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A mosque in Abu Ghosh with its minarets towering above.(Photo by: REUTERS)
Muezzin bill vote delayed as Netanyahu presses for broader ban
Coalition sources said progress on the legislation was frozen.
A vote on the “muezzin bill,” legislation banning the use of outdoor loudspeakers by religious institutions, was pulled from the Knesset’s agenda Wednesday. Coalition sources said progress on the legislation was frozen because it was not far-reaching enough for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

MK Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi), who proposed the bill, had come to an agreement with United Torah Judaism chairman Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman that, following the planned preliminary vote, the bill’s text would be changed so that the ban would apply only from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

This way, the bill would not apply to the siren announcing the beginning of Shabbat in haredi communities, but would apply to the predawn Muslim call to prayer, as was its original intention.

However, Netanyahu notified Litzman on Wednesday that he would not agree to limiting the bill’s scope to certain times of the day. He was unable to find a way to make the bill not apply to the Shabbat siren but still apply to the muezzin’s call all day without running up against discrimination laws, and so the coalition pulled the bill until a new agreement is reached.

Some in the coalition put their own spin on the story.

Yogev’s office said Shas chairman Interior Minister Arye Deri was responsible for the delay, which Shas denied.

The Bayit Yehudi MK tweeted that the bill was pulled for the opposite reason; that he was told it must be weakened.

“The bill to prevent noise from houses of prayer was meant to protect Jewish and Muslim citizens’ sleep,” Yogev wrote. “The bill will be brought to a vote after agreements coordinated between its sponsors and the prime minister.”

MKs Yehudah Glick (Likud) and Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Union) took credit for the vote’s postponement, because of their conference this week calling for religious leaders to form committees and reach compromises, rather than pass a law.

“We praise the coalition chairman and prime minister on making a responsible decision,” Glick and Bahloul said in a joint statement. “Our conference proves that this is a matter that can be solved through dialogue between religious leaders.

We are very glad that, at this time, wisdom overcame the inclination to be forceful and divisive.

“We hope that we will soon be able to see the fruits of dialogue and mutual respect,” the MKs stated.
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