April 10, 2013 Special Dispatch No. 5266

Saudi Columnist: The State Should Take Sermon-Writing Away From Preachers

April 10, 2013
Special Dispatch No. 5266

'Abdallah Nasser Al-'Utaibi, a columnist for the London-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat, published an article criticizing Saudi preachers who preach hate, pray for the destruction of Christians and Jews, call for jihad, and praise Al-Qaeda's actions throughout the world -- except actions in Saudi Arabia, which they condemn. According to Al-'Utaibi, the state should provide the preachers, who are in its employ, with approved sermons in order to prevent them from spreading extremism.

The following are excerpts from the article:[1]

'Abdallah Nasser Al-'Utaibi

"I have made a habit of going to a mosque quite far from my neighborhood for my Friday prayers, in order to escape the three mosques near my home, due to the Imams' [positions] on various topics.

"In the eyes of the one preacher, a sermon is good only when he takes every opportunity to mention the theory of 'the plot against Muslims.' He starts the sermon by praising and thanking Allah and calling to believe in Him. Then he immediately takes the role of the victim and begins screaming and crying over the humiliation of the ummah and its weakness in the face of plots and attacks by the enemies of Islam. After that, he launches into a long series of curses against the instigators of these plots in the infidel West or among the liberal, secular, and modern Muslims that follow it. Every week he calls on Allah to destroy the Jews and Christians and thus prove He can perform miracles. Worshippers are expected to say amen and raise their voices and hands in prayer for the fulfillment of his aggressive prayers. I follow suit, but think to myself: Why has he reduced this mighty religion to praying for the destruction of others? Why don't we bless them instead of cursing them?

"The second preacher writes his sermons using traditional books that do not befit this era. He uses historical rhetoric that is not appropriate to the present [age] and discusses matters whose time has passed... He preachers that jihad is the pinnacle of Islam and calls on Muslims everywhere to join the processions of jihad fighters in order to liberate this world from evil and make Allah's word supreme – and all Muslims are expected to say amen. I follow suit, but think to myself: What would happen if this preacher's hopes came true and the U.S., Britain, France, China, Korea and Japan capitulated to suicide attacks... by jihad fighters throughout the world? What would happen if those blessed saints took over the entire world and controlled the industrial revolution? What would happen to human culture and the technological age we live in? How can these suicide attackers run the world and control its economic resources skillfully, when they cannot even do so in their own countries? I am the only one among the worshippers who thinks: Let us build and develop the land before we think of jihad, contribute to science and progress in the world, and attract [people] to our religion with our cultural superiority. Building and developing the land comes before jihad, [because] the alternative is global backwardness in the name of Islam, which Islam itself is innocent of.

"The third preacher uses his pulpit to attack the media every week. Sometimes he speaks of Al-Arabiya TV and its inclination towards secularism and modernity at the expense of the Islamists, and calls on his flock not to watch it. At other times he speaks of local channels and accuses them of spreading Western culture and promiscuity in society. Often he attacks columnists in daily newspapers, describing them in the most heinous of terms and accusing them of the worst transgressions imaginable... I think the day is near when he will rebuke me by name in front of everyone, especially after I heard him curse a friend [of mine] merely for the opinion [he published] in one of his articles.

"I fled all these [mosques] for a mosque that is distant from my home, where I have never heard the preacher curse anyone... He never makes blanket [declarations] about the West or accuses it of fighting Islam and the Muslims, and never directs curses at everyone, great and small... Every week he addresses a social issue relevant to the lives of ordinary people... I have been going to this distant mosque for a year, but last week my feet carried me to a closer mosque because I was delayed...

"The preacher [there] praised Allah and called to adhere to Him... And then began discussing the complicated situation in Mali. He relayed the details of the Imperialist Western attack on the lands of Muslims and laid out the reasons for the Crusader invasion of Muslim lands. Later he blessed the jihad fighters in the field and asked Allah to help and aid them against their enemies... The worshippers raised their hands and said amen, and I followed suit, but instead of saying amen to his words, I thought to myself: Aren't these fighters members of Al-Qaeda? How can I pray to Allah to aid them in Mali, when I pray that He bring them defeat in Riyadh?! Is Al-Qaeda not Al-Qaeda everywhere? Does it not [espouse] the same ideology in Afghanistan, Yemen, Mali and Riyadh? Is the preacher not aware of this? Perhaps, when discussing Al-Qaeda in Riyadh, he becomes a clerk of the Islamic Affairs Ministry, whereas [in other cases] he is a Muslim who assists his brethren everywhere, whether they are the oppressors or the oppressed. Are we the enemies of Al-Qaeda when it operates in our area, but its supporters when it fights those we perceive as our historic enemies?...

"Next week I will return to my distant mosque, but this will not prevent me from making a small suggestion to the [Saudi] Islamic Affairs Ministry that might help increase the efficiency of Friday sermons and protect them from intentional and unintentional ignorance... I propose that the preachers receive ready-made sermons [from the ministry], since ultimately they are civil servants who are paid to deliver material approved by the ministry, as opposed to their personal opinions and private beliefs. In this manner we can rid ourselves of strange opinions and ideas and adopt an Islamic approach that expresses the authority of the state and its inclination towards the true Islam, which is based on temperance, tolerance and coexistence."


[1] Al-Hayat (London), February 11, 2013.

[2] Image: Al-Hayat.

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