Kuwait is a small country with a Muslim-majority population and a Christian minority, whether citizens or expatriates. The local community seems very conservative and insular, but the fact is that we are a moderate society with a mixture of ideas, doctrines and races. It is regrettable that we live in a social and administrative reality in which corruption is rife because of apathy and mismanagement, but why should official Friday sermons create unnecessary confusion and controversy in the local society, especially for those who are outside the circle of Islamists? Why doesn’t the Friday sermon tackle the daily sufferings of Muslims and the ethics and morality we need to adopt?
What happened last week raised a lot of controversy. A Kuwaiti woman protested on Monday in front of the awqaf ministry against the March 23 Friday sermon, which is officially available on the website of the ministry. The sermon was titled “Modern Atheism: Its Dangers and Manifestations”, and was prepared by the Friday sermon committee.
In one of the paragraphs of the official sermon, it clearly stated that “the call for the freedom of women will in fact dissociate her from traditions, chastity and modesty to reach the habits of infidels, disintegration and discarding the veil…”. Mrs Karam wanted to make a point to the awqaf ministry, whom she accused of linking unveiled women with moral decay. I think what the citizen mentioned is an interpretation of what was written and not something that is fabricated, but the ministry denied that the sermon addressed women who don’t wear the hijab.
The undersecretary denied that the Friday sermon circulated to mosques in Kuwait on Friday, March 23 included any accusations against unveiled women. He said in a press statement that the ministry is keen to invite Muslim women to abide by the orders of Allah and perform prayers, pay zakat, fast, go on pilgrimage and commit to the veil, among other deeds. He pointed out that the sermon was on modern-day atheism and its dangers and manifestations and not on the subject of women and the veil. He stressed that the sermon focused on the serious issue of atheism and its negative effects on society.
I never knew that atheism has become a serious issue in the Kuwaiti society. If this is the case, then I hope the awqaf ministry publishes statistics that determine the percentage of atheists in the country, whether citizens or expatriates, and thus we will know that the ministry is right in addressing this phenomenon and I will support it.
But I know that the rate of crimes, for example, has increased, according to the statistics of the interior ministry, and I believe that talking about the reasons behind robberies, for instance, is no less important because of poverty, unemployment and weakness of faith. This, I think, is an important subject to mention in Friday sermons to urge and guide people on how to deal with such a dangerous phenomenon from the security and social aspects.
Also, guiding parents to play a greater role in the care of their children, especially teenagers, and not give up their role to maids, are key issues. Bribery, for example, which has spread in the community under the name of commission, is an important subject too, for people to learn how to act towards these wrong behaviors. Aren’t these topics threatening the community and must be addressed?
Statements by the Egyptian Fatwa House in Jan 2014 reported there were about 866 atheists in Egypt, while others estimated the number in the thousands. If this estimated figure is accurate, it is nothing compared to the total population of Egypt – almost 100 million – with a majority of Muslims and a large Christian minority.
I ask the awqaf ministry to present sermons related to daily Muslim life and show us how to deal with the bad and difficult situations that we are exposed to. For instance, the community suffers from the greed of some traders, but people may feel confused on how to deal with it ethically. Another example is the spread of envy among family members. Examples are many, so please write speeches that touch the lives of people and steer clear of stirring up controversy.
By Muna Al-Fuzai