The Jordanian Minister of Awqaf Dr. Hael Daoud contradicts himself when he interacts with extremism. A few days ago his public position was clearly a political propaganda aimed at the unification of the religious messages in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. What unifies these countries in politics and security can’t possibly be transformed when it comes to the official religious institutions which have stopped changing more than a thousand years ago.
The concept of the “renewal of religious thinking” is only launched when these Arab regimes desire to upgrade their outdated tools to deal with a big problem such as dealing with DAESH (ISIS) or to respond to a massacre like Charlie Ebdo or September 11th. Other than that, we find them at ease when dealing with the intolerance in our society in all its forms. In fact we see that this intolerance is put to use in different ways as part of the authoritarian tendencies in government.
No one disputes the authority of government on mosques except government itself which benefits from its various contradictions, warming up to some and distancing itself from others and vis a versa.
The present minister of waqf, belongs to the Islamic Center Party an organization that received government support following the boycott by the Islamic Brotherhood of the parliamentary elections. At the same time we notice that there is clear evidence of rapprochement with religious Salfi and Habashi elements in the waqf ministry.
A close look at what is happening to the Friday sermons will reveal that Salfis are dominating more than others despite the repeated public statements that supporters of DAESH ideologies will be prevented from giving sermons. The same issue applies to the religious court system and the department of Fatwa. A practical survey will reveal the effects of people in those positions with one of the biggest salfi thinkers, Naser eddine Al Albani. It is not a secret also that the libraries of the security forces and the military is full of books by Ibn Taimeh and Muhammad Ibn Abdel Wahab and others who are known for their hard line religious positions without delving into the results of such a situation.
Those responsible are aware of the problem and the similarities with Egypt where the Egyptian media has been attacking Al Azhar for not moving and in fact takfir (calling those who criticize it unbeliever). This happened with Ali Abdel Razeq and didn’t end with Naser Abu Zeid. Those criticizing al Azhar are saying out loud that the powerful ideological and financial support from Wahabis is making it difficult for Al Azhar to reform.
This Wahabi hegemony is not restricted to Jordan and Egypt and other Islamic states. Since the last quarter of the 20th century we have noticed its influence in the west which has been subject to political dictates. Islamic schools and centers adopting Wahabism has spread throughout Europe and north America, taking advantage of the economic and social upheavals that has been affecting the world.
To cover what has been happening in the last few decades, a public relations campaign has ensued in which government sheiks speak about the “beautiful picture of Islam” in various media outlets. A center for religious dialogue was opened in 2011 under the name “King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue” in the Austrian capital Vienna. This center, organizes conferences that cost millions in order to take pictures of religious leaders talking for a few hours about the dialogue between them, but are unable to condemn the flogging of a journalist or the denial of women to drive in Saudi Arabia.
We are confronting an official religious institutions in all Arab countries which sponsors hard-line positions and criticizes them at the same time based on political and security calculations.
This is why we see the simultaneous presence of the Minister of Islamic Waqf and the Foreign Minister in Jordan’s government as the latter talk about the launch of a new initiative. The “dialogue between cultures” which will be launched in Amman soon is being supported by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan with the aim of showing the” real image of Islam.
Once again, we need to point out to those in charge of this initiative, that these methods are useless and will not produce any results if the traditional authoritarian powers which believe and markets violent messages continue to operate normally in our countries.
Attempting to accomplish social justice and ending the policies of marginalization and exclusion without changing what is being taught in our schools and our religious institutions is therefore a total waste of time.
Ps. When I ended writing this column, I received an SMS message on my mobile phone from a company asking me to reply if I wanted to know who the “enemies of Mohammad and Islam” are, and of course for a fee? This reminded me of the taxes I am paying so that our sons and daughters get a good education and so that their minds are not imprisoned to a party that monopolizes and defends thought in the name of religion.
To read the Arabic original click here.