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#1 [Permalink] Posted on 13th November 2016 21:25
Muslims cry foul as Netanyahu seeks to quieten call to prayer

Benjamin Netanyahu backs an Israeli bill to limit the volume of calls to prayer from mosques in Israel. Government watchdogs call the proposal a threat to religious freedom.Benjamin Netanyahu
used Europe's bans on amplified muezzins to justify his own support for a bill that wouldn't silence the traditionally five-times-daily Islamic Adhan in Israel, but would certainly stifle it. Netanyahu, who spoke as a ministerial committee prepared to discuss the draft bill later Sunday, said he would support such a move, despite the fact that many Israelis have called it unnecessarily divisive.

"I cannot count the times - they are simply too numerous - that citizens have turned to me from all parts of Israeli society, from all religions, with complaints about the noise and suffering caused them by the excessive noise coming to them from the public address systems of houses of prayer," Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday's cabinet meeting.

Though officials say the draft bill would apply to all places of worship, many Israelis believe that it would specifically target mosques. The muezzins' traditional calls to prayer rings out through the day in East Jerusalem, which has a large Palestinian population.

It's "another bill in a series of populist bills whose objective is to create atmosphere of hate and incitement against the Arab population," Aymen Odeh, the leader of the Joint List and an opposition MP, told The Times of Israel. "There are noise laws and regulations that also apply to mosques, so it's clear that the sole purpose of the bill is to mark the mosques as a problem source. It is a clear attack on Muslim freedom of religion and the continuation of a wave of persecution that the prime minister is leading."

The Israel Democracy Institute's Nasreen Hadad Haj-Yahya has written that the bill's "real aim is not to prevent noise, but rather to create noise that will hurt all of society and the efforts to establish a sane reality between Jews and Arabs." The nonpartisan think tank has emerged as one of the proposal's many prominent opponents.

The 'real aim'

Arabs, many of them Muslim, compose 20 percent of Israel's population. Many accuse the government of discriminating against them.

Netanyahu heads Israel's most right-wing government yet. This weekend, he was forced to once again respond to accusations that he helped incite the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, one of his predecessors as prime minister, 21 years ago, calling the killing by Jewish extremist Yigal Amir a "shocking political murder that all of us condemn."

"Since the murder there have been continuous attempts to distort the historical truth and blame me for the incitement that preceded the killing," Netanyahu wrote on Facebook. He also posted video clips that showed himself condemning virulent statements against Rabin - who shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat - in the weeks before the prime minister was killed.

mkg/rc (AFP, Times of Israel)
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#2 [Permalink] Posted on 13th November 2016 21:31
Netanyahu backs 'populist' bill barring mosque loudspeakers

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday backed a bill that would prohibit the use of loudspeakers at mosques during the Muslim call to prayer due to what lawmakers argue is a reduced quality of life as a result of the noise.

"The Muslims, the Jews, and the Christian are all suffering from this," Netanyahu said ahead of a vote on the bill in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. "I can't tell you how many times people have approached me, from all walks of Israeli society, who are crying out about the suffering that is caused by excessive noise reaching them from prayer house announcements."

The call to prayer, or adhan, is broadcast five times a day between dawn and night-time, at different hours according to the time of year.

Right-wing lawmakers have attempted unsuccessfully on multiple occasions to introduce legislation banning the call from being amplified over loudspeakers, arguing they are unnecessarily loud and contribute to "noise pollution."

Arab lawmakers have criticized such proposals as an attack on Muslim freedom of religion.

Netanyahu pointed to similar restrictions in European and even some Muslim countries as justification for the law.

"Israel is a country that respects freedom of religion for all," Netanyahu said. "Israel is committed to protect anyone who suffers from the excessively loud calls. That is the custom in many European cities. That is the custom also in various places in the Muslim world, where they limited the volume of the calls out of consideration for the general public."

This latest attempting to silence the minarets was originally put forth by Habayit Hayehudi MK Moti Yogev, and was initially intended to prevent the broadcasting of nationalistic messages and incitement over mosque loudspeakers. The bill was reworded following criticism and now cites excessive noise as the reason for prohibiting loudspeakers.

"Hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens — in the Galilee, Negev, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and other places in central Israel — suffer regularly and daily from the noise caused by the call of the muezzin from mosques," the proposed legislation reads.

"The noise made by these public calls disturbs the rest of the citizens several times a day, including in the early mornings and at nighttime," it says.


Arab lawmaker MK Aymen Odeh of the Joint List Party criticized the legislation as "another bill, in a series of populist bills, whose objective is to create an atmosphere of hate and incitement against the Arab population.

"There are noise laws and regulations that also apply to mosques, so it's clear that the sole purpose of the bill is to mark the mosques as a problem source. It is a clear attack on Muslim freedom of religion and the continuation of a wave of persecution that the prime minister is leading," Odeh said.

In proposing such bills to restrict the adhan, MKs say that quality of life is more important than freedom of religion.

