Noting the power of Islamic sermons to shape public opinion, Hassan Hassan said the role of imams was not "to stoke sectarian sentiments and deepen social divisions."
An Abu Dhabi newspaper columnist wrote a piece on irresponsible mosque sermons, and it deserves recognition from the Christian community.
About a sermon delivered at one of the main mosques in Doha, Qatar, Hassan Hassan wrote, "The imam's irresponsible sermon underlines an urgency to reform the system of Friday sermons in many countries of the region."
Mosque sermons "are the Middle East's most powerful vehicles of public communications," wrote Hassan, who observed that "dangerous trends of extremism and sectarianism often begin in the mosques."
Doha is the capital of Qatar, an oil-rich Arab state on the Arabian Peninsula.
The Abu Dhabi newspaper is The National, which is an English-language newspaper. Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates, which is also located on the Arabian Peninsula.
"Throughout the sermon ... the imam berated Muslims for failing to comply with 'Islamic orders' to hate everything for which non-Muslims stand. This was not just about faith. The imam called for Muslims to oppose non-Muslims in every instance," wrote the columnist.
"I heard the imam speak on three separate occasions (which I listened to out of interest, but not empathy), and he consistently pushed for a narrow and extremist reading of Islamic teachings," Hassan wrote. "In a recent sermon, he spoke about the necessity of applying hudud – Sharia's penal code – and inexplicably focused on cutting off the hands of thieves. He said the issue was not subject to debate and 'anyone who suspends hudud is a kafir,' although there are historical precedents of caliphs suspending the punishment because circumstances had changed."
Hassan said the imam misquoted the Hadith – the religious teachings in Islam related to the prophet Muhammad not found in the Quran.
"Such imams are often not qualified. Many study Sharia simply because they failed to qualify for other studies that required higher marks. Yet people take them as authority on every issue, from politics to scientific knowledge," said Hassan, who referenced those imams who preached that the earth is flat.
Noting the power of Islamic sermons to shape public opinion, Hassan said the role of imams was not "to stoke sectarian sentiments and deepen social divisions."
Hassan's column represents an example of one Muslim criticizing the extremism of an imam, noting the misuse use of their sacred tradition and the lack of religious qualifications.
One of the common narratives in American culture is that Islamic leaders fail to critique extremists. This narrative surfaces across the Christian community, yet here is an example that runs counter to that narrative.
Advancing the common good between Christians and Muslims necessitates that each challenge the untruthful narratives about the other and recognize efforts by the other to readdress the extremes in their own traditions.
Goodwill Christians need to support goodwill Muslims at every turn. That doesn't mean we water down our faith or slip toward syncretistic Christianity. We don't have to agree doctrinally to be good neighbors.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.