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Israeli lawmakers give initial approval to bill banning Muslim calls to prayers

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A Palestinian muezzin calls for prayer from the al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem al-Quds, November 21, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The Israeli parliament, Knesset, has given preliminary approval to a controversial bill that would ban Muslim calls to prayers from being announced via loudspeakers at mosques in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The "muezzin" bill was passed in the preliminary reading by 55-48 votes on Wednesday.

The bill was approved after a heated discussion that turned into shouting matches between the ruling coalition members and Arab lawmakers. Some Arab parliamentarians tore copies of the bill, which led to their expulsion from the chamber.

According to an Israeli parliament statement, the first measure in the bill prohibits the use of loudspeakers between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., a period which encompasses the first of Islam's five daily calls to prayer.

The second of the measures would completely ban places of worship from using loudspeakers during all hours.

The bill makes no mention of any specific religion, but it has become known as the "muezzin bill or law" as it blocks the traditional Muslim call to prayer that is broadcast through speakers mounted on mosques' minarets.

The controversial measure has garnered criticism from Muslims, Christians and Jews across the occupied Palestinian territories. It, however, has been supported by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli premier had earlier said he would back the controversial bill, adding that the calls to prayers made excessive "noise."


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