ABU DHABI // Young people must be able to distinguish righteous religious leaders as those who call for peaceful tolerance, not destruction and bloodshed, Egypt’s minister of religious endowments said on Wednesday.
Dr Mohammed Gomaa listed issues that need to be clarified for youth to protect society from radicalism as he spoke at the first of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Ramadan majlis series in Abu Dhabi.
Young people must be told that the Islamic political system is pragmatic and does not have to follow the structure founded in the early Islamic era, that Prophet Mohammed’s message calls for mercy to all humanity and not just Muslims, and that only the state has the right to declare war, not political parties and organisations.
Some governments have mistakenly answered the question of how to protect youth from radicalism by enforcing religiousness into their societies, without educating on the fundamentals of Islam, Dr Gomaa said.
Humans are drawn to religion by nature, so if a young person with no knowledge of Islam’s teachings was told to do something in the name of the religion, he was “easy prey”, the minister said.
Youth could be protected from radicalism if it was explained to them that Islam prohibited the killing of others, that religion could not be forced upon people, and that no one should be killed for not believing, said Dr Gomaa.
He cited an example when Prophet Mohammed saw that a woman from an enemy’s army had been killed in the battlefield.
“He denounced it and asked, ‘Who killed her?’ He told them she was not there to fight, even though she was with the enemy’s army, and killing of others was permissible only as a reaction to an attack,” Dr Gomaa said.
He stressed that the flow of radicalism should be cut by stopping unqualified individuals from preaching about religion.
“The radicalism we experienced was the result of opening the field for everyone,” he said.
Religious institutions should promote spiritual devotion and patriotism to one’s country side by side, he said, and that extremists had no sense of loyalty to their homeland, so nothing stopped them from destroying it.
“They are only loyal to the political party or the organisation they belong to,” said Dr Gomaa.
People should be aware that some groups are practising “political religiousness”, pretending and appearing to be devoted Muslims, but whose actions are contrary to Islam, he said. Using this method they seize power.
But establishing a proper Islamic state is not about naming its leader a caliph and following the same system followed in the early Islamic era, but about enforcing justice, Dr Gomaa said.
He gave an example of the first Abbasid caliph, who was nicknamed “the slayer” for murdering many Umayyads.
“So the issue is not about titles – if this were so, all presidents could have called themselves ‘caliph’, end of story,” he said. “Name yourself whatever you like. Islam did not place a fixed single system and say you have to follow it.”
Answering a question on the role of social media in fighting extremism, Dr Gomaa said it could have an important role, but people needed to be careful to take knowledge only from scholars.
“As they say, do not learn science from a journalist, and do not learn the Quran from a ‘mushafey’ – someone who taught himself the Quran by himself [without proper knowledge].”
Dr Gomaa also thanked the UAE for its support to Egypt, and said this was expected from the sons of Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father of the UAE, with his legacy of generosity and kindness.
The iftar banquet for the lecture was attended by US secretary of state John Kerry, who arrived in the capital on Wednesday for meetings on Syria, Libya, Yemen and efforts to counter ISIL.
Sheikhs, government and religious officials, diplomats and other guests also attended.
(via The National)