"The bill presents a worldview by which freedom of religion should not constitute a factor damaging quality of life, and proposes prohibiting houses of prayer from using loudspeakers to call worshippers or to broadcast religious and nationalistic statements and sometimes incitement," Yogev wrote in the new bill, according to Ha'aretz.

While the draft bill applies to all houses of worship, it is seen as specifically targeting mosques.

The Israel Democracy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, spoke out against the proposal accusing Israel's right-wing politicians of dangerously using the issue to gain political points under the guise of improving quality of life.

This is not the first time such a proposal has been tabled. In late 2014, Yisrael Beiteinu MK Robert Ilatov suggested a similar ban, although it ultimately failed to win the support needed to pass various Knesset readings and be voted into law.

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#3 [Permalink] Posted on 17th November 2016 21:11
Arab League terms muezzin bill a 'very dangerous provocation'


Dozens of people including Balad party MPs Haneen Zoabi and Basel Ghattas demonstrated against the bill on Wednesday night in Jaffa.

Controversy over the government's bill to force mosques to silence their loudspeakers is reverberating regionally, with the Arab League condemning it and a Jordanian newspaper columnist warning it would harm the sensibilities of more than a billion Muslims.

The Knesset is due to hold a preliminary vote next week after the ministerial committee on legislation approved a ban on outdoor amplification of the call to prayer, which summons Muslims to mosques five times a day. Coalition parties have agreed to support a ban that would apply to nights and early mornings.

In Cairo Arab League deputy secretary general Ahmed Ben Helli on Wednesday termed the bill a ''very dangerous provocation'' and a ''rejected escalation'' by Israel, according to the Arab48 website. He added that the bill ''strikes" against religious freedom. ''We reject and condemn this Israeli step,'' he said.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who supports the bill, said that Israel is committed to freedom for all religions but is also responsible for protecting citizens from noise. He said that citizens of all faiths have repeatedly complained to him about being disturbed by the amplified call to prayer. Arab leaders counter that the call as it is currently made is a part of both religious practice and heritage and accuse the government of enmity towards the Islamic faith and Muslims.

On Wednesday, Egypt's Dar al-Ifta, an educational institute and government body, condemned the bill, saying it ''inflames the situation in the occupied territories and completely contravenes freedom of worship.'' It called for international intervention ''to stop these violations.''

Meanwhile, Maher Abu Tir, a columnist for Jordan's ad-Dustour newspaper, wrote that the bill has to be seen within the context of a broader attack on Islam, which he alleged includes ''Judaization" of Jerusalem and forcing out its population, raiding of al-Aksa mosque by settlers and harming graves. He termed the bill ''a criminal expression that violates more than a billion Muslims.''

''It will lead to fateful consequences at all levels,'' he wrote, focusing on its implications for al-Aksa mosque. ''If the Jordanian wakf (ministry of Islamic endowments) says 'you must not obey the Israeli action', the occupation is liable to cut the electricity to the mosque and thereby prevent the call to prayer.''

''We must face the question today of what Jordan will do in the face of this Israeli approach and we must face the ramifications for the Arabs and Muslims and the Palestinian people inside occupied Palestine also,'' Abu Tir wrote.

On Tuesday, the Jordanian government, which in 1994 was granted by Israel the role of custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem, came out against the bill, with the undersecretary for Islamic Affairs and Wakf, Abdullah Abadi, saying ''an occupier cannot make any change to the city it occupies and things must remain the same.''

Within Israel, Arab leaders continue to speak out strongly against the bill, after MK Ahmed Tibi on Tuesday called for civil disobedience against it if it becomes law. Rahat Mayor Talal al-Karnawi took a no less defiant tone on Thursday, saying he would ''put a loudspeaker on every building in Rahat'' if the muezzin bill is brought forward. ''They will sing Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest). This is very important for us that Arab citizens of Israel will be a part of the religious freedom.''

Dozens of people including Balad party MPs Haneen Zoabi and Basel Ghattas demonstrated against the bill on Wednesday night in Jaffa. Protesters held up signs saying ''The call to prayer won't be silenced'' and ''Netanyahu and Bennett-fascism rules.''

Eliyahu Kamisher contributed to this report.

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#4 [Permalink] Posted on 30th November 2016 22:38
Jerusalem neighborhoods reach Muezzin agreement without politicians

Community leaders from Gilo and Beit Safafa came together to formulate a plan to allow the Muezzin to continue without disturbing others.

Tawfik Elayan, the muezzin of the Rahman mosque in Beit Safafa in south Jerusalem, closes his eyes and begins to recite the Islamic call to prayer which reverberates around the neighborhood calling the Muslim faithful to pray.

But the Rahman mosque, along with the other four mosques in Beit Safafa, is somewhat unique, in that its leadership and that of the broader neighborhood has come to understandings with the communal leadership of nearby Gilo to reduce the volume of the call to prayer broadcast over the loudspeakers on the mosque's minaret five times a day.

