December 7, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 824

Palestinian Authority TV: A Call to Avoid Extremism and Violence

December 7, 2004
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 824

In the Friday sermon of December 3, 2004, broadcast on Palestinian Authority TV, preacher Muhammad Jammal Abu Hunud called for the development of a modern Islamic discourse, to recognize the "other," to treat him with tolerance, and to avoid extremism and violence. [1] The sermon was broadcast from the Presidency Mosque in Gaza, in the presence of PLO Chairman Abu Mazen, Secretary-General of the Presidency, Al-Tayyib 'Abd Al-Rahim, the former Interior Minister Hani Al-Hasan, and other high-ranking officers. The preacher read the sermon from a sheet of paper.

All this differs from earlier sermons aired by PA TV [2], which were mostly broadcast from the Shiekh 'Ijlin Mosque, where regular preachers, such as Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi and Sheikh Ibrahim Mudeiris (PA employees), would frequently call for Jihad and martyrdom operations, and included anti-American, anti-British and Antisemitic messages.

The following are excerpts from Abu Hunud's sermon:

"There is no doubt that the present era is the era of the revolutions of information, communication and technology. This is the era of TV channels, cloning, globalization and Internet, which is clearly very different from any previous era. Man finds the accomplishments of this era everywhere. One cannot follow all the amazing developments and scientific discoveries made daily.

"The Islamic religion is the religion that is suitable for every time and place. It is not detached from everything that is occurring around it in this or any future era. By its very nature and at its base, Islam is the religion of life, with all its material and spiritual ramifications and aspects…

"Contemporary Islamic discourse must not remain locked in fixed molds and rigid frameworks which no longer suit the developments of our era and of life. In other words, there is a need to develop and renew the modern Islamic discourse. This call for renewal is not foreign to Islam and Islamic thought. Innovation is the law of life and of existence. The alternative to renewal, my brothers, is stagnation.

"If Islam is considered the religion of life, with all its ramifications, then stagnation in the life of the Islamic nation constitutes a moral death sentence for the nation. In this context, the Prophet said: 'Allah will send this nation one who will renew its religion for it at the beginning of every century.'

"The significance of this renewal, intended by the Prophet, is to relive the Prophet's sunna [way of life], to revoke those innovations that are reprehensible in Islam and to polish the mirror of religion in order to preserve its purity and cleanliness. On the other hand, applying the principle of the Islamic ijtihad [3] both in matters of religion and in worldly matters [is necessary] in order to keep pace with each era's innovations and with the rapid developments in all realms of life.

"This is the principle of dynamism in Islam. As Muhammad said: 'If life is in constant motion, the spirit of this motion is the ijtihad, which renews them continuously.'

"Hence it is clear to us, oh brothers, that [the Islamic] religion which encourages ijtihad,adheres to it, elevates the role of the human mind, and counsels to continuous renewal throughout life is a religion that can cope with all problems existing in the present…

"Islam defined the Islamic method of preaching as it appears in the Koran [16; 125]: ' Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and dispute them with superior arguments.' Thus Allah determined for us the foundations upon which religious preaching is based: 'wisdom' for those who are influenced only through reason; 'goodly exhortation' for those for whom 'goodly exhortation' affects their souls and their minds; and 'disputing them with superior arguments' for those who are influenced only through argument.

"Dear brothers, this means that we must respect the human mind, recognize the 'other,' respect his humanity, and show tolerance to him.

"One must not coerce, because the coercion of any religion begets nothing but hypocrites. Islam despises hypocrisy and hypocrites… Through this Islamic way of religious preaching, the ideas of 'the golden mean' and moderation and avoidance of any kind of extremism or inclination to violence or fanaticism become ingrained in people's minds…

"The world around us looks upon us in a variety of ways and even expects to see whether we will overcome our egoism and self-love so that we can exist and reinforce our existence…

"We must present to our friends [in the world] things that will please them, and present our enemies with things that will hurt them, meaning: unity of message and rank and avoidance of factionalism. We must consult one another because two Muslims are like two hands, one washing the other…"

[1] It should be noted that the PA TV did not broadcast a Friday sermon the preceding week, on November 27, 2004, which is uncommon in recent years.

[2] MEMRI Special Report No. 24, 'Palestinian Authority Sermons 2000-2003', Palestinian Authority Sermons 2000-2003.

[3] Ijtihad is the exercise of independent judicial ruling based on primary sources in Islamic law, as opposed to taqlid, or reliance on and imitation of judicial precedent.

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