Recently, on Facebook, I watched a video that shows a man, apparently an Islamic speaker, talking about the formula for a medication that will cure the novel coronavirus. He says that he was informed about this formula by another man who had a conversation with the virus in his dream.
According to the speaker, during the conversation, the coronavirus said that the Chinese people became the victims of this deadly disease because Muslims are severely oppressed in China.
I have watched another video of this man. In that video he is seen talking about the meaning of the seven notes of Indian classical music. He ends up saying that these musical notes indicate the idea of provoking a man and a woman into sexual acts by making them drunk.
In the name of religious speech, this speaker conveys baseless, absurd, and ridiculous information to his listeners. In Bangladesh, many people are devoutly religious.
Therefore, they are interested in attending waaz, religious lectures, to hear discussions about religious subjects.
However there are some waazes where the speakers use misleading and fictitious statements that may lead people into false and blind belief and create feelings of hatred in them towards other people.
How could the above-mentioned speaker expect to improve the intellectual ability and humane attributes of his listeners through such: nonsensical, vulgar, hostile, and unsubstantiated statements?
A country would plunge into a degenerative state if its citizens did not possess humanity and if they were not able to think in a rational way.
The videos of some waaz sessions recently held in our country are available on social media. In some of these clips, the some speakers scream hysterically and make extremely offensive and unpleasant remarks about women and non-Muslims.
Comments made by some speakers include: women are created only to serve their husbands and to give birth to babies, women appear as evil spirits, individuals who do not become Muslims are worse than four-legged animals, atheists need to be beheaded, those who purchase new clothes to celebrate
Pohela Boishakh will surely go to hell, garments factories are places where sexual acts occur, leftists will rot in hell and right-wing people will go to heaven, Covid-19 emerged in the world because of the persecution of Muslims, if Muslims grab the properties of Hindus the Muslims will be punished but they will not go to hell for this.
Some speakers become so indecent as to make very unpleasant comments about female bodies and the clothes worn by females.
Some of them praise Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, a Jamaat-e-Islami leader who is now serving a life sentence for war crimes committed in the Liberation War of Bangladesh.
These speakers are supposed to talk about important aspects of Islam in a waaz. However, by expressing disrespect and contempt for women and non-Muslims do these speakers portray Islam properly?
How do such speeches – that convey hatred, intolerance, viciousness, vulgarity, and fabrication – benefit listeners?
According to the experts, social distancing is the only method to be followed at the moment to remain safe at this time of the coronavirus pandemic.
Saudi Arabia has suspended prayers in the outer squares of two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina to limit the spread of coronavirus; whereas in our country, during some waazes, these speakers express their disapproval of the request that believers perform their prayers at home instead of going to mosque.
Isn't it necessary, now, to seriously think about the harmful and bad influence of such speeches on the thoughts and behavior of the common people?
Have people in our country been informed, in waaz sessions, that several centuries ago Muslim scholars were instrumental in disseminating scientific knowledge in the world by making important scientific discoveries?
Scholars – namely Ibn Sina, Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Rushd, Ibn al-Khatib, Ibn al-Awwam, Ibn Hazm, Al-Razi, Al-Kindi, Al-Khwarizmi, Al-Farabi – made remarkable contributions to diverse academic subjects such as: medicine, mathematics, physics, philosophy, history, astronomy, law, politics, comparative religion etc.
In his book "The Arabs," famous historian Philip K. Hitti wrote, "Between the middle of the eighth and the beginning of the thirteenth centuries… the Arabic-speaking peoples were the main bearers of the torch of culture and civilization throughout the world, the medium through which ancient science and philosophy were recovered, supplemented and transmitted to make possible the renaissance of Western Europe."
Isn't it important to make today's Muslims aware of these famous Muslim scholars' intellectual powers and penchant for logical thinking? Isn't it necessary to encourage people to possess rational belief and a refined attitude?
Unfortunately, the remarks of the speakers made in some of these waaz sessions these days may lead listeners to become irrational and aggressive.
Do waaz audiences come to know from the speakers that communal violence between religious groups did not exist in this part of the world in the distant past, and people of differing religious faiths lived together in perfect harmony for centuries?
Do the speakers mention during waaz that religious harmony is a fundamental trait of Bengali culture and one of the major principles of our Liberation War?
In our society, making disparaging and malicious remarks about women and non-Muslims is not encouraged. Imparting baseless and misleading information is not allowed too. It is, therefore, surprising how some speakers make such comments during waazes without hesitating.
It makes us wonder whether the powers that be are following a policy of appeasing such speakers. It should be realized that providing a wrongdoer with concessions would only bolster his courage to do undesirable acts repeatedly.
The continuance of lectures that convey religious dogmatism and unreasoned ideas would be dangerous for any society. It would be a mistake to turn a blind eye to lectures that express irrationality and intolerance in the name of religious speech.
The author is a Professor of Department of Mass Communication and Journalism at the University of Dhaka