Police opposed to ‘muezzin bill,’ says report

Joint List leader Ayman Oden says the law is "an unnecessary evil promoted by the prime minister."

December 12, 2016 06:37
2 minute read.
Jerusalem mosque

A man stands near a mosque opposite to a neighborhood in east Jerusalem November 13, 2016.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Police advocated against the “muezzin bill,” citing fears that enforcement of the law could spark extremism and backlash in the Arab community, a report showed.

According to internal police assessments obtained by Walla News, police contend that the muezzin bill, which would ban the use of loudspeakers by mosques, could jeopardize the police’s attempts to increase law enforcement in the community.

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“The issue of how mosques are treated is perceived as highly sensitive in the Arab sector. It was decided to not treat the issue bluntly,” the police assessment said, “especially in view of the fact that dramatic subjects, such as housing demolitions, make it difficult to penetrate the Arab sector.”

According to the report, in meetings with the Public Security Ministry and Environmental Protection Ministry, police recommended employing stricter enforcement procedures on mosques in mixed areas that receive a high number of complaints. However, they stated that regulating the muezzin in more isolated communities would hurt the police’s relationship with Arab community leaders.

“It seems that there is not one supporter in the government for the bill to silence the muezzin, except for the prime minister and the right-wing fringe,” Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh said in response to the report.

“This law is an unnecessary evil promoted by the prime minister for the sole purpose of inspiring polarization and hatred.”

As part of a five-year, NIS 2 billion plan to increase policing in the sector, police have opened over a dozen new police stations in Arab communities and started a number of outreach campaigns. Among the campaigns is a recruitment effort, which has seen relatively dramatic results – the number of applications from Arabs has doubled.

A police source declined to comment on the Walla report. However, police have conducted a number of meetings with religious leaders in Jerusalem in an attempt to mediate a solution for the issue of the Muslim call to prayer, which is played through loudspeakers early in the morning and throughout the day, causing backlash from nearby Jewish residents.

Mixed cities such as Lod, Ramle and Jerusalem have experienced the largest clashes over the issue. Residents of Jerusalem neighborhoods such as Pisgat Ze’ev and Neveh Ya’acov have complained of the loud call to prayer from Shuafat and Beit Hanina, saying that the use of loudspeakers wakes people up at 4:30 a.m.

Police successfully brought together the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo and the Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa to mediate the complaints of Gilo residents.

The agreement, which took four years to reach, specifies that the call to prayer will be broadcast over smaller, less powerful loudspeakers that will be directed away from Gilo.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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