Advice for Imams and Mosque Leaders on dealing with the recent abusive film and incidents of hatred against Muslims and Islam generally
It is unfortunate that the world's attention - this past week - has been directed to the insulting and disgraceful film - titled: “Innocence of Muslims”.
This film is full of abusive material and is a vile attempt to ridicule the Prophet (peace and prayers be upon him), as well as the Qur'an and Islam. It has been widely condemned and has led to strong and in some instances, sadly to violent protests.
The MINAB strongly deplores and condemns the film. The MINAB urges that our response to the deliberately provocative act should be peaceful and intelligent. We must not rise to the bait but take heed from the conduct of our noble Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
The following general points need to be considered:
- Islam is peace and commands its followers to submit to Allah. Its message and values are eternal as is the noble character of its messenger Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
- It is our duty as Muslim leaders and Imams to respond positively to acts/events/incidents which make us angry or cause us hurt and pain.In reacting to such events we must act in the same way as did our holy Prophet (pbuh) - with calm, peace and tolerance.
- Whilst condemning an act of hatred, we need to make the point that Islam and Muslims will not be provoked into violent and disproportionate action. We need to remind all that we are strong, mature and confident in our faith.
- We need to treat acts of hatred with the contempt that they deserve. Do not give them importance. In public discourse ignore them; but in private conversations use them to strengthen the spirituality of our communities.
The MINAB recommends that following actions be taken in response to this and other acts which are intended to cause us pain and anger and which promote hatred against us and our divine faith:
1) Educate Muslims in our congregations
The role of the Mosque in providing education and guidance is an undeniable role.
The Imam should use this opportunity to introduce the life (seerah) and teachings of our Prophet Muhammad (peace and prayers be upon him).
There is so much to learn about Allah's greatest creation – Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Emphasis needs to be placed on his character of honesty, tolerance and compassion towards those who were his enemies and who persecuted him.
This can be done through:
- Jumu'ah Khutbah
- Reminders after Salah
- Study circles and talks highlighting his character and seerah
- Small conferences or workshops.
2) Encourage Muslims to act appropriately
The Imam should regularly be reminding the congregation that the good response to this abuse is the correct one - the one which is taken from the character of the Prophet (pbuh), as taught in the Qur'an.
Whilst one may be angry, the anger should be channelled positively. The anger expressed should not reflect negatively on other religions and we must promote community cohesion at all times.
The reactions of Muslims should never be violent. Imams have an important role in advocating for peaceful coexistence in the community based on clear guidance in the Holy Qur’an.
3) Promote the Message of Islam through the character of the Prophet (pbuh)
The mosques should make use of this opportunity to promote the message of Muhammad (pbuh). This can be done through:
- Reproducing some educational leaflets and distributing them to the neighbours.
- Organising a Mosque open day, inviting local residents to come and learn about the Mosque and Muslims.
- Solely or in conjunction with other mosques, a small conference to introduce our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and prayers be upon him), as well as introducing the values of Islam – equality, brotherhood, social justice as well as the spirituality of Islam.
4) Be pro-active in your reaction
- Freedom of Expression: Emphasize that the right to freedom of expression is not absolute. Freedom of expression does not justify spreading hatred based on faith, race, ethnicity or gender. Offending religious symbols or sacred spaces has the real and serious prospect of causing damage to the fabric of society.
- Encourage quest for long term remedies: Imams and Mosque leaders can encourage members of the congregation to lobby politicians for long term legal remedies to ensure that the sanctity of religions is protected and perpetrators of acts that spread hatred are vigorously and sternly prosecuted.