The Al-Mahmoudiya mosque in Jaffa. The writer can hear the muezzin’s call to prayer from his apartment.
(photo credit: ANNA LOSHKIN)
The Palestinian Authority leadership has summarily condemned a proposed bill to ban religious institutions from using outdoor loudspeakers.
The bill would force mosques to silence their loudspeakers, which are used to call Muslims to prayer.
The bill “will lead to catastrophes,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
“These measures are completely unacceptable, and the leadership will go to the Security Council and all international institutions to stop these escalatory Israeli measures,” he said, referring to the loudspeakers bill and another bill geared toward legalizing illegal outposts in the West Bank.
The Knesset Ministerial Committee for Legislation authorized the loudspeakers bill on Sunday. The bill must pass four readings in the Knesset before it can become law.
PA Awqaf (religious endowments) Minister Yousef Idais said the bill is an attempt to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a religious one.
“This [bill] expresses racism that goes beyond politics and delves into religion,” he said, adding that it “is pushing the entire region into a religious war.”
Idais said Palestinians intend to stand steadfastly against the bill. “The approval of this bill will not change the religious reality, but rather will make us more committed to our holy sites and religious endowments that express our national and political identity,” he said.
Idais called on the international community, international religious institutions and those in the Arab and Islamic worlds to protect holy sites in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who supports the bill, said, “Israel is committed to freedom for all religions, but is also responsible for protecting citizens from noise.”
Rafat Alyan, a Fatah spokesman in Jerusalem, said Israel is exploiting the regional dynamics to pass the bill.
“The occupation is taking advantage of the Arab and Islamic quiet and the weakness of the national and Islamic factions... to change the status quo in Jerusalem, including barring the call to prayer,” he said.
Jordan and other Arab and Islamic countries have yet to comment on the bill.
The call to prayer, which usually lasts a few minutes, is sounded five times a day, beginning with the first call at dawn.