A peaceful society is the result of consensus, a sort of social contract anchored in a common culture formed over a country’s long history. Shared values forge strong societal bonds.
Religion contributes to the creation of these links.
Not only does religion guarantee that members of a society have the same beliefs, it also ensures that they share the same moral values. In that sense, religion helps to guarantee the individual’s integration into the group.
This social integration is manifested in traditional celebrations and collective rituals.
However, in order for religion to strengthen social cohesion, its discourse must be grounded in unity and brotherhood. If it is not, the bonds that hold society together fall apart.
The State, as the guarantor of national unity, should manage these religious voices. Its specialised institutions must take charge of the training of imams in order to provide protection and spiritual serenity for all citizens.
The imam’s function is vital to providing social guidance. In fact, the word imam comes from “Amma ya ummu”, which means: to guide or to lead. The imam not only conducts prayers at the mosque; he is also a spiritual guide and role model for the faithful.
Training and supervision are therefore areas that we must examine carefully in order to establish appropriate guidelines.
In Tunisia, for example, scientific and educational training must focus on teaching the following:
- The humanistic goals of Islam.
- The acceptance of religious and cultural diversity of all societies.
- Respect for the international treaties and conventions to which Tunisia, as part of the global village, is bound.
- The local circumstances and religious history specific to Tunisia.
- The ability to distinguish between sacred scripture and Muslim theological literature.
These principles are not exclusive to Tunisia. They can be applied across the region. By following this dynamic approach, we will move away from literal and narrow-minded interpretations that may cause conflicts and antagonism within the community of believers.
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