x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Worshippers warned of illegal residents

Message joins up with ministry campaign, warning that violators of immigration law pose risk to 'health, security and economics'.

Today's sermon urges worshippers to report people staying in the country illegally and calls on them to maintain closer ties with their relatives, despite the demands of modern society. "Servants of Allah, the Ministry of Interior is organising a campaign under the slogan 'Sahim' [Participate] to destroy the phenomenon of violators and illegal residents because of the negative effects it has on members of society in terms of health, security and economics," the sermon says.

"They are not subject to medical exams and they circumvent the conditions of residency in the country, they may carry infectious diseases that can spread and harm others, they may commit crimes and they cannot be reached," the sermon warns, adding that the law punishes those who provide them with refuge. Maintaining silence about illegal residents defies decisions by the caretakers of society and therefore goes against one's religious obligation, the sermon says.

"We have to co-operate with the leaders of this campaign so its goals succeed," the sermon concludes, citing the Quranic verse: "Help one another in goodness and in piety." The address comes amid a drive to more closely align Friday sermons to Government policy. The sermons are crafted centrally every week by the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments and read out in the vast majority of the country's mosques. Dr Ahmed al Qubaissy, the head of Islamic Studies at United Arab Emirates University (UAEU), said Islamic tradition was in favour of a centrally approved sermon, because the role of the khatib, who delivers the sermon, was to act as a representative of the state's ruler.

"The khatib is a deputy of the imam or the head of state," he said. "As the nation and the responsibilities of the ruler grew and it became difficult for the imam to deliver the Friday sermon, there had to be a deputy that represents him." Illegal residency was a fitting topic for the sermon as security was a basic right of the community, Dr al Qubaissy said. "This is an issue that goes to the heart of religion," he said. "Protecting society, the nation and the people are among the primary duties of the ruler."

The sermon also mentions silat al arham, or maintaining "ties of kinship", as a religious duty prescribed by God that helps maintain social cohesion. It calls on Muslims to "continuously visit and check on [relatives], provide them with aid and help, give advice, keep a pleasant face and a good word, take part in happiness and grief and overlook their mistakes. "Spread the greeting of peace, feed [and] maintain ties of kinship and pray when people are asleep [and] you will enter paradise in peace," it cites the Prophet Mohammed as saying.

Suaad al Oraimi, an assistant professor of sociology at UAEU, said religious instruction helped to bolster family relations, which were naturally weakening as the demands of modern society took their toll. "I don't think [family relations] are the same as before, they have been declining and that is a natural thing as society becomes more complicated," she said. "People used to live in tighter communities. The distractions of life mean people don't have the time and as a result these ties have been reduced, as well as people moving from one city to another," she added.

One solution was to instil, particularly in the younger generation, the idea that family relations were an essential part of Islamic teaching, she said. Doing so "today is better than tomorrow. If we don't prepare for tomorrow it will be worse", she added. @Email:kshaheen@thenational.ae