Ban on nighttime mosque calls to prayer gains coalition backing

Watered-down version of bill to ban use of loudspeakers for Muslim call to prayer gains coalition backing - but angers Yisrael Beytenu.

Hezki Baruch ,

Mosque in Yafo, file
Mosque in Yafo, file
Esther Rubyan/Flash90

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved Sunday morning a version of the so-called “Muezzin Law,” thereby securing majority support for the bill and paving the way for its passage in the Knesset plenum.

The bill, originally drafted by MKs Motti Yogev (Jewish Home) and David Bitan (Likud), is intended, say its backers, to end disturbances caused by the five daily Muslim calls to prayer, which are usually played at high volume using loudspeakers in mosques around the country.

In its initial form, the bill would have banned all places of worship from using loudspeakers outdoors at any time of the day.

That restriction raised concerns, however, among members of the haredi parties, who warned the prohibition would also apply to synagogues, which often play music or a siren to signal the beginning of the Sabbath at sundown on Fridays.

The committee voted on Sunday to advance an alternative version of the bill, one which permits use of loudspeakers by houses of worship during the day and evening, restricting it only during late-night and early morning hours.

Under the version accepted by the committee, any house of prayer using outdoor loudspeakers between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. would be liable to pay a fine of at least 5,000 shekels ($1,333).

During Sunday’s deliberations in the committee, coalition leaders ruled that further discussion on the legislation will take place after it passes the initial vote, prior to the second and third votes in the Knesset plenum.

Arab lawmakers have slammed the bill, calling it an attempt to strip Muslim citizens of their rights to freedom of religion.

On the other hand, some coalition members have the criticized the revised version of the bill, calling it a misguided attempt to compromise on legislation they say is intended to improve the quality of life for all citizens.

“I notified all the [Knesset] factions, including those who opposed [the bill], including factions in the opposition, that we are willing to review all the issues [related to the bill]. We aren’t looking to harm the freedom of religion – we are looking for normal, healthy quality of life for all residents of Israel,” wrote MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu).

While Ilatov noted his party opposed the modifications to the bill, he pledged Yisrael Beytenu MKs would not prevent passage of the new version of the bill.

“There’s no way we would harm a legislative process [initiated] by the coalition,” added Ilatov.