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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

UAE tolerance: Islamic Affairs Authority plans to push Friday sermon to wider audience

A new dedicated department will make translations in multiple languages available and launch a smartphone app 

Friday sermons will soon be available in English, French, Urdu and Chinese. Pawan Singh / The National
Friday sermons will soon be available in English, French, Urdu and Chinese. Pawan Singh / The National

Authorities plan to reach a bigger expat and international audience with the Friday sermon by making it available in several languages and creating a smartphone app.

On Wednesday, the UAE Islamic Affairs Authority told the Federal National Council (FNC) that it will be establishing a department dedicated to the Friday sermon in a bid to win more hearts and minds.

Dr Mohammed Al Kaabi, head of the authority, said multi-lingual sermons will be drafted for non-Arab speaking audiences, with the aim of fostering a culture of tolerance and combating extremism.

The languages will include English, French, Urdu and Chinese. English subtitles will also be used when the sermon is broadcast live on television.

The authority currently has a committee that issues a unified Friday sermon for mosques across the country. And some mosques already provide an English or Urdu translated version of the sermon. The new plan seeks to build on this.

“We have people from 226 countries following the Friday sermon on the authority’s website,” Dr Al Kaabi told the council.

He was responding to a question from FNC member Marwan bin Ghalita on measures the authority was taking to reach as many non-Arab speakers as possible.

“The Friday sermon is the best opportunity to reach the masses, so it is important that the message reaches as many people as possible,” said Mr Ghalita.

Dr Al Kaabi said the authority has “an annual plan to serve the (religious) needs of non-Arab speakers and expat communities, aiming to spread a culture of tolerance and cooperation between all members of society and to combat extremism, radicalism and terrorism”.

They also organise lectures and functions to coincide with religious, national and international events.

There are already 26,000 religious lessons being held in Urdu at mosques across the UAE every year. There are also Islamic studies lessons across mosques in different communities, taught by instructors from their own nationalities.

Moreover, the authority’s fatwa centre receives between 400 to 800 fatwa inquiries a day in Urdu and English, and has issued around half a million fatwas in response.

“After we receive the approval from the cabinet, we will establish an independent department for the Friday sermon, to make sure the sermon is up to international standard and reaches all communities,” he said.

The authority also plans to “redistribute imams based on their nationality, to serve members of their own language”.

Multi-lingual imams will also be evaluated regularly.

“We will start receiving comments from the audience on the sermon and what they thought of it in all languages,” Dr Al Kaabi said.

The authority also plans to make the sermon available in several languages on a new smartphone app.

“I am very happy to hear that the authority will be using technology thoroughly in its future plans,” said Mr Ghalita. “As you see nowadays many people read Quran from their phones, so it is good to have other services available on mobile phones as well.”

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