A law to muffle mosques’ amplified calls to prayer in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem won preliminary approval on Wednesday in a charged parliamentary session where Arab legislators denounced the measure as racist, reports Reuters.
Supporters of the bill say it is aimed at improving the quality of life of people living near mosques who have been losing sleep. The calls usually begin sounding a little before 5 A.M. through loudspeakers mounted on minarets
Opponents say the legislation, sponsored by right-wing parties, impinges on the religious freedom of Israel’s Muslim minority. Arabs make up almost 20 percent of the population and have long complained of discrimination.
“You are committing a racist act,” said Ahmed Tibi, an Arab lawmaker, told supporters of the legislation.
One of the bills would ban a summons to worship via loudspeakers between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. That would effectively mute one of the five daily calls emanating from mosques. The second proposal would bar amplification in residential areas at all hours and impose a 10,000 shekel ($2,700) fine for violations.
Tzipi Livni, a leader of the center-left Zionist Union party and a former foreign minister, said “proud Israelis” should join together in opposing legislation that would only “spread hate and ignite tensions” between Muslims and Jews.
During the heated debate, Arab legislator Atman Ode rose from his seat, with a copy of the bill in his hands. “This law will not be implemented, I am tearing it up,” he said, as pieces of paper fell to the floor. He was ejected from the chamber.