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Turkey slams Israeli bill to reduce volume of call to prayer

Associated Press Associated Press 21/11/2016

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey on Monday criticized as "unacceptable" an Israeli proposal that would make mosques reduce the volume of loudspeakers issuing their call to prayer.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told reporters after a weekly Cabinet meeting that the proposal was contrary to religious freedoms and went against Jerusalem's historic multi-religious culture.

Kurtulmus said: "Bringing the restrictions on the call to prayer at Al-Aqsa and other mosques on the agenda is in no way acceptable." He was referring to the main mosque in Jerusalem.

Supporters of the Israeli bill have painted the issue as a matter of quality of life. The bill, however, has deepened a sense in the Arab minority that it is being marginalized.

The Turkish deputy prime minister's comments came as Israel and Turkey are preparing to exchange ambassadors as part of a reconciliation deal reached in June that ended six years of animosity between the two countries that were once close allies.

Meanwhile, in a rare interview with Israeli media, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said ties between the two countries are warming.

He said "I am convinced that we have advanced significantly toward normalizing relations," according to a Hebrew translation of his remarks to Channel 2 TV's investigative news program "Uvda," aired Monday.

Israeli-Turkish ties declined after Erdogan, whose party has roots in Turkey's Islamist movement, became prime minister in 2003.

Relations imploded in 2010 after a deadly Israeli naval raid on a Turkish ship trying to breach the blockade of Gaza, ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas.

The blockade was imposed by Israel and Egypt after Hamas took power in 2007.

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