The Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted on Sunday to provide government backing for the new version of the “muezzin bill,” a proposal to ban religious institutions from using outdoor loudspeakers at night.
MK Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi), who submitted the bill along with coalition chairman MK David Bitan (Likud), praised the committee’s decision.
“We want to prevent disrupting the sleep of the entire population,” he said. “This is a social bill and we will continue to push it in full cooperation [with all parties] in order to avoid infringing upon the freedom of religion.” Sources close to Yogev said the bill might go to the Knesset for a preliminary reading as soon as Wednesday.
The original text of the legislation would have prohibited such use of outdoor speakers at any time. The changes in the bill were made at the request of senior politicians from the haredi sector, however, who pressured the cabinet to promote legislation that would not affect the Shabbat sirens that sound at sundown on Fridays.
According to the revised text, it will be forbidden to use outdoor speakers to sound the call for prayer in residential areas from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. It also includes a larger fine of NIS 10,000 for violating the law.
Any “house of prayer” – including synagogues, churches and mosques – would be covered under the law.
Palestinian officials expressed their discontent with the move and called it a dangerous violation of freedom of worship.
Yousef Mahmoud, the official Palestinian Authority government spokesman, said the religious and cultural heritage of Palestinian Arabs extends into the depths of history.
“It is not rational for the ink of the occupation’s pen to strike it out,” he said, adding that Israel is “imposing a vain and unjust law that prevents the followers of the Semitic religions from carrying out their rituals and performing their religious obligations.”
Opposition lawmakers and left-wing NGOs slammed the cabinet for the decision and labeled it as a racist move with the intention of harming the Arab sector.
“It is another brick in the wall of injustices of this government. Their sole goal is to single out the Arab public as an enemy from within,” said Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh. “This bill is not about loud noise and not about quality of life – it is about incitement and racism against a national minority. The sound of the muezzin was heard here [in the region] much before those racists in Netanyahu’s government and will stay here long after them.”
MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin said the objection to the bill is justified, as is the criticism of far-right French leader Marine Le Pen.
“This ‘muezzin bill’ is a race [based] bill by all accounts. It is a bill with no legal justification, just pure incitement against the Arab-Israeli citizens,” she said.
“When Marine Le Pen suggests these days to ban Jews from wearing kippot, there is a loud uproar, and it’s legitimate.”
Nahmias-Verbin added that it is known to all that the current bill against loud noise is sufficient to protect the citizens, “but our government insists on promoting ‘price tag’ legislation against the Arab-Israeli citizens.”
Amnon Be’eri Sulitzeanu and Dr. Thabet Abu Ras, co-CEOs of the Abraham Fund Initiatives NGO that deals with Jewish- Muslim relations in Israel, said that the bill will only add to the tension between the two religions. “It seems that the true goal of the bill is to harm the Arab sector,” they said. “Passing the bill will be foolish; it will load the interfaith relations with more religious animosity, which was relatively minor up until now.”
Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.