The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee is set to revive a controversial bill next week that if passed will place decibel limits on mosques’ use of loudspeakers to broadcast the traditional Muslim call to prayer.
The Shas Sephardic religious party and the United Torah Judaism party factions have both announced their opposition to advancing the Muezzin Bill, and say they’ve agreed to join the Joint Arab List in fighting the measure.
The so-called “muezzin bill” passed an initial vote by a vote of 55-48 on the Knesset floor last March, following a raucous session that was marred by repeated shouting matches between Arab MKs and right-wing supporters of the measure.
MK Ayman Odeh (Joint Arab List) was removed from the session after demonstratively ripping up a copy of the bill and accusing supporters of the measure of trying to rid Israel’s public sphere of its Arab presence and the Arabic language.
The proposal has drawn the ire of Arab and Muslim leaders in Israel, who say the measure is a violation of religious freedom. But local supporters say the measure is necessary because Arab political and religious officials have refused to listen to their concerns about being woken up on a daily basis in the pre-dawn hours.
“We have been trying for years to talk about this with the sheikhs here and other religious leaders, but they are simply not willing to talk about it. Their view is simple: The people who don’t want to hear it can either get used to it, or move,” said Tova Even-Chen, a 10-year resident of the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Lod. Even-Chen told TPS at the time that she has created plenty of good relationships with her Arab neighbors – the popular night market during the summer is a good example – but she says her attempts to talk to Muslim officials about ramping down the muezzin volume has led exactly nowhere.
“One sheikh told me, ‘You can’t call it noise; It’s the adhan [call to prayer], it’s our religion.’ But it isn’t about religion – I grew up in Jerusalem, I’ve been listening to the muezzin my whole life. It doesn’t bother me, or anyone else I know, when the muezzin calls for the other four prayers of the day. But I think that at 4:00 in the morning, there is room for dialogue and negotiation. The sheikhs here have just been completely unwilling to even talk about it,” she said.