Municipal authorities in Lod have fined a local imam 750 shekels ($193), claiming that his mosque has violated a local antinoise ordinance. Mahmoud Alfar, the spiritual leader of the mosque, located in the Shnir neighborhood of the mixed Arab-Jewish city in central Israel, says he has not received formal notification of the fine yet, but was told it will be sent to him by registered mail.
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Sheikh Adel Alfar, the imam’s brother, told Haaretz this is the first time the city has ever fined an imam for excessive noise caused by the muezzin’s call to prayer. The sheikh added that it was a harsh measure that could inflame tensions, at a time when the Knesset is debating controversial antinoise legislation dubbed the "muezzin law."
Alfar said the popular council of local residents will convene Tuesday to discuss the implications of the fine and the response to it.
“There is no doubt that the city is taking advantage of the atmosphere and the proposed 'muezzin law' in order to be seen as fighting muezzins in Lod, and citing statutes out of the belief that it will deter us,” the sheikh said, adding, “we shall not be deterred by threats and fines, and we have always said that everything can be solved at the negotiating table and through dialogue and mutual respect rather than by force and enforcement.”
In a statement, the Lod municipality said that in the past several years, innumerable attempts had been made to deal with what it termed the public nuisance of the muezzin’s calls to prayer, which it claims constitute a gross violation of existing law and harm residents’ quality of life. Such measures have included asking Muslim religious leaders to significantly lower the volume of the loudspeakers used by muezzins, but to no avail,
The city said that fines can only solve the problem at a specific mosque, in the best case, but cannot provide a comprehensive solution to the problem.
“The Lod municipality does everything it can to find appropriate methods and to strike a balance between the duty to protect the environment and prevent noise in the public sphere, and the need to preserve religious freedom and cultural religious traditions," according to the statement.
"In addition," it continued, "the mayor and the city’s leaders respect the Muslim religion and this is not an attempt to injure it or Lod’s Arab residents, however with regard to matters of law and order and everything connected to the public sphere, there is no difference between a Jewish resident and an Arab resident."