Imams and khatibs must play a greater role in the fight against terrorism. This was the message of Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif to 600 imams and khatibs who deliver Friday sermons in mosques across Saudi Arabia. He urged them to expose the falsehood of deviant ideology that continues to dupe Saudi youths…

… the Saudi youths that go to Iraq and blow themselves up, slaughtering the innocent, tarnishing the image of Islam and branding the Saudi Kingdom as a terrorist haven that promotes a destructive ideology.

The majority of the Muslims take their guidelines from khatibs and imams, especially during Friday sermons in the mosques, which is why it is imperative for the revered scholars to assume their role in delivering the proper teachings and providing the necessary guidance to protect the well-meaning faithful from becoming messengers of death and enemies of Islam. Muslim scholars must speak out to enlighten the faithful about the true teachings of Islam and promote Islamic principles of peace, tolerance and moderation in order to allow Muslims to coexist peacefully with the rest of the world.

There is a confrontation between Islam and the West, and our scholars must bear the responsibility of addressing the controversial issues that have divided Muslims from the rest of the world.

Our scholars need to speak louder than the extremists who have hijacked Islam and have confused Muslims who now need direction back to the faith’s true path. There are many controversial issues that need to be addressed in order to give direction to the Muslim youth and to create a better understanding of Islam in the West – the so-called jihad, suicide bombers, Middle East conflicts and world affairs, the veil (hijab), the niqab (face-veil) and the Muslim way of life. But perhaps the most important thing that needs to be stressed is the tolerance promoted in the basic tenets of Islam.

The antagonism between Islam and the West has to end. We all are neighbours in the same global community, and we all should be acting like neighbours instead of enemies. To some extent, it is up to our leaders to find solutions to these issues of conflict. But it is also up to our religious leaders —Muslims, Christians and Jews — to create an atmosphere of tolerance that promotes solutions instead of slaughter.

Politicians, civic leaders, academics and the media should support religious scholars on both sides who work to confront what is becoming a clash of civilisations.

There are optimistic points, however. In a recent BBC poll of approximately 28,000 people in 27 countries, the overall majority believes that there is no inherent incompatibility between Islam and the West and that problems arise from intolerant minorities on both sides.

Maybe those intolerant minorities need to be reminded that the majorities want peace and prosperity for all the peoples of the world. The true convictions of faith do not lead us to a dark future. What is needed is the courage to defend those true convictions.


Samar Fatany is a Jeddah-based radio journalist. This abridged article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).
Reprinted with permission, Arab News, 2 July 2007,

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