‘Muezzin Law’ Lacking Support, but Lawmakers to Ask Police for Tough Noise Enforcement

Instead, MKs likely to make do with calling on police to step up enforcement of existing noise laws

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File photo: A mosque in the Israeli city of Acre.
File photo: A mosque in the Israeli city of Acre. Credit: Abdullah Shama
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee is to debate the “muezzin law,” which restricts amplified announcements from mosques, on Tuesday in preparation for the bill’s first vote.

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No vote is scheduled, however, and according to a committee source, because the bill doesn’t have sufficient backing from the coalition, committee members are expected only to call on the police to increase enforcement against noise nuisances based on existing laws.

The bill’s legislation was halted in January after the ultra-Orthodox parties announced they would not support it. A member of the Joint List said Sunday: “The Haredi parties made it clear to us they would not allow the bill to advance. There is no real deal between us on this issue but a similar worldview. We did not promise to help them in return on the conscription bill, even though on that issue we also have similar positions.”

In a preliminary vote on the bill last year, the Haredi parties supported it after the Friday-afternoon sirens announcing the advent of Shabbat were excluded from it. But later MKs Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) and Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) pledged that their parties would not help advance the bill further.

>> Is an Israeli bill to mute the muezzin a threat to Palestinian identity? | Opinion

During a Knesset Finance Committee meeting in January, MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) asked the two to make a public commitment to thwart the bill. Gafni made it clear he was keeping his promise, while Vaknin added, “I told you they could cut off my hand but I wouldn’t vote for the muezzin law.”

Later on, Zionist Union faction head MK Yoel Hasson tweeted, “We could save precious parliamentary hours, screen time and radio hours in advance, and just announce: The muezzin law won’t come to a vote because it simply has no majority.” Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay announced that his faction in Zionist Union would vote against the law in its present form. There is presently no opposition party expected to support the law.

The Knesset committee discussion will deal with two similar bills to amend the Nuisance Abatement Law, popularly known as the noise law. The bills would prohibit the operation of a public address system in a house of prayer that emits “loud or unreasonable noise.” Under the bills, the environment minister, with the approval of the interior minister, can determine under what circumstances loudspeakers would be permitted.

One of the bills was submitted by MK Robert Ilatov of Yisrael Beiteinu, while the other was submitted by MKs Moti Yogev (Habayit Hayehudi) and David Bitan (Likud). Yogev and Bitan’s version of the bill imposes a minimum fine of 5,000 shekels ($1,379) on houses of prayer, particularly mosques, that make announcements at hours prohibited by the law. The fine could rise to up to 10,000 shekels for each violation.

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