Turkey’s top cleric criticizes Israeli bill on Islamic call to prayer

Turkey’s top cleric criticizes Israeli bill on Islamic call to prayer

DOHA - Anadolu Agency
Turkey’s top cleric criticizes Israeli bill on Islamic call to prayer

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An Israeli bill calling for a ban on mosques using loudspeakers for the call to prayer has been condemned as a “rejection of Islam” by the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet).  

Mehmet Görmez said on Nov. 16 that the proposal to impose noise limits on places of worship “amounts to a rejection of Islam and Muslims’ presence in Jerusalem.”        

“Forbidding the call to prayer means the rejection of Muslims and Islam in Jerusalem throughout history. It is impossible to accept this,” Görmez told reporters during a visit to Qatar.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had backed the controversial bill, which watchdogs had called a threat to religious freedom.

Eventually the bill was blocked at parliament with the help of an unlikely source: The country’s ultra-Orthodox Jews.

The draft had been due to get its first reading in parliament this week until Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, a member of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, stepped in. Late on Nov. 15, Litzman said the bill could potentially affect similarly loud Jewish prayers, Israeli media reported.

Proposed by members of the far-right Jewish Home party, the bill was adopted by a ministerial committee and was due to go through three readings in parliament before becoming law. It will now be put on hold until a ministerial committee holds a second vote.

The bill was drafted to target noise from mosques, but would in theory apply to all religious institutions - including synagogues.

“For thousands of years, the Jewish tradition has used various tools, including shofars [a ram’s horn] and trumpets” for Jewish holidays, Litzman reportedly stated in his appeal letter against the bill.

“Since technology developed, loudspeakers have been used to announce the onset of the Sabbath, at the permitted volume level, and in compliance with every law,” he added, referring to the weekly Jewish day of rest.

He added that the proposed law constitutes an interference with religious practice and the status quo between religious authorities and the state.

In protest against the bill, Arab-Israeli lawmaker Talab Abu Arar chanted the Muslim call to prayer in parliament earlier this week, prompting angry protests from some Jewish MPs.

According to media reports, Arab deputies opposed to the bill pressured Litzman to use his power as a minister to block it, arguing in favor of a common right to religious practice for Jews and Muslims.