Monday, November 21, 2016
A shameful bill is approved in Israel that challenges religious freedom
Israel, the darling of the west, the so-called only democracy in the Middle-East, has been showing its another ugly side these days. She is trying to curtail religious freedom of Muslims by banning the call to Muslim prayer.
At the beginning of the week, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill Sunday evening to ban mosque muezzins from announcing prayer times via loudspeakers in the streets. The bill was submitted by MK Motti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) and Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu) after numerous complaints from residents of various cities. The first call to prayer occurs at approximately four or five in the morning every day, disturbing the sleep of local residents.
The bill passed an initial reading in the Knesset and then was passed on to the committee stage for further rounds of voting. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself voiced his broad agreement with the legislation.
Some 2,000 protested on Friday against the "Muezzin Bill" in Kafr Qasim, Tayibe, Kabul, Kafr Kanna and Rahat.
They called to end the legislative process that aims to prevent mosques from using loudspeakers to announce prayer times after leaving Friday prayers. They waved banners that read, "Silence the voice of racists, not the voice of the muezzin" and "A racist law," and cried, "The voice of the muezzin will not be stopped; such a law will not be followed."
Kafr Qasim's mayor, Adel Badir, joined those protesting in his city. He said, "Here, at this place where we're demonstrating, 49 martyrs were murdered in a massacre carried out by soldiers." Referencing the words contained in the call to worship that mean "God is (the) greatest," the mayor continued, "We were born with 'Allahu akbar,' and we'll continue saying, 'Allahu akbar.'" all of Muslim prayer over loudspeakers.
Tayibe Mayor Shuaa Mansur also warned about the effects of the legislation: "These extreme measure of the Israeli government is a challenge to the Arab populations, which believes in shared life and freedom of worship. We believe that Jews and Christians too must be given freedom of worship everywhere in the world. I hope that the voice of sanity in this country, including that of the attorney general, will triumph." He said that Netanyahu should "not be dragged over by the extreme right. At the end of the day, you're everyone's prime minister."
A Tayibe resident at the protest said, "The muezzin is an inseparable part of the prayer, which is required of every believing Muslim. Therefore, a proper democratic country should defend its existence and certainly not prevent it, as this is part of the freedom of religion and faith."
Note that although in the beginning the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party leader objected to the bill because he feared it would be used to ban the use of sirens to mark the start of Shabbat, a common practice in Jewish communities, he is now withdrawing his objection with the understanding that Jewish sirens will not be stopped during Shabbat. If the legislation is not discriminatory, what is discrimination?
MK Ahmad Tibi said Friday that if the law passes, he and his colleagues from the Arab parties’ Joint List will petition the High Court of Justice against it on the grounds that it discriminates against Muslims and infringes on their freedom of religion.
“This law will silence Muslims but exempt Jews. The law will undermine Israeli Muslims’ freedom of religion,” he said.
“This law is unnecessary, provocative and outrageous. The issues can be solved without coercion. Jews and Arabs in various parts of the country have reached solutions through dialogue, and we need to keep moving in this direction.”
Over the past few days, Muslim religious leaders in Pakistan, Turkey and Lebanon have contacted Tibi to voice concerns about the bill, he said.
His Joint List colleague MK Basel Ghattas said that "if mosques are silenced, we will make sure that the muezzin will be heard in churches, in Nazareth, in Haifa, in Jaffa and in Jerusalem."
"In recent days I've spoken with a number of Christian Arab religious leaders and we agreed that this bill poses a danger not only to mosques or to Muslim Arab citizens, but also endangers churches and Christian Arabs and the Palestinian identity.
"Therefore, we won't stand idly by, and will act against this bill in all possible ways," he said.