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Prayers in Public Squares - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Last Friday, Hamas attacked worshippers as people took part in Friday prayer and dispersed them by force whilst Fatah opposed and demanded their right to perform prayers in public squares. What is the religious opinion in this regard?

As usual, there are two versions of religion: the Islam of the government and the Islam of the opposition. The Mufti of the government of Hamas, Sheikh Marwan Abu Ras, head of Palestinian Scholars’ Association, said, “Whoever prays outdoors is guilty because it involves using prayer for purposes other than worship.” In other words, whoever doesn’t pray behind the government’s Imam is a sinner. Meanwhile, Palestinian Chief Justice Sheikh Taysir al Tamimi confirmed that prayer in public squares is permissible and in agreement with the Prophet’s tradition. He condemned Hamas militants for beating worshippers in Gaza. In other words, he advocated the gathering of people behind a preacher to criticize the government.

The scene has transformed from politics to religion – as it was Hamas that was using public squares for anti-government prayers for the last 15 years. On Friday, Hamas used the act of praying for political purposes, during which it made its opposing stance public, introduced its figures and led the incitement. Fatah, when it was in power in Gaza, considered prayers in squares and opposition mosques the exploitation of religion.

The religion of Hamas and the religion of Fatah are not new heresies as they are prevalent today. Friday prayer is humiliated each week in the Muslim world where it is used politically in order to divide Muslims of the same home not only the same town or the same country. Everyone has carried a copy of the Holy Quran under his/her arm and cited from it, appealed for their scholars and Muftis and built mosques. Doesn’t this situation, which is breaking the Ummah apart, deserve acknowledging the biggest problem facing Muslims today all over the world, namely, the dangers of using unchangeable religion for ever-changing politics? Anyone who looks at the fatwas of Al Qaeda and similar movements, opposition parties, governments and independents will see that religion has come to be used as the major factor to divide ranks, to take up arms, to split society into tiny fragments, and to cause massive destruction, which has no respect for sacredness or non-sacredness.

Gaza is yet another repeated example of what is taking place all over the world from Jakarta to Rabat. Everybody exploits religion for their own purposes in order to consolidate or demolish governance. We advised the separation of religion from politics and this was attacked by two categories of people: those who are ignorant of the nature of the problem and those who benefit from exploiting religion. In politics, most people think that matters are clear and decisive, which has never been the case. Politics is always changing and politicians’ attitudes and personalities are also varying, but religion is constant. If a party excessively uses religion for political purposes such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, it will do what Hamas and the Egyptian government are doing today. We would see the government’s patrol cars (that is those of the Brotherhood) arrest those who are preaching in mosques against its foreign policy and domestic decisions. The pursued ones will not be involved in the government, including those from the banned parties of al Wafd, National Democratic Party, and Jihad, which will claim that the Muslim Brotherhood’s government renounced the application of Shariaa.

In reality, this portrayal may be ridiculous; however, we are witnessing the same thing in Gaza today as Hamas police strike worshippers from the opposition. Is this scene comical or bloody?

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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