UAE NEEDS ONLINE MUFTIS TO GIVE MORAL GUIDANCE AND FATWAS, FNC MEMBER SAYS
▶ Move would ensure young people do not look for religious edicts elsewhere and find more hardline stances
Religious figures should have a presence on social media to ensure young people do not go searching elsewhere and find hardline fatwas, a member of the Federal National Council said yesterday.
Saeed Al Remeithi, the youngest member of the chamber, said direct contact with the public was important and social media is the key medium.
Mr Al Remeithi asked the Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, or Awqaf, how it was training and preparing religious figures for the online world.
“We want the authority to have followers on social media, to keep up with updates and have direct contact with the public,” he said.
“The fear today is that people looking for fatwas in the UAE will go outside to look for it, if they were not able to find it here, and eventually listen to fatwas that we don’t want them to listen to.
“We want to prevent our nationals from listening to fatwas from outside the country.”
Mr Al Remeithi asked the head of the authority about its policy about muftis posting fatwas on their personal social media accounts.
Awqaf chief Dr Mohammed Al Kaabi said none of the authority’s muftis had accounts.
But the issue will be covered by the Fatwa Council, announced by the Cabinet in May, which will govern and unify fatwas issued, Dr Al Kaabi said.
There are 50 trainee muftis studying at Al Muwatta Islamic Research Centre, and 50 others studying Sharia at Mohammed V University in Abu Dhabi. When they graduate they will take social media inquiries and address them.
“So there will be a response from their side,” Dr Al Kaabi said.
And every mufti who appears on radio, television or the internet has to be authorised by the council, so the process will be well regulated.
“We are in the process of activating the council and appointing a chair and members, and with that there will be better control over fatwa issuance,” Dr Al Kaabi said.
He said the authority’s fatwa centre, which was launched in 2008, issues religious edicts to the public with phone calls, text messages and on the website.
Users can also search through thousands of archived fatwas available on the site if their fatwa query has been already answered.
The centre also receives calls from people outside the UAE, so it has become globally recognised as a sample of religious moderation, he said. It receives about 1,300 calls a day.
“The authority addresses fatwas with caution and follows the collective fatwa method because it is more accurate,” Dr Al Kaabi said.
Mr Al Remeithi said he was impressed that so many people used the centre, including from abroad, but stressed the need for a social media presence.
Experts said the Fatwa Council would seek to counter controversial and hardline fatwas spread on the internet by unauthorised sources.
The fatwa department at Al Azhar University in Cairo, the global seat of Sunni Muslim learning, has complained of “fatwa chaos” in the past, with some religious figures seeking to shape the actions of the faithful across the Muslim world.
Edicts have governed topics ranging from relationships to politics to home life.
Yesterday the FNC also passed a draft law regulating mosques. Under the new law, anyone who breaches the security or sacredness of mosques will be given fines of between Dh20,000 and Dh50,000, a minimum of three months’ jail sentence, or both.
Anyone who begs, interferes with preaching or calling for prayers faces up to three months in jail, a fine of up to Dh5,000, or both.
The same penalty applies to anyone who, without approval from the authorities, preaches or holds religious lessons, collects donations, establishes libraries, recruits someone, or holds social events or gatherings.
The law also made it mandatory to recruit only Emiratis in mosques. They must have a history of good conduct with no convictions for indecent offences and be medically fit.
The fear is people looking for fatwas will go outside to look for it, and listen to fatwas that we don’t want them to listen to SAEED AL REMEITHI FNC member