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'We all pray to one God': Interfaith meeting urges Knesset to nix muezzin bill

The minaret of a mosque and the Dome of the Rock are seen in a Palestinian neighbourhood in east Jerusalem's Old City
Ahmad Gharabli (AFP)
'Legislation does not need to manage our lives; true dialogue should,” said Zionist Union MK Zouheir Bahloul

"We all pray to one God — and we are all brothers,” a representative of the Druze community told a gathering of Jewish, Muslim and Druze leaders gathered in the Knesset Monday to show joint opposition to the controversial "muezzin bill."

The legislation being discussed in the Israeli parliament would limit the volume of loud speakers used at religious establishments, however the bill is viewed by many as unfairly targeting mosques.

The meeting, organized by Likud MK Yehudah Glick and Zionist Union MK Zouheir Bahloul, challenged the government to shelve the proposed legislating and follow a path of dialogue in its stead.  The group also called for the formation of a joint Jewish-Muslim task force which would mediate complaints within communities which view the noise as bothersome, said the Times of Israel.

“Legislation does not need to manage our lives; true dialogue should,” Bahloul said, according to the Jerusalem Post.

AFP/Getty Images

“The cooperation between MK Glick and me is the essence of ‘yes’ to understanding and dialogue and ‘no’ to antagonistic and forceful legislation.”

“Many people wanted to prevent this conference," said Glick. "But we are not here to be forceful; we’re here to make agreements.”

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.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has backed the bill citing similar legislation in parts of Europe, which if agreed would apply across Israel, and also to annexed east Jerusalem where more than 300,000 Palestinians live.

Israeli President Reuvin Rivlin held a similar meeting with interfaith leaders at the President's residence in Jerusalem last week.

Mark Neiman/ GPO

“We are really angry,” Sheikh Muhammad Kiwan, chairman of the Council of Muslim Leaders was quoted by the Times of Israel as saying. "In no way will I agree that this bill be passed.”

While many at the gathering saw alternatives to the legislation, some argued that dialogue is not enough.

"The attempts at dialogue have not been successful,” Rabbi Israel Samet from the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Lod said of such attempts in his community.

“We hit a wall on this matter. Everyone, everyone, suffers from this," he said, referring to the calls to prayer.

AHMAD GHARABLI (AFP/Archives)

Former Knesset member Rabbi Haim Amsalem expressed a similar sentiment, saying that the prayer call at dawn "really does disturb” the community, said the Times of Israel.

“Why not send a Whatsapp message calling to pray, instead?” Amsalem suggested as an alternative.

The meeting concluded with an agreement on a resolution asking the Knesset to remove the bill from its agenda, said the Jerusalem Post.

“The right to religious worship is God-given and not a matter of legislation," states the resolution.

"This right was also recognized in the Declaration of Independence. We want to see a dialogue between the sides," it continues. "We do not deny the right of the muezzin to call to prayer, as is commanded by Islam, on the one hand, and on the other, we call to find implementable solutions... to the call at dawn while taking the whole population into consideration.”

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