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Israeli parliament gives initial nod to silence mosques

Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest site, will be excluded if the bill is eventually enshrined. (Courtesy image: Wikimedia commons) Photograph: (Others)

AFP Jerusalem, Israel Mar 08, 2017, 07.20 PM (IST)

Separate decrees to prohibit mosques from using loudspeakers and limiting the number of calls to prayers have received initial support in the Israeli parliament amid intense opposition from Arab lawmakers.

Israel's attempt to muzzle mosques in the country has drawn condemnation from the Arab world and Islamic lawmakers in the country.

The controversial bills will have to go through three further readings before they are enshrined.

Although the bills do not directly mention mosques, it has proposed that all religious places of worship in East Jerusalem and the rest of the country will be disallowed from using loudspeakers in urban areas between 11 pm and 7 am. That means mosques will not be able to give the first call to prayer at dawn.

The bills passed 55-48 and 55-47 in the Knesset, or parliament.

They were approved amid vociferous protests from Arab lawmakers, some of whom tore copies of the bills to mark their protest. They eventually had to be ejected from the parliament.

Proponents of the bills say they are simply to prevent places of worship from disturbing residents in the vicinity.

Motti Yogev of the far-right Jewish Home, said the proposal was "a social law that aims to enable people to sleep".

"Loudspeakers have not been here forever, and in recent decades there are alarm clocks for whoever wants to wake up for the mosque," he said.

Ahmad Tibi of the predominantly Arab Joint List alliance of lawmakers called the measure "a racist act".

"This is an important Muslim religious ceremony, and (the Knesset) has never intervened in a Jewish religious event," he said.

But it is not just Arabs and Muslims who have lambasted the bills.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin previously spoke against the move.

Government watchdog groups have called the measure an unnecessary provocation that threatens freedom of religion.

At Wednesday's debate, Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin said the new law was necessary since the existing rules set a low fine that causes police to disregard noise violations.

The new proposed law sets a fine of 10,000 shekels ($2,714, 2,573 euros) to transgressors.

In Jordan, the official custodian of Muslim holy sites in annexed east Jerusalem, Information Minister Mohamed Momani condemned the bills as "discriminatory".

They were contrary to "Israeli commitments under the peace accord" that the Jewish state signed with Jordan in 1994, he said, quoted by the official news agency Petra.

(WION with inputs from AFP)

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