In its constant endeavors to eliminate extremism and radicalism, the Saudi ministry of Islamic Affairs issued a remarkable statement declaring a new system to prohibit the “fatwa mayhem” that has taken place lately. As important as this endeavor is, we hope that the Saudi religious authorities do not only focus on the symptoms and ignore the source of the disease. The real problem is found in the quality of the fatwa that is issued and the ideology that it represents.
Last week, I attended Friday prayers in one of the mosques of the Saudi capital. The sermon that was delivered before the prayer addressed the issue of summer vacations stating that to travel to atheist countries is religiously forbidden except in cases of urgency. The speaker further added that one who travels to such countries for reasons that are not related to “education or medical treatment” is contradicting Sharia law.
The truth is that such an ignorant suggestion demonstrates the continuing strengthening of an extremist ideology and presents religious explanations that have absolutely no connection to the practices of Prophet Mohammed. As the speaker shouted the content of his sermon, he strongly criticized those who commit the “sin” of traveling to atheist countries. Included in this list were the Saudi national football team, its fans and administration, all of whom are in Germany taking part in the World Cup tournament. Furthermore, participants of diplomatic missions as well as thousands of students who study abroad were included in this list, as the speaker had clarified that the only valid reason to study abroad is if the subject of study is not available in their native country. A large number of students abroad study subjects that are available in their homeland, however, abroad, the quality of education and learning is of a much higher level. The speaker finally ended his sermon by cursing the Christians and Jews.
Personally, I did not take part in these invocations against Jews and Christians as in the past, Jewish doctors have cured the illness of a relative and Christians live amongst us performing their roles honorably and faithfully, therefore, why would I pray that God curses them? The speaker has chosen to follow a path that differs to that of the Prophet Mohammed who always prayed for all people to be guided by God.
The continuation of such falsehood and fanaticism that cloaks itself in religion is disgraceful. Saudi Arabia’s journey in combating extremism will be a lengthy one that does not tolerate any flattery or half solutions. The aforementioned Friday sermon is only one depressing example of the plague from which we suffer.