is insufficient and that the PA has issued new orders for the muezzins to be strangled so that no calls to prayer are made and the settlers are not disturbed at all.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.