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Tuesday, 6 November 2012

What are Mosques For?



 
On the one hand, just as you can say that in Islam there is no distinction between all aspects of life (private, sexual, political, scientific, which side you should sleep on, ad infinitum) and Islam, so too when it comes to the mosque itself.

Muslims will themselves show this by citing ‘the example of the Prophet’.

The first thing Muhammad did when he arrived in Medina from Mecca was set up a mosque.

Mohammed’s mosque was not only for prayer and worship. His mosque served as a (Islamic) school, a reception centre for Muslim visitors, Muslims travellers and Muslim poor, the treasure for the collection and distribution of taxes, a court of law for the settling of disputes and the passing of sentences.

So too today mosques are certainly not only places of prayer and worship. They are places of advice and education. Sometimes they have been (Islamic) universities and today they virtually function as (Islamic) schools. Above all that they function as clinics, day centres for children, dormitories and facilities for training the young.

All these many aspects of both ancient and modern mosques are effectively means of “reducing the growing secularisation of societies”. Clearly it is felt that mosques as being only places of prayer and worship is not enough for Muslims. Secularisation, as well as the influence of other religions, will never be defeated simply by praying.

Politically, mosques are often described, euphemistically, as places which can ‘mobilise Muslims and their resources’. Alternatively, but still politically, mosques are also see as ‘springboards for community action and involvement’. Again, mosques are the means to fight against secularisation and against the (small) influence of other religions.

More relevantly to non-Muslims, it is also vital to stress the military, therefore also political, nature of mosques.

Muhammad’s first mosque, mentioned earlier, was also used to create and then mobilise an army, along with developing skills in martial arts (think here of Hamas).

During the first and second intifada and intrafada, mosques were at the very epicentre of the conflicts. Fatah and especially Hamas organised both their political and terrorist actions from mosques. Demonstrations, strikes and stone-throwing were also ‘mobilised’ there.

It will not be surprising, then, that the ‘moderate’ Muslim leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of the ‘moderate’ Muslim nation of Turkey, should have said that

"The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers."

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