The Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday evening approved the “muezzin law” proposed by MK Motti Yogev (Jewish Home), which would limit the noise of the muezzin, the Muslim who calls followers to prayer five times daily, disturbing the peace of citizens across the country. Once a call emanating from mosques to those nearby, it has in recent years become a major noise nuisance due to the use of electronic loudspeakers set at maximum volume in mosque towers.
The bill prohibits the use of a public address system to call worshipers to prayer or to convey religious or national messages.
MK Yogev stressed after the vote, "We do not intend to violate freedom of religion, but rather to prevent harm to citizens whose sleep is affected by the muezzin's call. There are also tired students in their classrooms in the Arab sector, motorists are tired while driving, and babies awakened from their sleep [because of the muezzin’s call] even though their homes have double-paned windows installed.”
Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he backed the muezzin bill, which some have labelled unnecessarily divisive.
"I cannot count the times -- they are simply too numerous -- that citizens have turned to me from all parts of Israeli society, from all religions, with complaints about the noise and suffering caused them by the excessive noise coming to them from the public address systems of houses of prayer," Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting.
While the draft bill applies to all houses of worship, it is seen as specifically targeting mosques since synagogues do not have public address systems.
On Saturday night, citizens of Jerusalem demonstrated outside the home in Jerusalem of Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) and emulated the loud call of the muezzin in an attempt to convince Deri to back the “muezzin law”.
Jerusalem city councilman Aryeh King, who was at the protest, told Arutz Sheva, "People in Jerusalem are waking up at 4:00, early in the morning, and sometimes close to midnight from the noise of the call to prayer emanating from the speakers coming from the mosques."
"Imagine, if you live in Los Angeles or you live in New York...imagine that a [loud] speaker that is maybe 50, maybe 150 meters from your house, is waking up your children...or if you have a baby who went to sleep, and suddenly at 11:30, before midnight, loudspeakers are waking up all the family and the baby cannot go to sleep," King added.
"Unfortunately," he said, "the Shas party, including Minister Aryeh Deri, didn't respond positively" to the law to aid its passage.
King said that the protests would continue if Deri still refuses to support the bill. If the Shas party "does not 'wake up' when we talk to them about the problem, we will see to it that the muezzin's call wakes them every night and every morning."