“Anyone who is angered by the call of the muezzin, should leave,” Former Jerusalem Grand Mufti Sheikh Ekrima Sabri told worshipers at the Al Aqsa mosque on Friday, meaning, of course, leave the country. He suggested that “Israel has no right to intervene with the call of the muezzin, because it is contrary to freedom of worship.”
The Knesset’s Ministerial Legislative Committee on Sunday debates a proposed bill to ban muezzins from using mosque loudspeakers to call the faithful to prayer or to make religious or nationalistic announcements. Proposed by MK Moti Yogev (HaBayit HaYehudi), Merav Ben-Ari (Kulanu), and Miki Zohar and Nurit Koren (Likud), the bill explains that “hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens routinely and daily suffer from the noise caused by Muazin calls at the mosques. The proposed law introduces a world view according to which freedom of religion must not damage the quality of life.”
Back in 2011, then MK Anastassia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu) introduced the first “muezzin law,” requiring mosques to dial down the volume on the calls made over mosque PA systems at the five daily Muslim prayer times, but clarified that her bill does not intend to target any specific group. Michaeli said she came up with the bill after visiting the mixed cities of Lod and Ramla, where Jews have been complaining about the Muslims’ noisy devotion.
The original Muezzin bill was tabled and the Knesset ordered a report that said the use of loudspeakers began at about the same time as loudspeakers had been invented, and recommended a dialogue with the Muslim religious authorities rather than an environmental law.
But, judging by Sheikh Sabri’s recent statements, that the call to prayer is not just a Muslim ritual, but an act of worship, and that banning it would represent a violation of freedom of worship, a dialogue may not be in the cards.
MK Yogev’s bill, which has been in the works since 2015 and was tabled once, came back for a vote Sunday after several weeks in which residents of Pisgat Ze’ev in eastern Jerusalem yelled out muezzin calls at the top of their lungs one early morning in front of home of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, to share with him their daily experience, as well as the experience of the Jewish residents of the Shuafat, Beit Hanina and A-ram mixed Jerusalem neighborhoods.
“This morning we had to shatter the tranquility of Beit Hakerem in Jerusalem as part of our struggle with the muezzin noise [with] loudspeakers to emulate the sounds mosques disturbing thousands of families in the various neighborhoods of Jerusalem,” Yossi Davidoff, one of the protesters, told Ynet, noting that they started hollering only at 6 AM and not when the muezzins do it, at 5 AM and earlier, out of consideration for Mayor Barkat and his neighbors.
Police arrived shortly thereafter and removed the protesters for violating the same noise pollution laws that hundreds, even thousands of muezzins defy five times a day, every day, in Israel. Aryeh King, a member of the Jerusalem City Council, told TPS, “I brought Arab residents to testify at the Knesset, and they have said the same thing: ‘You live 500 meters away from the loudspeakers, but we live only 5 meters away.'”
“There is a ‘noise regulation’ law in Israel restricting the amount, duration, source and timing of noise (in the public sphere), and the muezzin calls are an infringement on that legislation,” King said, complaining that “over the last year, the muezzins have ramped up the volume to insane levels, not only for [prayer calls] but also for weddings and other celebrations.”
For his part, Sheikh Sabri was quoted as saying that the real noise pollution was the sound of Israeli military jets hovering in the Jerusalem sky, the sound of Israeli military tanks raiding Arab cities and villages, and the noise of bombs fired at Arab citizens. In other words, should this new law pass, a few muezzins will have to be rounded up and jailed, receiving rebuke from the US State Dept… No, wait, Trump was just elected US President.