In surprise turn-around, ultra-Orthodox Israeli politician appeals bill to ban Muslim call to prayer
Abdullah Abbadi, the undersecretary of the Jordanian Ministry of Islamic Affairs, which is responsible for Muslim holy sites in East Jerusalem, said on Tuesday that the bill could not be applied to the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem. (AFP/File)
A day before the Knesset was set to discuss a bill which would ban the use of loudspeakers for the Muslim call to prayer in Israel, an ultra-Orthodox Israeli minister filed an appeal against the draft law out of fear that it could also affect Jewish use of broadcasting systems, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.
The Israeli Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved on Sunday the draft legislation, which calls for barring the use of loudspeakers for any religious or "inciting" messages, moving it to the Knesset -- Israel's parliament -- where it was expected to go through several readings before making it into law.
However, Israeli Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman appealed the bill, which was first presented in March by MK Moti Yogev, on Tuesday, Times of Israel reported, effectively postponing Knesset consideration of the draft legislation until further notice.
Litzman argued that the current phrasing of the bill would not only affect the use of loudspeakers for the Muslim call to prayer, but also the use of sirens on Friday evenings to announce the Jewish holy day of Shabbat.
MK Issawi Freij, a Palestinian member of the left-wing Meretz party, had met with Litzman to convince him to appeal the bill.
"As Knesset members, we should look for suitable solutions for all people of the state, Jewish and Muslim, and we should not turn this case into a tool to be used in political and religious conflict," Freij reportedly told Litzman.
MK Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Arab Joint List coalition, issued a statement on Tuesday welcoming Litzman's decision.
"Netanyahu attempted to gain votes from the extreme right by proposing a bad and unnecessary law, whose main goal is incitement against the Arab community," Odeh said. "I thank Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman for appealing the bill...I think that today was a big step towards cooperation between the weak."
While the bill does not explicitly target Islam, the issue of the Muslim call to prayer has come under the spotlight in recent weeks.
The Muslim call to prayer -- also known as the adhan -- is broadcast five times a day from mosques or Islamic centers.
Locals said that Israeli authorities banned the dawn adhan from being projected over loudspeakers in three different mosques in the Jerusalem district town of Abu Dis earlier this month, a day after Israeli settlers protested in front of the house of Israeli Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barakat over the "noise pollution" caused by the Muslim call to prayer.
Adnan al-Husseini, the Palestinian Authority (PA)-appointed governor of Jerusalem, told Ma'an at the time of the anti-adhan protest that the sound of the call to prayer didn't rise above an agreed-upon decibel level, adding that Israeli settlers were not annoyed by the noise, but by the call to prayer as a reminder of Palestinian presence in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Abdullah Abbadi, the undersecretary of the Jordanian Ministry of Islamic Affairs, which is responsible for Muslim holy sites in East Jerusalem, said on Tuesday that the bill could not be applied to the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem.
"An occupier cannot make any historical change to the city it occupies, and things (must) remain the same without any change," Jordanian news agency Petra quoted Abbadi as saying.
Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi released a statement on Monday saying: "With its legislation that violates freedom of worship, Israel is interfering in one of the most basic tenets of Islam. This is a direct blow to tolerance and inclusion, and it constitutes a serious provocation to all Muslims."
Palestinian communities in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem have long been targeted by discriminatory Israeli policies, whether through "divide and conquer" tactics, attempts at forcibly displacing Bedouin communities, and what has been denounced as a policy of "Judaization" of Jerusalem at the expense of other religious communities.