Clerics like him who specialise in hate speech are far more dangerous than we realise. PHOTO: SCREENSHOT

According to this “scholar”, ‘sins such as murder and rape will be ignored as long as you pray’

It is utter madness to instil such assertions about religious duties that mitigate the sordidness of inhumane acts.

Fatima Raza October 26, 2018
The dilemma of the contemporary age is the excess of unsorted information masquerading as knowledge and the most abundantly distorted type of ‘knowledge’ these days is ‘religious’ in nature. A certain breed of such so-called scholars exists among us, disseminating a message that is far from truth.

Their half-baked ideas about religious norms, practices and forms of punishment aren’t based on logic or humanity. Such religious quacks probably existed before our time too but the ubiquity of social media brings them to our phone screens whether we want them to or not.

Recently, I came across one such ‘religious cleric’ spewing inaccuracies and putting a divide between religion and humanity.

This Australian man, who seems about as out of breath as he is out of his mind, is ‘enlightening’ his listeners about the primacy of salah in Islam. It is a form of worship made compulsory by Allah and its abundant mention in Quranic verses adds to its significance even more. However, the concept of sin being explained or rather hammered out by this man in the video is grossly misplaced. His mention of sins such as rape, paedophilia and murder sounds almost nonchalant while he spews hate about those who avoid such heinous crimes but do not offer salah.

The point of his one-minute hate is to emphasise that shameful criminal tendencies and their stains can be washed away if you also offer salah. However, if you do not offer salah and also don’t indulge in such vile acts, you are worse than a rapist, a paedophile or even a murderer “in the eyes of Allah”. Do you know why such hate-mongers always add the phrase “in the eyes of Allah” at the end of such atrocious claims? So that they can scare and shame their listeners into submission by the wrath of Allah. However, the most dangerous thing in this video is still not the audacious comparison that he had made but the delusional conviction with which this man claims awareness about the will of God.

The importance of salah in Islam cannot be overstated but this is not about that, this is something else entirely. Rape, paedophilia and murder are vile and evil deeds that destroy the lives of victims and their families; they do irreparable damage to the very fabric of society. It is utter madness to instil such assertions about religious duties that seem to mitigate the sordidness of wretched acts.

When Imam Hussain (AS) faced an army sent by the Umayyad ruler Yazid at Karbala, both armies counted amongst their ranks people who offered salah, fasted and recited the scripture. I absolutely did not bring this up to take away from the paramount importance of religious duties in any way. I did so to highlight the point that from any given situation, the right lessons have to be learned, right parallels drawn, right comparisons made, and right and responsible examples quoted. It is important to understand that not everyone who prays is a believer and not everyone who doesn’t is a sinner.

Such dangerous individuals who themselves do not understand the reasonable and humane nature of religion end up teaching people to hate, abuse, oppress, rape or eventually kill. The Holy Quran teaches you to be just with one another, care for the underprivileged and remain considerate of the pain of others. It teaches you patience, humanity and love (Surah An Nahl: 90-91). Then on what grounds is this cleric undermining the sinful nature of such inhumanity?

The important aspect to note here is that the Holy Quran does not mention rape specifically which shows that denouncement of oppression itself would prevent this particular abomination among others. The rest was left for us to understand and interpret in a manner that could benefit humanity. But sadly, such people, as the man in this video, continue to use the humanitarian teachings of Islam to spread fear among people instead of love.

Clerics like him who specialise in hate speech are far more dangerous than we realise. Such sermons reach a large number of people who blindly follow their words, believing their odious directives to expunge the society of people who they dub infidels or blasphemers. Such inflammatory speeches have resulted in countless lives lost, families destroyed and futures cast in utter darkness. The case of the 15-year-old boy from Okara comes to mind who cut off his own hand after he misheard and raised his arm to answer the local cleric's question when he asked if there was anyone present who did not love the Prophet (pbuh). The cleric, without thinking, accused the boy of blasphemy and the guilt-ridden boy chopped off his own hand and presented it to the cleric as a form of atoning for the sin he committed.

The culpability lies with the cleric for not only lack of common sense and consideration but also the ‘generous’ use of absolute terms like blasphemy, infidelity, jannat (heaven), jahannum (hell) and what not. Another example of a flagrant act provoked due to incendiary speeches such as one shown in the video, was the tragedy of December 2016 when a 1000-strong mob stormed an Ahmadi place of worship and burnt it. Shias in Pakistan are not safe either, considering many religious clerics label them as infidels and incite hatred amongst their followers. The increase in Shia killings are evidence to how successful these clerics have been. Sadly, there are many other examples of inflammatory speeches by firebrand clerics that lead to honour killings, mob lynching, desecration of places of worship and all such inhumane acts.

In today’s world, the inter-webs expose us to all kinds of opinions, right, wrong, informed, crude, revolutionary, orthodox, serious, comical, intelligent, moronic, harmless and dangerous, so it is important to keep our guards up and filter out the noise. It is also important to not share such noise, specially one that pertains to religious teachings, for it will only further pollute our already discordant society. It is imperative that such noise be shut out before its deafening roars defile our lives.

Knowledge is power, but that power should not be used for reasons unintended.
Fatima Raza

The writer is a Research Associate at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, and holds an MPhil in International Relations 

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


asad | 5 years ago | Reply Man this guy needs to look at himself while he is making that comparison, he seems like a total ignorant. If one prays with heart and soul, there is no way he will be doing such heinous crimes. As for the matter of harming another human being, on the day of judgement it will be upto the victim to decide about the fate of the wrong doer. This is such a basic concept that forms the foundation of our religion, how could he get so emotional to not state the truth in a rightly manner.
siesmann | 5 years ago | Reply What God will listen to prayers and ignore such heinous crimes?
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