Protesters say 'muezzin bill' is 'assault on Islam'

Dozens of activists protest in Jaffa, Sakhnin against proposed law that would reduce volume of call to prayer, church bells.

Palestinian flags, mosque_311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Palestinian flags, mosque_311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Dozens of activists took to the streets Saturday in cities and towns across the country to protest against a bill that would lower the volume of the Muslim call to prayer, calling it is an “assault on Islam and Christianity.”
Arabs gathered in Tel Aviv- Jaffa and in Sakhnin in the Galilee to protest what they called an Israeli attack on the Arab minority, and the “exploitation of religion to start religious wars in the region,” according to Israeli- Arab news site Asshams.
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They held signs that read “your racism is nasty and disgusting,” and “we deplore the assault on Islam and Christianity.”
The “Muezzin Bill” has support from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. It would ban the use of loudspeakers to project the call to prayer.
The bill would also affect church bells and any other loud noise emanating from houses of prayer.
Israel Beiteinu MK Anastasia Michaeli, who drafted the legislation, said on Saturday that many of those protesting the bill had not read it in its entirety.
Speaking to Israel Radio, Michaeli said that she respected the Islamic tradition of prayer, and that the bill was not aimed at any religious institution but rather at limiting noise pollution and improving people’s quality of life.
The issue is the proximity of mosques to residential areas throughout the country, including in the Center, she said.
The MK said that she has been “attacked” via her e-mail and Facebook accounts as a result of the bill, and that her family members have been “threatened.”
Michaeli did not detail what kinds of threats her family had received, but said she was considering going to the police.
Michaeli said the call to prayer disturbs many people living close to mosques, especially when the first of the five daily prayers is announced shortly before dawn.
The proposed law is one of several bills sponsored by lawmakers on the Right that have attracted foreign criticism by those who say Israeli democracy is under attack.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said that such bills, including one that would limit foreign government funding to political NGOs and another that would increase the libel penalty sixfold, are “declaratory, and are not going to become real laws.”
A vote on the “Muezzin Bill” set to be held by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Monday was delayed for two weeks.
Should the Knesset approve the bill, Israel would not be the first Middle Eastern nation to pass a law that seeks to control noise pollution from the call to prayer.
A law to control the idhan was passed in Cairo in 2010, where the city’s thousands of independent muezzin’s made the call at roughly the same time.
The Egyptian Religious Ministry implemented legislation that combined the idhan to a single radio broadcast.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.