Israel's Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved an amendment to a bill on Sunday banning the Muslim call to prayer. It is now ready to go before the Knesset for a vote on whether it becomes law, Israeli media have reported.
The bill, which is referred to by the Israeli legislators as the "Muezzin Bill", bans the call to prayer from being broadcast by loudspeakers to the local community in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem between 11pm and 7am. A draft text was approved by the same committee in November last year, but the ultra-Orthodox Israeli Minister of Health, Yaakov Litzman, filed an appeal against it, fearing it could affect the use of sirens for the weekly announcement of the Jewish Sabbath.
According to the Times of Israel, the bill will be submitted to the Knesset on Wednesday and will have to go through three rounds of votes before it goes on the statute books. Violations of the ban on loudspeakers for the call to prayer, the newspaper reported, would incur a fine of 10,000 shekels ($2,665).
The Jerusalem Post said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports the bill. He has claimed in a cabinet meeting that "citizens of all religions" have complained to him countless times about noise from mosque loudspeakers. "Israel is committed to freedom for all religions," added Netanyahu, "but is also responsible for protecting its citizens from noise."
Israeli Arab MK Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint List, was reported by the Jerusalem Post as saying that the bill is racist and populist. "Its whole goal is to create an atmosphere of hatred and incitement towards the Arab public," he explained. "There are already noise laws that apply to mosques and it is clear that the whole purpose of the bill is to label mosques as problematic. It is obviously damaging to freedom of religion for Muslims and the continuation of the persecution led by the prime minister."