Is State Management Of Religion A Must?

In light of the recently approved Khutba law designed to facilitate and manage some of the aspects of what is preached in Jordanian mosques these days, I found this article by Ahmad Y. Majdoubeh in the Jordan Times very interesting. I do not have much to add to it other than to say I do happen to agree with Ahmad (to an extent). Since it is an opinion piece I have rephrased the original title of the article in the form of a question for this post’s title as I encourage people to read it and draw their own conclusions.

State management of religion is a must

Many people in our society view steps taken by the government, represented by the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, to empower imams, regulate preaching activities, support mosques and allow mainstream religious scholars to speak out with great satisfaction and approval.

Since the late 1970s, there has been an unprecedented â??comebackâ? to Islam. While for the most part of the 20th century religion took a backseat, with mosques being frequented mainly by old men and very few young people, and religious discourse and practices being confined to very marginal parts of society, since the late 1970s, religion started occupying centre stage. As a result of the failure by Arab governments to bring about a solution to the Palestinian problem and as a result of a series of defeats and disasters which Israel inflicted on the region, a majority of people started accepting the motto, raised primarily by politicised Islamist parties, that â??Islam is the solutionâ?.

â??Solutionâ? for everything and anything, they were saying: equal opportunity, social justice, elimination of poverty, fairness in employment, end to corruption, economic prosperity, real social development, effective foreign policy, victory in wars, liberation of Palestine and occupied Arab territories, respect for Muslims, a more assertive contribution to world civilisation, etc.

Highly romanticised narratives of long-gone Islamic eras, and stories of legendary Islamic figures and exemplary rulers started to be circulated as models to follow. Accompanying this incredible comeback to Islam, this remarkable readiness to accept the slogan of Islam as the solution, and the unquenchable thirst and nostalgia by Muslims for the good old days of Islam, however, is a huge vacuum: lack of an enlightened Islamic leadership (or leaderships) that could guide the vast numbers of Muslims and channel their massive spiritual energy positively and constructively the world over.

In the absence of competent, efficient and reliable state or mainstream religious scholars and leaders, these millions and millions of Muslims eager to be led on the right path were left, primarily, at the mercy of amateurish or incompetent state representatives of religion, highly-politicised Islamists with political agendas of their own, or weird or suspect â??Islamicâ? preachers of all sorts.

The mosques and many other public fora were filled with these types of inappropriate, inadequate leaderships. The last two kinds started feeding worshippers either with anti-government, opposition sentiments or romantic versions of Islamic eras that are largely irrelevant to the present times. No viable, practical politic, social or economic plans or strategies were drawn.

Naturally, some terrorist groups infiltrated the scene and also started preaching their own dark ideologies.

In many Arab and Islamic countries, this disturbing scenario seems to be still prevalent. In others, including our society, the government, represented by the official representatives of the religious institution in the state, is stepping in, shouldering a responsibility which it has neglected for some time or shouldered ineffectively.

Effective state management of religious affairs throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds is not only welcome, it is necessary. Islam, unlike some religions the world over, has always survived, developed, thrived and prospered under direct support and management by the state. To this end, a great deal needs to be done by governments to support the official religious institution, to empower the many highly competent and able scholars, including those within the ministries of Islamic affairs as well as religious institutes and universities.

In many societies, religion is considered a private matter. It neither appears strongly in public life nor does it interfere with the various affairs of people and the state.

In our part of the world, the picture is remarkably different. Islam in Islamic communities all over the world is both public and involved. For this reason, it needs to be regulated and its official representatives need to be empowered and supported, so that it will be enabled to play a positive and constructive, not subversive or destructive, role in public life. Yes, Islam needs to be state-managed and supported.

Friday-Saturday, November 10-11, 2006

The question that first comes to mind is whether the statement “effective state management of religious affairs” is an oxymoron or a contradiction of sorts, given the fact that each camp would rather not see the other meddle in it’s affairs but would like nothing more than to actually meddle in the other’s affairs.


  • what if the state itself is not liked by the population? thus leading in a perception we have in the west where we think the state is continiously meddling in muslim affairs.producing counter productive results

  • I would prefer that the state should stay away from religion in every way possible. I would also prefer it if instead of a state department for managing religion, the government would instead spend these resources on managing itself! But if the author believes that Islam would not surive without direct state intervention, “unlike some religions the world over”, then I am also in support of state management of religion, as long as it is not make any individual, regardless of their religon or lack of, feel more or less included/represented.

  • lksfadljk, as you said, a state-governed religion isn’t a terrible idea as long as any individual, regardless of their religion (or lack thereof) feels more or less included/represented. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is possible under a state-run religion. Someone will always receive the short end of the stick.

  • Ahmad Y. Majdoubeh is just a neo-liberal freak pouting off pro-regime, anti-freedoms nonsense disguised as enlightened and “moderate” positions.

    the regime has many pens for hire, who in the name of moderation and liberalism undermine moderation and liberalism.

    neo-liberals instead of advocating more freedoms, they advocate thought control. Instead of demanding democracy, they advocate dictatorships and they use the Islamist bogyman to stifle progress, when yesterday they used the communist threat as a bogyman to also stifle progress.

    I have never read anything for Admad in the past promoting equality, freedoms, and democracy. No surprise.

    What pisses me off is that Ahmad pretends to speak on behalf of Jordanians. I am as secular as hell but I am appalled at the regime’s moves to control religion.

  • Yes, Dave. I agree. that is the very problem with Israel being a “Democratic Jewish state”. It’s impossible to have a democratic state and a religious state! one religious group will always be priveleged over another.

  • my khams groosh..if religion is interfeering with state,state should manage religion.Since religion should be a private thing that affects no one but the person himself,while state matters are a concern to all the nation..then everything should be done to reinforce superiority of the nation.

Your Two Piasters: