Photo Credit: Edward Musiak via Flickr
Minaret with loudspeakers in Riyadh

Following an emotionally charged debate, the Knesset Plenum on Wednesday approved in a preliminary vote two separate bills aimed at restricting the Muslim Muezzin-religious crier calling the believers to prayer five times a day over loudspeakers installed the top of local mosques.

The first bill, proposed by MKs Robert Ilatov and Oded Forer (Yisrael Beiteinu) was supported by 55 members and opposed by 48.

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The second bill, proposed by MKs Mordhay Yogev (Habayit Hayehudi) and David Bitan (Likud) was supported by 55 and opposed by 47.

Both bills will no go to the Knesset Committee to decide which house committee should debate, amend, and possibly consolidate them.

The Iltov Forer bill amends the existing prohibition in the 1961 Nuisances Law on causing unreasonably loud noise, to include the operation of a PA system in a house of worship, as it is considered unreasonably loud. The bill suggests that in special cases the Interior Minister can grant permission to use such a PA system.

The Yogev Bitan bill sets a time limit on the operation of Muezzin loudspeakers in residential areas, prohibiting said operation between 11 PM and 7 AM, as well as setting limits on the decibel level being used by PA systems operated by houses of worship. The bill sets a fine of about $2,700, and not less than half this amount, on violators.

The explanation notes that accompany the second bill say that “hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens in Galilee, the Negev, Jerusalem, and other areas in the center of the country routinely and daily suffer from the noise of the Meuzzin cries in the mosques. The noise is created by using a PA system, which bothers citizens several times each day, including in the early morning hours.”

The notes suggest that the proposed bill “ushers in a world view according to which freedom of religion need not damage quality of life, and suggests that the use of PA systems to call on congregations or to deliver religious or national messages in houses of worship be prohibited.”

Throughout the Knesset debate there were vociferous protests from members of the Joint Arab List and several were removed from the plenum after being called to order by the speaker three times. MK Osama Sa`adi as removed after three warnings; MKs Masud Ganaim and the party’s chairman Ayman Odeh were removed after the tore up copies of the bills; MK Ahmad Tibi was removed from the plenum after tearing up the bills at the podium.

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