Tahir Mehmood

History has witnessed that we humans tend to create, (more precisely) process problems and then spend years to solve them. Unfortunately, once the problem is identified, we, without due diligence and understanding of the cause, start to try and work on various remedies. Without understanding the composite process of the problem (more precisely its system dynamic, all types driving variables algorithm from core to surface) and finally end up at a hyper world of logos and slogans with crying tones and brands called solution, solution.

As an example, for the last few years, a social complex problem named as extremism, terrorism and radicalisation to violence in many forms and shapes has appeared, in which political and religious extremism is on the front line. Millions spent, millions of articles published, millions of innocent citizens and law enforcement agents sacrificed, 100s of solutions presented globally but without any substantial result.

The question is, where are we heading to and where shall we end up? In this article, I shall only focus on the religious extremism. There are diverse variables to drive the problem and so far, we have not been able to counter and reverse all those variables because radicalisation as the process still exists. On the other side reduction of terror attack is not an output of reduction of the radicalisation process in radicalisation industry, but is the result of excellent counter work of security, law enforcement and intelligence institutions. In one of my articles, Theory of religious deviation, I described that religions are one of the noble contents for developing human conscious level and misinterpretation, disinformation and misinformation of religious contents are source of many conflicts and can be highly dangerous if correction at the right time not submitted.

It was meant that either Governments or religious scholars or both have to find a solution in which the deviations based on misinterpretation, disinformation or misinformation are corrected regularly for peaceful and progressive society. Unfortunately, our progress in this direction has been very slow because of lake of discipline and developing a mechanism of correction in the interest of safe society on one side and equally securing the prestige of the religion. I am 100% sure that everything is possible, if there is a will, there is a way forward subject to methods of true operational value with systematic and scientific approach.

The question is, what else can be done? If we are not able to start reformation and correction of the religion as direct intervention to deviations leading to dangerous side roads from the religious motorway. As a case study, I had been to many countries for field work, to follow up for years, to collect and study policy making contents and regulations with respect to religious affairs, within Democratic to authoritarian, political to ministerial desks, and continuously end up tracing another vital common gap among many countries as described below. Equally, every Government acknowledges that Religious extremism has to be stopped technically and strategically, it is one of the biggest threats to administrations, national interests, security and also source social conflicts and sectarian violence.

The gap found is to let religious priests, monks or imams depend upon the charity or other fund collections of the followers in a church, temple or mosque for their religious leader’s basic living as free players in the society. After studying more than 100s of imams’ monks and priests’ poor living standard and mind set of dependency on the follower, I was surprised that they were living an insecure world therein income is not enough, even to pay for standard living and their kids again had been facing difficult situations. This dependency on public charity funds and not state is one of the highly vulnerable situations because being religiously honourable as imam, monk and priest but in reality the honour to live a life as an insecure person has created a divided identity and, in some cases, hypocritical or two-faced personality (you pay money and I will say what payer want me to say in the mosque, temple or church).

It can be observed that in such a situation of any human as these poor imams, monks and priest are living, there can be many unwanted cognitive directions as a reactionary response to situation as cognitive dissonance. There in the rule of law from the state can be challenged because the state does not look after their personal living standard and adopted the profession at all and third parties with material offer can get those priests, monks or imams interpret the religion in third party desired goals, interests, desires, ideas or even political goals or other forces can establish unwanted or unjustified preaching under the umbrella of belief on the religious motorway. According to my study based on “running (dynamic) unwanted process” as a complex problem, the only solution to healthy religion to be compatible with the rule of law can be formulated. If the rule of law includes the laws to protect those imams, monks and priests for their firstly balanced cognition by providing their basic needs, reforming the contents of misinterpreted formats of religious contents and secondly developing a feeling that the state is providing their basic rights and true economic protection. A simple and straight solution to reverse the unwanted process as described below is vital, there in no one could use or exploit the vulnerability of an imam, a monk or a priest against the state as non-state actor or third party and therein imams, monks or priest do not offer their services against the state interests.

Therefore, establishing a system in religious worship places which includes religious leaders as liability of the state is vital to organise better social discipline as long as they follow the rule of law and understand the national interest of the land like other citizens, if not must be expelled. It must be noted that the countries in which imams, monks or priests are not paid and worship places are not looked after by the state have much more hatred, conflicts, extremism and hidden unwanted agendas.   

As an example, there are many 100,000s mosques in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other countries. The imams do not have any legal job contract, no social security or pension fund. No health or other facilities. The question is? Are all imams paid by the Government of these countries, if they are paid with sufficient charity funds or salary to live a life? What shall be reformative process and law making? To proceed wisely.  Here are some of my suggestions therein citizen’s freedom of religion and worship, national interests and security; religious prestige is protected by the state in a balanced equation to create compatibility between rule of law and religion. These rules can also and should be applied to churches, temples and other worship places/worship organisers globally.

1-All Mosques or worship places must be registered with the state, based on all types of national standards, because every mosque is a public place, it must have health and safety standard to protect the lives of followers and imam.

2- The followers must be members of the mosque, church or temple (not freelance worshipers) and there must be basic charity or contribution figure for every month by each member to run the mosque, church, temple maintenance and imams, monks priests salary etc. (already followers pay charity to pay unofficial salary to priest, monks and imams directly).These contributions of members must be transacted to state account run by Ministry of religious affairs or authority, to pay the running and fixed expenses.

3-The imams, monks or priests must have standard salary compatible to inflation to live a stable, balanced and happy life. The state should finally pay the salary from state account, so Imam, monks and priests do not have to beg to followers at the end of the month.

4-The imams, monks and priests must be employed with standard legal contract, to be protected according to the agreement that should include a code of conduct and practices as ruled by the state in the interest of public as freedom of religion and simultaneously national interest and security.

5-The imams, monks or priests should be given grades based on their academic or educational achievements and rewarded accordingly specially for their local social peace activities in addition to religious service.  

6-The children and spouse of the imam should be given special concessions in State schools and medical services within national health programs.

7-Mosques, temples and churches which do not have enough members to pay, either should not hire the imam, monk or priest or should seek special financial help from the state to find a solution or should become member of the nearby mosque, temple or church to reach to the desired membership level for enough contribution to pay all liabilities to state account from which imam, a monk or priest will be paid.

As a conclusion, religion cannot be removed from the hearts of people and people have to live a secured life under rule of law. Therefore, Governments have to explore and implement best policy as balanced equation to make compatibility between religion and rule of law, to prevent any type of evil and unwanted activities, promoting hatred, extremism and social conflicts among citizens based on their religious beliefs through some imams, monks or priests who misinterpret religion as a tool of conflict and not peace.

Photo: Rational Faiths


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