Law enforcement authorities in Israel’s Lod city, located 9.3 miles southeast of Tel Aviv, fined a Palestinian imam for making an Islamic call to prayer through a loudspeaker at a local mosque, according to reports. Authorities said that the action violated the anti-noise law in the Shnir area of the mixed Arab-Jewish city.
Mahmoud Alfar, the spiritual leader of the mosque, said he did not get any formal notice related to the fine but officials told him that it will be mailed to him, according to a Haaretz report on Monday. He will have to pay 750 shekels ($194) as fine.
Alfar’s brother Sheikh Adel Alfar told the Israeli newspaper that this was the first time the city fined an imam for noise caused by the call to prayer.
The Israeli parliament is mulling a controversial anti-noise legislation, dubbed the “muezzin law.” Muezzin refers to man who calls Muslims to prayer from the minaret of mosque, mostly using loudspeakers. Knesset proposed the bill on Nov. 13 and said that it would restrict the use of loudspeakers at mosques in the country to tackle noise. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supported the bill, which was criticised by Muslims, Jewish and Christian communities.
“There is no doubt that the city is taking advantage of the atmosphere and the proposed ‘muezzin law’ in order to be seen as fighting muezzins in Lod, and citing statutes out of the belief that it will deter us,” Sheikh Adel reportedly said, adding, “we shall not be deterred by threats and fines, and we have always said that everything can be solved at the negotiating table and through dialogue and mutual respect rather than by force and enforcement.”
The Lod municipality defended their stance saying Muslim religious leaders have been told to follow the local order. However, they did not pay heed to the warnings, the municipality said in a statement issued to Haaretz.
“The Lod municipality does everything it can to find appropriate methods and to strike a balance between the duty to protect the environment and prevent noise in the public sphere, and the need to preserve religious freedom and cultural religious traditions,” the municipality reportedly said.
“In addition, the mayor and the city’s leaders respect the Muslim religion and this is not an attempt to injure it or Lod’s Arab residents, however with regard to matters of law and order and everything connected to the public sphere, there is no difference between a Jewish resident and an Arab resident.”