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Israeli PM backs quietening Muslim call to prayer

Netanyahu has claimed the calls to prayer are "excessive" [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 November, 2016

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Binyamin Netanyahu has supported a bill to ban houses of worship from using public address systems for the call to prayer, stating Israeli residents "suffered" from the "excessive noise".
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has backed a bill to quieten the Muslim call to prayer in Israel.

Netanyahu, speaking before a ministerial committee adopted the draft bill, said he would support such a move that 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.

"Israel is a country that respects freedom of religion for all faiths. Israel is also committed to defending those who suffer from the loudness of the excessive noise of the announcements," he added.

While the draft bill applies to all houses of worship, it is seen as specifically targeting mosques. If the bill is successful, it would ban them from using public address systems.

The bill now faces three readings in parliament before becoming law.

Netanyahu's government is considered the most right-wing administration in Israeli history.

Israel's population is roughly 17.5 percent Arab, most of them Muslim, and they accuse the Jewish majority of badly discriminating against them.

East Jerusalem is also mainly Palestinian and traditional calls to prayer by muezzins through PA systems can be heard in the city.

The Israel Democracy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, has accused Israel's right-wing politicians of using the issue to gain political points under the guise of improving quality of life.

Nasreen Hadad Haj-Yahya wrote in Israeli newspaper Maariv that "the real aim" of the bill "is not to prevent noise, but rather to create noise that will hurt all of society and the efforts to establish a sane reality between Jews and Arabs".

Member of Knesset Ahmad Tibi of the Arab Joint List told Ma'an News Agency the bill was the latest of "frequent attempts to harm the feelings of Muslims, under the trivial pretext of preventing noise".

Previous unsuccessful moves against the call to prayer date back to 2011, when an Israeli lawyer was tasked by a rabbi council to file a request for the Israeli occupation police to ban it under noise control laws.

Earlier this month Israeli right-wing extremists held protests outside the home of Israeli Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, demanding measures against the call to prayer they claimed was causing them distress.

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