Thousands of Israeli Arabs on Friday took to the streets to protest the so-called Muezzin Law, vowing that the call of “Allahu akbar” that is sounded by the person called a Muezzin during the Muslim call to prayer will continue to be heard.
The protests took place following Friday prayers in Kafr Qasim, Tayibe, Kabul, Kafr Kanna and Rahat.
Protesters called to stop the legislative process, waving banners that read, “Silence the voice of racists, not the voice of the muezzin” and “A racist law”.
The law would prohibit all places of worship from using loudspeakers which disturb citizens’ sleep, but Arabs see it as specifically targeting mosques, since synagogues do not use loudspeakers.
No one is silencing the muezzin, supporters explain, just the decibel level at midnight and before dawn. They claim that many Arabs have quietly expressed their support for the law.
At a protest in Kafr Qasim, the mayor, Adel Badir, said, according to the Yedioth Ahronothnewspaper, “Here, at this place where we’re demonstrating, 49 martyrs were murdered in a massacre carried out by soldiers.”
“We were born with ‘Allahu akbar,’ and we’ll continue saying, ‘Allahu akbar,'” he declared.
One Kafr Qasim resident who was at the protest said, according to Yedioth Ahronoth, “If this racist law passes, quiet will not come. We’ll continue to fight with all (our) strength, and it doesn’t matter to us what the results may be. Arrests, indictments and investigations won’t deter us. The Israeli government must understand that harming the Muslim religion is a red line.”
MK Ahmed Tibi (Joint List), who earlier this week called on the Arab public to disobey the law should it pass, took part in a protest on Friday in the Arab village of Jisr az-Zarqa, located in northern Israel north of Caesarea, and once again spoke out against the bill.
Passing the law, said Tibi, is “an act of coercion and provocation”.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s involvement in the law has made it the focus of international interest, including in the Islamic world, which sees it as hurting the feelings of Muslims across the world,” he added, according to Channel 10 News.
Indeed, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has expressed support for the law, but it appears that the legislative process is on hold for now.
While the Ministerial Committee for Legislation has approved the bill, a preliminary vote on it was postponed after Health Minister Ya’akov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) filed an appeal against the law.
Litzman objects to the law in its present wording on the grounds that its wording may leave room for it to be used against the siren that sounds in many Israeli cities on Friday afternoons to announce the start of the Sabbath.
On Friday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) indicated that she does not support the bill either although she agrees with its aim and abstained during the vote in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.
“There is already a law against excessive noise which is not being enforced. The Interior Minister, the Internal Security Minister, and the Environment Minister all agreed that the existing regulations [cover the issue of the muezzin], but they have to be enforced,” said Shaked’s office.
“Justice Minister Shaked believes that when it is possible to enforce the existing law there is no need to legislate further. Nevertheless, the idea expressed in the law is important, and therefore Shaked decided to abstain,” the statement continued.