Israel’s racist ban on Muslim call to prayer

21 November 2016
Jameela Jubran

Palestinians (or “Israeli Arabs” as the Zionists like to call them), who make up 20 percent of Israel’s population, have been continually subjected to a fierce campaign of repression.

Israel’s latest episode of racism came a couple of weeks ago, when a “Jewish Home” parliamentarian proposed a bill to ban mosques from performing Adhaan (call to prayer) through loudspeakers. This was a response to demands from a small group in the illegal settlement of Pisgat Zeev, which complained that Adhaan emanating from Jerusalem’s mosques is a form of “noise pollution”. The prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced his support for the bill, and within hours his government approved it and decided to move it to the Knesset.

Extreme right groups in Israel have for decades been trying to silence the call to prayer, but the bill never got enough support to pass the Knesset. Now, Israel wants vengeance against the latest UNESCO rulings, two of which have condemned Israel’s illegal practices in occupied East Jerusalem. After staging an unsuccessful campaign to counter the UN’s verdicts, Israel escalated its punitive measures against Palestinians by constructing yet more Jewish homes and threatening to demolish thousands of Palestinian homes. Now they plan to restrict Adhaan in various mosques in the holy city.

The call to prayer, five times a day, has not stopped in Jerusalem and all over Palestine for 15 centuries. The sound of Adhaan from mosques and the ringing of church bells not only carry a deep religious and spiritual meaning but also signify the Arab cultural identity and heritage. The call to prayer in occupied Palestine symbolises our people’s continuity and survival. This is why the Jerusalemites and the Arab communities in 1948 Palestine are protesting in the cities of Taibeh, Rahat and Kofr Qana of the Galilee. While discussion of the bill has been postponed on a technicality, there is outrage in every corner of Palestine at the Israeli government’s move.

Haneen Zoabi, an Arab member of the Knesset, said that this is a racist attempt to change culture and life in the occupied holy city. “For those who are not happy with it, they have to go back home to Europe”, she said. Father Atallah Hanna, Greek Orthodox archbishop of Sebastia, has strongly condemned the Adhaan ban, saying that it is an unprecedented step in Israel’s attempts to Judaise Jerusalem. “Today they are targeting the mosques, and tomorrow is the church’s turn”, he said.

In direct defiance of the Israeli occupation, thousands of Jerusalemites shouted the Adhaan in one voice for the Ishaa (evening prayer) from their rooftops on 19 November, in a majestic scene that gave me goose bumps. Churches in Nazareth, in the meantime, performed that Adhaan for the first time, in solidarity with their Muslim brothers and sisters and in defiance of the occupation.

“On this land, there is all that’s worth living for”, and I would add to Mahmoud Darwish’s verse, “and fighting for”.

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