RAMALLAH/GAZA, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- Palestinians have reacted angrily to an Israeli draft bill that bans mosques from using loudspeakers for the call to prayer at night in Jerusalem and Israel.
A new version of the so-called muezzin bill prohibits the use of loudspeakers for religious purposes from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. It was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the bill, saying it "would drag the area to disaster."
Abbas called for an immediate Arab and Muslim move to pressure Israel to annul the bill, according to an official statement published by WAFA, the official news agency of Palestinian National Authority (PNA).
Palestinian Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs Yousif Idais said the bill is an attempt to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a religious one.
"It expresses racism that goes beyond politics and delves into religion," Idais said in an emailed statement.
The bill "is pushing the entire region into a religious war," Idais warned.
In Israel and the Palestinian territories, there are hundreds of mosques, where the call to prayer happens five times a day; the first of which happens at dawn.
According to Israel Radio, the muezzin bill prohibits the use of loudspeakers to call for prayer in Jerusalem and in Israel. The bill would prohibit calling the prayer from 11p.m. to 7 a.m.
The bill was sponsored by two members of the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, representing the right wings parties of Habayit Hayehudi and Likud, saying the calls to prayer early morning disturb the sleep of hundreds of thousands of Jews and Arabs.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the bill, saying that people "of all religions have complained countless times about noise from the muezzin," according to Israeli media.
PNA spokesman Yousif al-Mahmoud said the bill "was a violation of freedom to worship in Jerusalem."
"It is unbelievable that the long religious and cultural history of the city is being destroyed with the stroke of a pen," al-Mahmoud said in a press statement emailed to Xinhua.
"The holy city in particular and Palestine in general had a history of respect and harmony between all residents regardless of their religious beliefs," the spokesman said.
Mahmoud al-Habbash, an advisor to Abbas on religious affairs, told Xinhua that the Israeli bill clearly shows that Israel is going ahead with its aggression on the Palestinian people and keeps challenging the world's will and the international law which allows free worshipping.
In Gaza, Islamic Hamas movement spokesman Hazem Qassem said the approval of the bill to prohibit mosques from calling to prayers "is a continuation of the Israeli policy to wipe our people's identity by preventing them from practicing their religious rituals."
"All laws all over the world are allowing all religions to practice its religious rituals freely with no restrictions," the spokesman said in an emailed press statement.
The Islamic Hamas movement has been ruling the Gaza Strip since 2007.
"The bill is fully racist and would drag the entire region into deeper conflicts," the Hamas spokesman said.
According to Israeli Radio, if the bill becomes law, it "would apply to mosques in annexed Arab east Jerusalem as well as Israel, but not to the highly sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam's third holiest site in the old city of Jerusalem."
The radio, quoting Israeli officials, said if the bill passes its initial reading in the Knesset, expected to take place on Wednesday, it will be sent back to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, after which it will again come before the plenum for its second and third readings prior to becoming law.
Critics of the bill have argued that the draft legislation was superfluous given existing noise regulations, and therefore could be construed as an attack specifically targeting the Muslim right to worship.
The current version of the "Muezzin bill" -- referring to the men responsible for the call to prayer -- only affects the call for the Muslim dawn prayer, also known as al-Fajer prayer.