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Friday, 25 March 2016

Licencing religious preachers

A wise man would suggest that we should NOT have licencing for preachers and Imams - everything is halal by default and we should be careful about any unwarranted blanket restrictions on our freedom of speech. We want good people to always be able to "correct with their tongue" and "tell truth to a tyrannical ruler". Laws and governmentt should focus more on what we all don't want - hate speech, insult, inciting violence, noise, etc., etc....and not on what we want - basic 'asl of permissibility!

Between truth and falsehood, I believe truth is stronger if given equal hearing. Therefore a law of "survival of the fittest argument should rule" and free debate should be permitted and protected. In these days, I believe we need more freedom to correct others and the many misconceptions they have about Islam. 

Who is to give licences to Shi'ah, Ekankar, Grail Message followers, Aladura, Jehovah's Witnesses, Atheists, Agnostics, followers of the many Traditional Religions, etc? This will most likely lead to greater inter-religious and inter-ethinic tension.

How is control of social media usage by our youth going to proceed? Or will we only silence those offline while most will migrate online? Most of ISIS recruiting is now moving online!! 

It is also not a very practical law considering the size of this country and its rural and ethnic network (in case they aspire to take it national)- it will be financially too costly. How far with driving licenses and National ID cards? 

It is too open to politicians silencing those who are critical of them. The bad people will not stop talking, but the good will be law-abiding and have to keep quiet, report while the damage is done. The process of developing young people who will speak out will become bureaucratic with bribes and delayed renewals. 

Let us learn from the intellectual religious stagnation that some countries have ended up with by the governments deciding on what can or cannot be said in the name of religion within the general populations. Freedom of speech must be protected. Freedom of abuse is different and the "abuse" of that freedom has to be defined and dealt with.

We cannot shut millions up just because of the abuses of 100. If government really want to check abuses of religious spaces, then let them give more support to the quality of training of our Imams and religious studies graduates. 

Before you know it, only graduates of Islamic studies and Islamic law, etc. will have permission to give public lectures. We will end up killing da'wah in Nigeria. Christians will all have qualifications from their numerous private seminaries and pastoral colleges, while Muslims will have to shut up waiting for certification. It will be difficult to then get dawah volunteers for rural and urban da'wah, and Tablighi Jama'ah (who are many and have been peaceful) will have to end. This I believe should be unacceptable.

Identifying haram or harmful speech (mafsadah or fitna-causing speech or literature, movies, songs, etc.). The government needs to articulate what type of speech they/we do not want in collaboration with all stakeholders (Muslims and Christians) - "abuse", "hate speech", "steropyping", "dehumanising", "noise", "disturbance", inciting hatred and motivation to violence, slandering and telling lies, "religious racism", "insulting the Other", etc. Such speech may come from anyone, even if they are irreligious.

If they have to...IF THEY HAVE TO licence anyone, let them give licences to Jumu'ah Imams, but then let them also commit to better training and enlightenment. But that will lead to uncountable degrees of disunity and new Jumu'ah mosques side-by-side because of the government opportunities for training and funding. Such a move will also make Friday mosque Imams only say what is politically correct. So I am not in favor of that either. Most Friday Mosque Imams have never been a major security threat anyway, so again, who will benefit from government opening a new parastatal or agency to oversee such Imams.

I don't believe we should silence the next Muhammad Yusuf with a license, but we should be better prepared and coordinated in responding and correcting him and his followers. We should focus on vaccination and resilience of the Muslims with better understanding of Islam, instead of silencing debates of those we do not want to listen to.

I believe the harm of licencing is greater than the benefit ...by far!!!


And Allah knows best.