Jordan rejects Israeli law banning call for prayer

Israel's 'Muezzin Bill' Update: Knesset Approves Controversial Bill In Preliminary Reading

Knesset Gives Preliminary Approval to Two 'Muezzin Laws'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu previously expressed support for the bill, saying "citizens of all religions" have complained about excessive noise from muezzins.

Palestinians on Thursday protested in the Gaza Strip to condemn this week's Knesset vote in which Israeli MPs approved a first reading of proposed legislation restricting the use of loudspeakers to amplify the Muslim call to prayer (adhan).

While the bills in theory would apply to any religious place of worship, Muslims say it is clearly meant to silence the traditional call to prayer at mosques.

According to a statement on Wednesday, Israel's parliament has tabled two bills, one that would prohibit the use of loudspeakers in mosques at all hours and another that would ban loudspeakers between 11pm and 7am in urban areas. Jordan, Israel's Arab neighbor, criticized the bill as a piece of "discriminatory" legislation that "violates Israel's obligations under global human rights", such as the right to freedom of religion.

"But unlike any of the other laws that infringe on our basic rights, this law specifically targets Muslims". MK Osama Sa'adi as removed after three warnings; MKs Masud Ganaim and the party's chairman Ayman Odeh were removed after the tore up copies of the bills; MK Ahmad Tibi was removed from the plenum after tearing up the bills at the podium.

About 80% of Israeli Arabs are Muslim; the rest are divided, roughly equally, between Christians and Druze.

The measure has become commonly known as the "muezzin law" after the Muslim official charged with calling the faithful to prayer, often through powerful speakers mounted on minarets.

Two versions of the so-called muezzin law were approved in a preliminary reading in the Knesset, despite angry reactions from Arab lawmakers.

Opponents say the law impinges on the religious freedom of Israel's Muslim minority, 20 per cent of the population who have long complained of discrimination. They make up almost 20 percent of Israel's population. Elkin reiterated to Israel Radio comments he had made in the Knesset a day earlier, that "such laws have been on the books for 25 years, so it is not clear why this law is being seen as it has been portrayed by some". In modern times, the mosques use loudspeakers to assist in making the call.

There is still time for the Israeli legislators to quash this initial law.

The bill - if passed - would impose fines on violators ranging between the equivalent of $1,300 and $2,600.

Under the proposed law East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in a move not recognised internationally, would be included in the ban.

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