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Radical Islamism and Jihad ( 2 Aug 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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More and More Islamic Countries Monitor Friday Sermons to Prevent Extremism

Some Preachers Deliver Hate Speech from the Pulpit

Main Points:

1. Jordan imposed restrictions on Friday sermons.

2. Egypt, Pakistan and Bangladesh imposed restrictions on Friday sermons.

3. Pakistan has suggested 44 topics for Friday sermons.

4. In Bangladesh, preachers have to read out written sermons.

5. Many preachers openly support terrorist organisations.


New Age Islam Staff Writer

2 August 2021

Friday sermons have been a powerful platform for disseminating Islamic knowledge and forming public opinion and imams and Khateeb (preachers) have used this platform for educating and guiding Muslims on important issues in every age. Since the Friday prayers attract a large population of Muslims in the locality, the imams and preachers find this opportunity to deliver important messages of larger public interests.

However, many imams and preachers with political affiliations and sectarian bias also started using Friday sermons for their petty political or sectarian purposes. Speeches full of sectarian hatred or inciting Muslims against popular elected governments were also delivered in many Muslim countries. Some extremist preachers also supported extremist organisations. After the emergence of the ISIS, many preachers openly supported or glorified the ISIS as the flag bearers of caliphate. This caused chaos and violence in many Islamic countries.

As Friday sermons became more and more problematic for the governments and the society, the respective governments felt the need to monitor the sermons and reign in 'firebrand' preachers.

This need was felt more after the emergence of the ISIS as preachers affiliated to hardline Islamic organisations supported the ISIS and encouraged youth to join it.

In 2014, Jordan was one of the countries that was the first to decide to monitor the Friday sermons because the ISIS was gaining ground in the country due to the support of some Salafi preachers. The Islamic Affairs Ministry told the preachers and imams to preach moderate Islam in their Friday sermons and warned them of strict action if they violated the order. The minister told them to deliver the sermon only for 15 minutes citing the example of the holy prophet pbuh whose sermons were short and concise. Not only that, the ministry even suggested the preacher’s topics for Friday sermons. Here are some of the topics:

1. Security and Stability: the need for unity in a time of crisis

2. The Hijra New Year: Lessons derived from the prophet's flight from Mecca

3. The beginning of the rainy season--- safety measures in preparation of winter.

In 2016, Bangladesh government also decided to monitor the Friday sermons after a number of terror attacks particularly attacks on a bakery took place allegedly by the ISIS and some attackers acknowledged that they were influenced by the speeches of Dr Zakir Naik.

In Bangladesh, preachers often deliver sermons that incite extremism or spread sectarian hatred. This prompted the government to control the Friday sermons in 300,000 mosques across the country. The Islamic Foundation, an institution of the Bangladesh government decided to send pre-written texts to the preachers before the prayers.They were instructed to deliver sermons against terrorism and extremism in order to prevent the spread of extremist ideas among the youth.

In 2018, the government of Pakistan also took a similar decision. Since a section of the imams and preachers of Pakistan subscribing to sectarian and extremist ideology often deliver incendiary speeches inciting hatred and violence, the National Counter-terrorism Authority imposed restrictions on Friday sermons delivered by preachers and imams. The government suggested 44 subjects on which preachers could deliver Friday sermons. However, the preachers said they will co-operate with the government but would not accept any written script.

In 2016, Egypt's Ministry of Religious Endowment imposed similar restrictions on imams of mosques. Imams were directed to read identical sermons on suggested topics to prevent terrorism and extremism. The ministry will set themes for Friday sermons. For example, one theme was:

"Importance of redeveloping squatter settlements and helping the poor"

Though monitoring Friday sermons is not new in most of the Gulf States like Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt as the kingdoms and Emirates want to suppress dissent, other democratic countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh had to implement such restrictions because the preachers had made the pulpit a platform to spread sectarian and extremist ideas which were promoting extremist ideologies. In principle, the government should not dictate imams what to say and what not to as they have the knowledge of Shariah but the imams also should realise that the pulpit should not be used for sectarian or political purposes. In May this year, a preacher named Ameer Hamza was arrested for inciting violence and glorifying militants. Another preacher of Pakistan Syed Muzaffar Shah Qadri who openly supported the killing of Salman Taseer and glorified Mumtaz Qadri was banned from preaching in Pakistan but he was invited to the UK to deliver sermons in some mosques.

Such extremist preachers spread hatred and incite the Muslim youth to revolt against the democratic governments and encourage them to join extremist organisations. Therefore, the governments of Islamic countries had to form.mechanism to monitor the Friday sermons delivered from the pulpit.


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