…just not as expected.
It seems that what the government wanted and what the lower house accepted were two different things. The government’s vision was a law where mosques would need to get authorization from the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs for anyone who wants to preach, give sermons and guidance, or teach in those mosques. This was rejected by the deputies and so were the higher penalties that required a maximum imprisonment of 1 year and a maximum fine of 600 JDs.
According to the Jordan Times:
The governmentÃ¢??s call for the amendments was due to its desire to regulate all acts taking place in mosque.
Deputy Nidal Abbadi (Amman, Sixth District) said the new law restricts freedoms, adding that it is in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution which reads: Ã¢??The state shall protect the rights to perform religious rituals, in accordance with the KingdomÃ¢??s perceived norms, unless they are deemed in violation of public order or manners.Ã¢?Â
I don’t see how the originally proposed law contradicts article 14. If the new Amman Message is considered the Kingdom’s norm then the government gets to set the norm and everyone has to abide by it. I honestly believe the government should regulate sermons in Jordan. There should be a unified message and one that reflects an established Islamic norm. I don’t like going to one mosque that preaches tolerance and moderation and then going to the other side of the city to hear a list of people in the world that deserve to die and I think religious freedoms in this case should stop at the water’s edge, in fact they should stop well before that.
We are two months shy of the first anniversary of a terrorist attack that embodied the destructive consequences of religious extremism. Regulation is especially important in Jordan where Muslims not only come to the prayer for the sake of the sermon but also are willing to travel to another mosque for the sake of a “better” sermon. Sometimes this is done because the imam is more eloquent or knowledgeable, but other times, especially outside Amman, people will go to a mosque that represents their political views.
Mosques are the only real arenas to spread the national consensus on Islamic views; schools come a close a second. This is mostly because not everyone completes their education and even if they do mosques remain the main social setting for establishing and sustaining religious foundations. In that spirit the deputies also scratched out “preaching, teaching and giving guidance” as one of the law’s provisions and reserved it only to “giving sermons”. Evidently Islamic education is not as important as Islamic preaching, at least not important enough to require legislative protection.
Abaddi also stressed that given the wider definition of constitutional rights concerning religious freedoms in light of the proposed law, it would mean anyone who preaches without authority from the Ministry or Minister is therefore in violation and is subject to it’s punishment i.e. regardless of the material they were preaching. I see the point but I find it to be invalid. To preach in a mosque you should have the license and authority of the Ministry. It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t matter if youÃ¢??re a great moderate preacher or a preacher spreading a hateful message. Otherwise it’s like arguing that there shouldn’t be a law punishing people for driving without a license because it also means that the “good” drivers who donÃ¢??t have a license would also be punished.
The government has also started two-week training courses on khutba skills. In my opinion they should be made mandatory.