Arab Israelis protest mosque loudspeaker bills
Thousands of Arabs staged a protest march Saturday in northern Israel against legislation aimed at silencing mosque loudspeakers, an AFP reporter said.
Some three thousand men and women marched through the town of Kabul, holding Palestinian flags and signs saying “The muezzin law won’t pass” or “Don’t silence the muezzin”, chanting against the legislation and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel’s parliament on Wednesday gave preliminary approval to two controversial bills that would limit the calls to prayer from mosques in Israel and occupied east Jerusalem, including one prohibiting the use of loudspeakers at all hours.
The 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.
While the bills in theory would apply to any religious place of worship, Muslims say they are clearly meant to silence Islam’s traditional call to prayer.
The measures have become commonly known as the “muezzin law” after the official charged with making the call to the faithful, often through powerful speakers mounted on minarets.
The notion of Israeli legislation silencing mosques has sparked outrage around the Arab and wider Muslim world.
Supporters of the move say it is needed to prevent daily disturbances to the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis.
Members of the Arab Joint List and the Islamic Movement took part in Saturday’s march.
Arab Israelis are descendants of Palestinians who remained after Israel’s creation in 1948, and account for about 17.5 percent of the country’s eight million population, with many identifying as Palestinian.