Regardless of the effectiveness of the messages’ content, we tend to rely on over-communicating, believing that more talk leads to better understanding. Intensive media programs notwithstanding, the entire society still lacks a fundamental understating of the true essence of religion.
Installing kiosks at Cairo underground stations from which preachers issue fatwas to passengers, as the government has done, is not only a waste of state funds, it also further confuses people’s understanding of religion. We are still struggling in Egypt to determine the best way to use state facilities, prioritize our challenges and help Egyptians to understand the essence of Islam.
In the face of any challenge, we Egyptians tend to argue for our own perspective, believing that our listeners are misunderstanding our message. We never stop to consider that the difficulty may not lie in the communication tool, but in the foundation of the problem. Our intention to impose our opinions on others results in over-promoting baseless messages. A message or policy that has a truly solid foundation will fly on its own merits, without the need for a promotional campaign.
The Egyptian government is attempting to address an extremely profound and complicated challenge — the relationship between citizens and their religion — by using a naive approach; installing a few kiosks in metro stations. The dilemma we face is that the clear majority of Egyptians tends to be religiously orientated; thus, government and political entities often try to use religion as a tool for communicating a political message. Most of these entities use verses from the Qur’an, quoted out of context, to support their viewpoints, which can polarize society and often causes people to doubt the good and rightful meaning of religious verses.
Like other community leaders, Egyptian preachers enjoy having an upper hand on the rest of society and being empowered to issue fatwas that often work on threatening people. The more fatwas they issue, the more confused people will become. The government is not able to unify the many fatwas, because the process is clearly used as a business. Additionally, religious fatwas are being used to fill the void created by the absence of true justice, helping to frame and control Egyptian society.
Instead of paying preachers to issue often confusing advice at Cairo metro stations, Egypt should invest in education so that Muslims can better understand their own faith.
We need our citizens to better understand their religion and abide by our good book according to their individual pathways. This is far more effective than imposing our beliefs and eventually having people give up what we had falsely assumed they were abiding by. People will be more authentically religious when they comprehend religion correctly, without being pressurized by any entity. The high illiteracy rate among Egyptians who have been living in poverty for years is the real barrier that is preventing them from grasping the true moral essence of our religion. We simply need to provide wider access to a better education.
Since our metros are overcrowded, and are heavily subsidized, let us use the fatwa kiosk budget to teach passengers to become better-disciplined citizens, willing to pay the true metro fare price. Behaving better when using the metro and becoming more well-ordered will eventually reflect on people’s work — and on the integrity of Egyptian society as a whole.
• Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom. Twitter: @MohammedNosseir