Israel Threatens Religious Freedom of Muslims

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SHAFAQNA – The proposal has outraged Palestinians and Arab Israelis, while government watchdogs call it a threat to religious freedom and an unnecessary provocation.

A bill to limit the volume of calls to prayer at mosques blocked by the country’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties over concerns of threats to their religious freedom may soon have a second chance at being passed.

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, from the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, blocked the bill from being intorduced at Israel’s parliament, known as Knesset, this week. However, he said he is willing to lift his objection to the bill if an exception can be included for Jewish rituals, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The architect of the bill is lawmaker Moti Yogev of the hardline Jewish Home Party, who says it is meant to target noise at night. The controversial bill was approved by a government committee, but it would also limit sirens and trumpets used for Jewish holidays.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Yogev told Litzman that depriving a person of sleep is considered theft in Jewish law “since it cannot be returned,” in a reference to Muslim calls to prayer awakening residents. If Litzman decides to lift his objection the bill could go before a government committee on Sunday and be read at the  Knesset on Wednesday.

Muslims and pro-Palestinians in Israel have rejected the move calling it an “unnecessary provocation” and a threat to people’s freedoms, especially because the law would also apply to the occupied territories of east Jerusalem, where more than 300,000 Palestinians live.

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