Israeli Parliament passed a bill prohibiting the use of loudspeakers at mosques for Azan (call to prayer).
Ban on amplified calls to prayer in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem won preliminary approval in a charged parliamentary session where Palestinian legislators denounced the measure as racist.
The bill passed a preliminary reading with 55 votes in favour and 48 against as the assembly broke out into chaotic arguments.
Zuheir Bahloul, a Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, called the bill “a declaration of war… between sanity and racism” against Israel’s Palestinian minority.
Palestinian lawmaker Ahmed Tibi told supporters of the legislation they were “committing a racist act”.
Ayman Odeh, a member of the Joint List – a political bloc of parties representing Israel’s Palestinian minorities – was escorted out of the assembly hall after he stood up and ripped a copy of the bill into pieces.
Supporters of the bill say it is aimed at improving the quality of life for people living near mosques who say they have lost sleep with the early morning calls through loudspeakers mounted on minarets.
“This is a social-minded law that aims to protect citizens’ sleep, without, God-forbid, harming anyone’s religious faith,” said legislator Motti Yogev, one of the bill’s sponsors.
But critics of the bill say its legislation is redundant due to existing noise regulations, and that it was a clearly designed to further infringe on the basic rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, the majority of whom are Muslim.
Jordan and Turkey separately condemned the bill on Thursday.
Mohammed Momani, a spokesman for Jordan’s government, said the 1994 peace treaty includes a “clear clause” obliging Israel to “respect” Jordan’s role in taking care of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem.
“This legislation represents a breach of this legal obligation in the peace treaty,” Momani said. “It also implies discrimination.”
Mehmet Gormez, head of Turkey’s Presidency of Religious Affairs, said the bill was “unacceptable”, adding that Muslims in Jerusalem would read the call to prayer together, in defiance.
An estimated 1.7 million Palestinians – comprising Christians, Muslims and Druze – carry Israeli citizenship and live in cities, towns and villages across the country. They make up nearly 20 percent of Israel’s population.