The acrimonious political dispute that has erupted around concerns with the call to prayer in recent weeks has focused on legislation introduced by Bayit Yehudi MK Moti Yogev, backed by MKs from several parties, which would ban the use of loudspeakers by all religious institutions.

Residents of mixed Jewish and Arab cities, and of Jewish neighborhoods abutting Arab ones, have long complained that the call to prayer from mosques close by are excessively loud and wake people up in the very early hours of the morning when the first of the five calls to prayer is issued.

Jerusalem in particular is a flash point where activists in Pisgat Ze'ev and Neve Ya'akov in the north of the city have lobbied hard to have the volume of the loudspeakers on mosques in Shuafat and Beit Hanina lowered, due to what they say is the unacceptable noise that wakes many people between four and five o'clock in the morning.

Such efforts have not been successful however, and Yogev introduced his legislation to deal with the issue.

But when several years ago residents of Gilo in south Jerusalem started complaining to the police about the loud volume of the call to prayer coming from Beit Safafa, things were handled differently.

It was the police who initially brought the two sides together, approaching the leadership of Gilo's Community Administration and that of Beit Safafa and asking them to sit down together and discuss the issue.

“So we sat together, we told them that the call to prayer is a commandment from God and that the call for prayer has been issued here for centuries,” said Mohammed Elayan, head of Beit Safafa's Community Administration and one of the neighborhoods four mukhtars.

Elayan pointed out that Beit Safafa had existed before Gilo was built and insisted that it was important for the call to prayer be heard around the neighborhood so that all the residents would hear it, but also stated that the mosques in the area only began using loudspeakers in 1962 when the neighborhood was connected to the electricity grid.

“But as Muslims, we understand and respect our neighbors in a moral way, as is required by the Koran and we have to understand that some neighbors were disturbed by the call to prayer,” continued Muhammad.

“We want to find a solution and have dialogue between us in Beit Safafa and our neighbors in Gilo, because we want this area to remain safe and secure and we don't want the police to arrest our young men and muezzins and confiscate the mosque loudspeakers.”

The dialogue and meetings between the two community administrations to find a mutually agreeable solution lasted four years, until an agreement for a permanent solution was reached some four months ago.

The plan adopted is that the call be broadcast over smaller, less powerful loudspeakers which will be placed at several points within the neighborhood and purposefully directed away Gilo. This it is hoped will significantly reduce the volume heard in the Jewish neighborhood.

It has yet to be implemented however since the requisite funds, at least NIS 50,000 for each mosque, have not yet been obtained, although Minister for Jerusalem Ze'ev Elkin has agreed to fund a pilot for two mosques.

The communal leaders are seeking to have the system implemented for all five mosques at once however, fearing that implementation for just two mosques will not solve the problem and will thereby scupper the solution altogether.

While discussions were underway, Beit Safafa's community leaders did accede to requests from Gilo to reduce the volume of the loudspeakers until a permanent solution was found.

Gilo Community Administration director Ofer Ayoubey, one of the leading figures in the intercommunal dialogue on the issue, said that although the situation has improved, it is still erratic and the agreed upon solution is still required.

“No-one wants to be woken up at four o'clock in the morning, or have their kids and family woke up,” said Ayoubey.

“But we have good relations with Beit Safafa and we were in touch with Muhammad Alayan ... It was very hard to arrange the meeting, but I convinced Muhammed that the issue wasn't about religion, and that no one wanted to hurt their religious practice but just wanted to stop the disturbance.”

Ayoubey noted that he belongs to the Likud party but opposes Yogev's law and was critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has supported the bill, saying that the prime minister had come to the issue “with bad intentions.”

But he said that he believed politicians from both sides of the argument had exploited the issue.

“The Arab MKs waited for this, it brings them to the media forefront, it's a opportunity for extremism and to enflame things on the ground,” he said, adding however that he believed the new legislation to be unnecessary and that enforcing existing laws would have the same effect.

Mohammad was of a similar mind.

“We didn't want a religious war. The Koran says one must not interfere with one's neighbor. This is the true faith, not what the extremists say, and I don't listen to the extremists.”
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#5 [Permalink] Posted on 29th March 2018 20:38
Netanyahu urges bill be passed to prevent Muslim call for prayers

Middle East Monitor

29 March 2018

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday asked the chairman of the government coalition to push the “Muezzen Bill”, which outlaws the Muslim call for prayer – athan, to get Knesset approval, Arab48 reported.

The bill was shelved for about a year after it passed an initial reading in the Knesset. Analysts expected the renewal of the proposal to lead to a new coalition crisis as the bill is opposed by the ultra-orthodox Jewish parties.

The bill initially banned Muslims from using loudspeakers at mosques to call for prayer, it was later modified to include the use of loudspeakers from 11pm to 7am in an effort to appease ultra-orthodox Jews who were worried it would hinder their religious rites.

Violators of the ban would be fined 10,000 shekels ($3,000).
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