A distinctive of life in the United Arab Emirates is that in an Islamic nation there is no separation between mosque and state.
This was highlighted last Friday when the government authorities gave to imams a ‘unified sermon’ to preach at every mosque in the country on the subject of ‘Swine Flu’.
According to reports (30 May 2009) by Khaleej Times, here were the main points of the sermon:
The General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments (Awqaf) called people to cooperate with the UAE government to prevent the spread of swine flu (H1N1).
Specifically the practical demands of the sermon required hearers to:
* Report suspected cases immediately
* Don’t hide infected people but seek help
* Read Awqaf’s guidebook on preventing swine flu
* Spread awareness to others
While on the subject of health the Swine Flu sermon called people to stop smoking and warned them against the harmful effects of this habit.
Mosques receive funding from the government and imams also receive their salary from the state. This means the state has enormous control over religious practices in the Emirates and thus, it is in a good position to rein in dissident religious teachers who are prone to pronounce fatwas on anything that they are unhappy about.
This was probably the first occasion in which UAE mosque-goers have ever heard a sermon on swine flu.
It is a rare thing anywhere to hear a sermon that is down to earth and which addresses an issue of public importance.
Let’s hope the sermon is printed and made available for all UAE residents to hear, digest and go and do likewise.
Dr Geoff Pound
Image: Sermons, swine flu and smoking.
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