Vote on ‘muezzin bill’ postponed

Bill to reduce sound of Muslim call to prayer – and noise from other houses of prayer - proposed by Israel Beiteinu MK.

Mosque in Brukin (photo credit: Courtesy of B'tslem)
Mosque in Brukin
(photo credit: Courtesy of B'tslem)
A vote scheduled for Sunday in the Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs on a bill to reduce the sound of the Muslim call to prayer – and noise from other houses of prayer – was pushed off for two weeks.
The legislation was proposed by MK Anastasia Michaeli (Israel Beiteinu), and according to her office, the postponement was due to procedural issues.
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The proposed law is aimed at restricting “unreasonably loud noise” emanating from houses of prayer including any sound disturbances from synagogues, churches and mosques.
The motivation behind the law, according to Michaeli, is simply that of quality of life and environment.
“I do not want to turn the bill into a national, religious and cultural issue,” she said.
“This is a green problem, not a black problem,” she added in reference to the opposition the bill has garnered from politicians and civil rights groups who say it would restrict freedom of religion.
The Abraham Fund coexistence organization denounced the bill as “offensive” and designed specifically “to harm the rights of the Arab minority.”
“This deliberate insult, which has become something of a routine in the current Knesset, is designed to inhibit the freedom of religion of the Arab public,” said the group’s directors, Amnon Be’eri and Muhammad Darawshe, in a joint statement.
“Legislation in the Knesset should be the last way to deal with modes of behavior between Jews and Arabs, and only after all efforts for constructive dialogue have been exhausted.”
There are five designated daily Islamic prayer services, which are preceded by the adhan, the call to prayer from a mosque’s minaret by a muezzin, a man reciting the text of the adhan, which is now often amplified by loud speakers.
According to Michaeli, the frequent sounding of the call to prayer on noisome PA systems disturbs many city residents living close to mosques, especially in the early hours of the morning when the first of the daily prayers is announced by the muezzin shortly before dawn.
Michaeli also stresses that it is not just people trying to sleep who are bothered by the call to prayer, but those with health problems such as high blood pressure and anxiety disorders who are negatively affected.
“Bereaved families are also troubled by the call to prayer, which constantly reminds them about their lost relatives,” Michaeli told The Jerusalem Post. She said Muslims have also been among those complaining about the volume of the muezzins’ call.
MK Ahmed Tibi (Ta’al) described the bill as “a delusional and ridiculous proposal from the study hall of Anastasia.”
“And if we’re talking about the ridiculous then there’s also things that disturb the equanimity of Arabs. Blowing the shofar annoys residents of the Old City [of Jerusalem]; the sirens at the beginning and end of the Shabbat is another; and the worst of them, the damage done to the respiratory systems of Arabs by the fireside gatherings on Independence Day,” he asserted, emphasizing that this opinion comes both “as a doctor and as an Arab.”
According to Michaeli’s office, recent research conducted on the matter by the Knesset Information and Research Center, showed prolonged exposure to noise can lead to hearing loss, damage to self-esteem, social isolation, insomnia, de-synchronization and diffusion of brain waves leading to personality disorders, changes in the endocrine system, gastrointestinal disorders and general problems in everyday functionality.
“Freedom of religion should not be a factor in damaging quality of life,” the MK said.
Michaeli proposes that instead of using PA systems, the call to prayer could be announced over designated radio frequencies, through text messages to cellphones or “other creative solutions.”
She also pointed to restrictions placed on the practice in Western European countries, such as in Switzerland where a law was passed in 2009 forbidding the construction of minarets. The law was proposed by the far-right Swiss People’s Party.