Israel endorses bill to mute mosques—justice ministry

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JERUSALEM: Israeli ministers on Sunday endorsed a contentious draft bill which Muslims say is meant to silence the traditional call to prayer, information released by the justice ministry showed. A list of draft legislation put to the vote in the powerful ministerial committee on legislation marked the “bill for prevention of noise from public address systems in houses of prayer” as having “passed.” Approval by the committee means that the draft will now go before parliament as a government bill. While its heading makes no mention of any specific religion, the bill has become commonly known as the “muezzin law” after the lay Muslim officials charged with calling the faithful to prayer, often through powerful speakers mounted on minarets. An earlier draft was rejected because it might have silenced the siren sounded in Jewish areas at sunset on Friday to mark the start of the sabbath. “This law does not deal with noise nor with quality of life, just with racist incitement against a national minority,” Israeli Arab MP Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint Arab List, said in a statement. “The voice of the muezzin was heard here long before the racists of the (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu government and will after them,” he said. If passed into law the bill would apply to mosques in annexed Arab east Jerusalem as well as Israel, but not to the highly sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site, according to an Israeli official.

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AFP

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