Disturbing the peace

Police remove the loudspeakers in a Sur Bahir mosque.

'I'm afraid the police are looking for an opportunity to bring the Acre riots to Jerusalem," says Sur Bahir resident Zohair Hamdan. Referring to the inter-communal violence that broke out in Acre on Yom Kippur when an Arab and his son disrupted the sanctity of the holy day by driving into a Jewish neighborhood to visit a relative, Hamdan has accused the Jerusalem Police of "silencing" the local mosque. Hamdan intends to petition the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Sunday against the police's disconnecting three loudspeakers at the Umari Mosque in Sur Bahir at 11 a.m. last Friday, less than an hour before the call for the second Muslim prayer of the day. "I have always been in favor of good relationships between Palestinians and Israelis. I believe in peace, but this is an attack on God, and for me this is a red line that shouldn't be crossed," says Hamdan, who announced several months ago that he was running for the city council but never submitted his candidacy. He says he was not very surprised to see the policemen of the Jerusalem district in the Arab village, but he adds that he never imagined they would dare to touch a place of worship. Hamdan claims, "I know it all started with a complaint made by city council member and resident of Har Homa, Meir Turgeman. He told me himself a few weeks ago that his neighbors asked him to do something about the muezzin call at night which, according to them, disturb them. Instead of trying to find a peaceful solution, he went to the police and the police came in and disconnected our loudspeakers." "Hamdan is right. I went to the police and lodged a complaint to the police, in the name of my neighbors in Har Homa and residents of East Talpiot," admits Turgeman. "I personally am not disturbed by the sound, but the residents in Har Homa couldn't stand it anymore - it wakes old people and toddlers at 3 a.m. It's against the law anyway." According to Turgeman, Hamdan told him that "This [the noise] is done on purpose by a group of Arab residents who want to create tension." According to the district police spokesman, the three loudspeakers that were disconnected following some Har Homa and East Talpiot residents' complaints were not on a mosque at all. "We discovered three very powerful loudspeakers connected to a Muslim Internet site. The loudspeakers were set up on the roof of a private home and not on the mosque, without the relevant permit, and were set on full volume, again against the law. We asked the owner of the house why he put them there, and he said it was other people's doing and he was not involved. He agreed of his own volition to disconnect them. As far as the police is concerned, the matter is closed."