There was uproar in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, on Wednesday – where initial approval was given to a bill which, if it becomes law, would have the effect of silencing the Muslim call to prayer.
Two versions of the bill were passed. It may ban summons to worship via loudspeakers from 11pm to 7am – or even at all times in residential areas.
Supporters say the measure will improve life for people living near mosques.
The bill is sponsored by right-wing parties.
“This is a socially-minded law that aims to protect citizens’ sleep, without, God forbid, harming anyone’s religious faith, either from Islam, Judaism or any other faith in God. This faith is common to us, Allahu Akbar, God is great,” said one of the sponsors, Motti Yogev of the Jewish Home Party.
For many Israeli Arabs, who make up almost 20 percent of the population, this is another example of discrimination. Opponents say the legislation impinges on the religious freedom of Israel’s Muslim minority.
Arab legislator Ayman Odeh tore up a copy of the bill during the heated debate and was ejected from the chamber.
“Here in this house we never interfered with any religious ceremony relating to you, to Judaism. You are committing a racist act, you interfere with the most sensitive issue for Muslims and hurt the religion of Islam,” said Israeli Arab lawmaker Ahmad Tibi.
A prominent centre-left Israeli politician, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, said the proposed law would only “spread hate and ignite tensions” between Muslims and Jews.
Under the plans East Jerusalem, whose annexation by Israel after the 1967 Middle East war is not recognised internationally, would be included in the ban.
The two versions of the bill which won approval will go to committee for further discussion – but a lengthy process is expected before a final vote in parliament would pass it into law.