Israeli president hosts interfaith meeting to discuss mosque loudspeaker bill



Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (third from left) poses Tuesday with Jewish and Muslim leaders at his residence in Jerusalem. Credit: Mark Neiman/GPO.

( Israeli President Reuven Rivlin hosted a meeting of Jewish and Muslim leaders Tuesday amid the ongoing controversy surrounding proposed legislation that would limit the volume of Muslim calls to prayer from mosques across Israel.

The Knesset bill initially sought to prevent the broadcasting of nationalistic messages and incitement over mosque loudspeakers (muezzins), but was later reworded to cite “excessive noise” from houses of worship. The bill’s supporters contend that noise from calls to prayer negatively affects the quality of life of nearby residents of all faiths—including some Muslims—that are not interested in the five-times-a-day ritual. The proposal’s opponents suggest the measure was offered specifically to discriminate against mosques.

Muslim leaders who attended Rivlin’s meeting in Jerusalem emphasized their existing efforts to limit the loudspeakers’ noise. Sheikh Mohammed Ciooan, the head of an organization that represents around 400 imams in Israel, said he hopes “we can reach an agreement through talks, without such laws.”

“We will bring engineers that will check everything and we will issue a call to all worshippers to work for consideration and decrease the volume anywhere that constitutes a problem,” Ciooan said.

Sheikh Abdel al-Hakim Samara, president of the Islamic Sharia Court, said Jewish and Muslim leaders could “reach solutions wherever the loudspeakers are a problem. Once the law goes through without us attempting to resolve the issue through dialogue, it causes us to feel that our freedoms are vulnerable.”

Jewish leaders echoed the argument for dialogue over legislation.

“I see the need for a joint call for dialogue, which should be issued by the highest Jewish and Muslim religious leadership in the country—which in turn will possibly pull the rug from under the need for such a bill to be passed,” said Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rabbi Aryeh Stern. 

“We still have a lot of problems that revolve around coexistence, but they will not be resolved with legislation,” said Chief Rabbi of Akko Rabbi Yosef Yashar.

Posted on November 29, 2016 .