Update on Israeli Govt-Proposed Law to Muzzle Muslim Call to Prayer

As explained in the previous edition of Insiders’ Jerusalem, the Israeli government and Israeli lawmakers are currently wrestling with legislation designed to ban the Muslim call to prayer across Israel and East Jerusalem, with supporters of the bill calling the call to prayer a form of “noise pollution.”

According to the current draft of the law, the proposed ban would apply only to the dawn call to prayer (fajr) – and would impose heavy fines for violations – but would allow the other four calls to prayer (midday, afternoon, sunset, and night) to go ahead as normal. The draft was written this way as a compromise to resolve concerns that a broader ban would have to apply equally to the siren sounded throughout Israel to mark the start of the Jewish Sabbath on Friday evenings

However, on December 7 the bill, which was due to be voted on that day in the Knesset, was taken off the agenda – reportedly because Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to broaden the scope of the ban to cover the entire day [This, despite the fact that expanding the ban to the entire day (that is, banning all five calls to prayer) and somehow limiting its implementation to mosques – rather than also applying it to the Shabbat siren (or, for that matter, to church bells) – would contradict Israeli anti-discrimination legislation.

Yesh Atid MK Mickey Levy, a former chief of police, voiced his opposition to the draft legislation, which he said would be impossible to enforce. Instead, as other Arab MK have themselves suggested, Levy argued that the only way to address this issue is through dialogue with Israel’s Arab citizens. A similar position was articulated in an interfaith meeting initiated by Likud MK Glick and Zionist Union MK Bahloul. Israeli police also expressed opposition to the proposed legislation, suggesting that it would spark confrontations with Israel’s Arab citizens.

The arguments advanced by both the police and MK Levy suggest that a key rationale given for the draft law – i.e., that the police are not enforcing anti-noise legislation towards mosques because current law is not explicit enough – is baseless.

According to recent polling, 56% of Israeli Jews support the bill (in its current form) but it is notable that an even larger number, 59%, support resolving the issue through understanding between the affected communities.