An Egyptian imam has slammed hardline TV fatwas, or religious edicts, in an impassioned speech at the opening of the Arab Media Forum in Dubai.
Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar Mosque, said “tens of channels” in the region are guilty of a “lack of professionalism” in airing the sometimes extreme edicts, which he said help spread hatred.
Al-Tayeb said his biggest concern about the regional media was the “ridiculous and absurd edicts... cloaked in the robes of religion.”
Hardline Muslim clerics regularly issue extreme edicts, often on private TV stations broadcast across the region. In Egypt, such edicts have included the justification of sexual assaults on women protesters, or fatwas endorsing the murder of opposition leaders.
Such broadcasts can “create hatred”, “sow the seeds of dissention” and harm the “Islamic and Arab homeland”, the imam said. He called on the Arab media to correct the impression left by such shows.
“It is a necessity of all Arab media... to clarify the real picture of Islam and respect the real Arab identity, which has been distorted,” Al-Tayeb said.
Others in Egypt, including President Mohammed Mursi and his prime minister, have denounced such extreme fatwas.
Nabil al-Araby, the Secretary General of the Arab League, spoke after al-Tayeb at the Arab Media Forum.
He praised al-Tayeb for his “vital role in enhancing the good understanding of Islam.”
Al-Araby said distorted views of the Arab identity are leading to growing Islamophobia. He did, however, add that there is an “unalienable right” to freedom of expression.
“The Arab Spring was necessary in order to adopt the changes in the world in terms of freedom of expression,” said al-Araby.