Israel’s parliament has given preliminary approval to legislation to limit calls to prayers at mosques, much to the outrage of Muslim organisations.
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. The bills will have to be reconciled later in the legislative process, with three more readings required before they can become law.
According to reports, the bills were approved after a heated discussion descended into shouting matches between ruling coalition members and Arab lawmakers.
The notion of Israeli legislation silencing mosques has sparked outrage in the Arab and wider Muslim world.
In South Africa, Palestine Solidarity Alliance coordinator Naazim Adam shared this sentiment.
“This is something that is meant to undermine religious freedom and a practice that has been recognised for over 1 400 years,” he said.
Adam added that the bills would undermine Muslim identity in the area and compromise religious freedom.
“This is no different to the general spate of attacks on religious freedom we see in many other countries.”
Supporters of the move, however, say it is needed to prevent daily disturbances to the lives of hundreds of thousands of non-Muslim Israelis. Israel’s deputy ambassador to South Africa, Ayellet Black, said it was not an attempt to curb religious freedom, adding the Bills were still in the early stages.
“Similarly to the process in the South African government, the bills are in their early stages and in ongoing discussion. The bills, at its essence, are to limit noise in public spaces to better the quality of life.”
In Pretoria last year, the controversial construction of a mosque in the suburb of Valhalla went ahead, despite thousands of people signing a petition against it and outrage in the community. However, it was proposed that the call to prayer would not affect residents, as the mosque would use transmitters in Muslims’ houses.
Adam said that while the law would largely affect the Palestinian community in Israel, there was little recourse for those who opposed it, given the ongoing marginalisation of the Muslim and Palestinian people in the country.
“Palestinians are already restricted in terms of their movement. There have been housing demolitions, extra-judicial killings all done in the name of Jewish people’s right to the homeland of the Palestinian people, which has been their home for over a thousand years. It’s an attempt by the coloniser to delegitimise the Palestinian people.”