Traditional Ramadan wakers who rouse Muslim faithful from sleep at 2 a.m. with public drums and music now face arrest and police fines in Jerusalem.
The wakers are young Palestinian men, known as Musaharati, who walk through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City banging drums and playing loud music between 2 and 3:30 a.m. to wake Muslims for prayer and their “suhoor” or predawn meal before they begin their daily fast during Ramadan.
The Musaharati are a Ramadan tradition and claim that they have carried out their practice in the Muslim Quarter without issue until this year — a change they blame on Jewish settlers in the Muslim Quarter, according to The Associated Press.
“They claim that we disturb them, but that’s not true. They want to erase something called Palestinian Jerusalemite heritage,” said Mohamed Hagej, according to AP.
Hagej has worked as a Musaharati for three years.
Fellow Musaharati Mohammed Hajiji echoed Hagej’s sentiment and alleged that the upsurge in fines and police intervention was the fault of three Jewish families living in the Muslim Quarter.
“There are three Jewish families in our neighborhood, one new one and two older ones. The policeman told me they had complained and asked me not to make noise near their houses,” Hajiji told Haaretz. “The whole thing lasts for 20 minutes, maybe a few seconds outside their house.
“I was told I’d be fined 450 shekels ($126) the first time and 1,000 shekels on the second occasion, with a further 1,000 after that.”
Hajiji said that officers detained him and took him to the police station, but he remains resolved to carry out the Ramadan tradition.
“There are a thousand people in the neighborhood who want this and 10 who complain,” he told Haaretz. “Because of them, 1,000 people will start the fast without eating first?
“Why should I be afraid if I’m not doing anything that is prohibited?”
A police representative issued a statement in response to the criticisms, saying officers acted lawfully to preserve citizens’ quality of life, to which public noise-making at 2 a.m. poses a threat.
According to Haaretz, the representative said police were “operating at all times to preserve the delicate balance between allowing freedom of religion and ritual and the maintenance of public order and the quality of life of all residents.
“Following complaints by residents of the Old City about the noise, police acted lawfully to stop the transgression. The police view noisemaking as a major hazard affecting the quality of life of the state’s citizens.
“The police act with resolve to prevent transgressions and enforce the law in violations such as these, based on the conception that the police’s role is mainly to deal with transgressions that affect law-abiding citizens.”
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