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Hamas condemns Israel mosque loudspeaker bill

There are more than 400 mosques in Israel and east Jerusalem, according to Israeli government figures, and implementing any law to reduce the volume of the call to prayer could be tough
Ahmad Gharabli (AFP)
The notion of Israeli legislation silencing mosques has sparked outrage around the Arab and wider Muslim world

Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on Friday denounced planned Israeli legislation that would quieten mosques, warning such a law would face stiff resistance.

The Israeli parliament on Wednesday gave preliminary approval to two controversial measures that would limit calls to prayers from mosques in Israel and occupied east Jerusalem, including one prohibiting the use of loudspeakers at all hours.

Ismail Haniya, deputy head of Hamas's political bureau, condemned the move.

"This decision will not pass," he said after Friday prayers in the Gaza Strip, which the Islamists run.

"Our people and nation will raise the Azan all over the world," he said, using the Arabic word for the Muslim call to prayer.

While the bills in theory would apply to any religious place of worship, Muslims say they are clearly meant to silence the traditional call to prayer at mosques.

The measures have become commonly known as the "muezzin law" after the Muslim official charged with calling the faithful to prayer, often through powerful speakers mounted on minarets.

The notion of Israeli legislation silencing mosques has sparked outrage around the Arab and wider Muslim world.

However, supporters of the move say it is needed to prevent daily disturbance to the lives of hundreds of thousands Israelis.

"Hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens — in the Galilee, Negev, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and other places in central Israel — suffer regularly and daily from the noise caused by the call of the muezzin from mosques," the proposed legislation reads.

The call to prayer, or adhan, is broadcast five times a day between dawn and night-time, at different hours according to the time of year.

One of the sponsors of the bill, Motti Yogev of the Jewish Home party, has 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.

Wednesday's bills were approved after a heated discussion that turned into shouting matches between ruling coalition members and Arab lawmakers, some of whom tore copies of the legislation and were ejected from the chamber.

(Staff with AFP)

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