Israel's Dictating of a Tolerable Muslim Noise

To put an end to the loudspeaker nuisance there has to be goodwill, understanding of Muslims’ religious needs and a willingness to stop patronizing. Right-wing MKs display none of the above.

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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A mosque in Jaffa (archive photo).
A mosque in Jaffa (archive photo). Credit: Oren Ziv
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

The calls to prayer emitted by some mosques can indeed be a nuisance to their neighbors, Jews and non-Jews alike, especially when the muezzin makes his call before dawn. Some European countries and even Muslim countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia have restricted the volume of mosque loudspeakers and even tried to unify the timing of calls to reduce the noise in public places.

The bill approved Sunday by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation addresses this noise nuisance, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even explained his support for the bill by saying that the government is obligated to preserve not just freedom of worship but also quality of life. To this argument we could add the desire of secular people, Jews and Arabs alike, to reduce religion’s control over the public sphere, whether it’s expressed as noise from places of worship or religious coercion over public institutions and the private sphere.

But this bill isn’t motivated by liberal secular ideals or concern for the sensitive ears and quality of life of the mosques’ neighbors. The bill was submitted by Knesset members from the extreme right and is supported by Likud and Kulanu officials as part of the government’s war against Arab Muslims.

From the bill’s original wording, which also calls for “preventing houses of worship from being used for incitement and nationalist expressions,” and from the identity of the bill’s sponsors, one can conclude that this is another step in the effort to dictate to Muslims the Jewish state’s boundaries for “tolerable Muslim noise.”  

This bill joins the ludicrous demand that MKs, ministers and other officials make sure the flag is flown wherever they make an appearance. Event organizers who violated the law would be fined 5,000 shekels ($1,300), and public officials would be forbidden to attend other events held by the organization for six months.

In this case, too, the intent is not just to glorify the flag but to force Arab MKs to display their devotion to the symbol of the Jewish state. It’s interesting that the bill’s sponsors are the same loud legislators who consider Arab MKs traitors.

On Tuesday Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, head of United Torah Judaism, appealed the decision by the ministerial committee. He did so out of concern that the bill could adversely affect religious activity among Jews.

However, to put an end to the loudspeaker nuisance there is no need for a festival of declarative legislation. Understandings could be reached with the leaders of the Muslim community and the mosque managers. There might also be technological solutions that would replace the noisy calls to prayer.

But for this there has to be goodwill, understanding of Muslims’ religious needs and a willingness to stop patronizing. Right-wing MKs display none of the above.

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