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Muslim Sermons That Offend Instead of Inspire

03/07/2013 05:48 EST | Updated 03/08/2013 11:35 EST
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Pakistani Shiite Muslim women mourn during a funeral ceremony for bomb blast victims in Karachi on March 4, 2013. Thousands of Pakistanis attended funerals Monday for victims of a bombing that killed 48 people in a Shiite Muslim area of Karachi, the latest in a series of devastating attacks ahead of elections. AFP PHOTO/Rizwan TABASSUM (Photo credit should read RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)

Muslim prayer services are offered all over the world, every Friday. Prayers are led by the Imam, while the Khateeb is the person who delivers the sermon, which is called the Khutbah.

Traditionally, the form of the Khutbah is set. Content, on the other hand, may vary.

Having heard many Khutbahs during my lifetime, the quality also varies.

Some Khutbahs have been beautiful. They have made my heart sing or brought tears to my eyes.

Some have been interesting in parts and made me chuckle.

Others have been simply adequate.

There were a few, in response to which, I worked hard to refrain from open heckling.

And one in particular, during my university days, over 20 years ago, was so offensive, it filled me with rage. More than two decades later I still remember I was startled by the sound of the doors I slammed myself when I ran out of the room.

Some things don't change -- not at the speed we demand.

On February 15, 2013, Muslim students at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, attended a Friday prayer service, seeking enlightenment and spiritual comfort. Instead they were delivered a Khutbah filled with offensive comments against sexual minorities and women.

In response, Muslim students at Cornell wrote an open letter to the Cornell Community asking that they be allowed to deliver the sermons themselves, not be excluded from services and provided a reminder that the views of one Khateeb did not reflect the view of all Muslims.

Unfortunately, the Cornell incident is not an isolated one.

Though not all Khutbahs are regularly filled with homophobia and misogyny, a common complaint among mosque-goers and mosque-quitters is about the quality of the Khutbah at some mosques.

And those complaints are becoming more commonplace as the times they are a-changing.

The views and values of the Ummah -- as we Muslims call our community -- are no longer always in line with conservative mosque leadership.

Examples?

While the Khateeb at Cornell littered his sermon with homophobia and misogyny, many American Muslims hold an unwavering solidarity behind American Muslim congressman, Keith Ellison, also a supporter of same sex marriage.

While British Muslim MPs, like Sadiq Khan, come under fire from conservative Muslims for supporting same sex marriage, other members of the UK Muslim community express their support for him and the four other Muslim MP's who voted for it. (Most of those Muslim MPs now face death threats.)

And while our media here in Canada is busy searching for but rarely finding "moderate" Muslims (please report on Bill S-7 before Harper Conservatives make it legal for police to detain someone for three days without charge), Ontario Minister of Labour, Yasir Naqvi, a Canadian Muslim, has marched at Pride, staunchly supported anti-bullying provisions to help queer youth and led the way for an amendment to the Ontario Human Rights Act that now includes transgendered persons.

Similarly, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Canada's first Muslim mayor, was also the first Calgary mayor to serve as grand marshal at Calgary Pride festivities .

So to the Khateebs who haven't gotten it yet -- wake up! Khutbahs should be enlightening and informative or at the very least un-offensive to a broad audience and aligned with the values of the Ummah.

Without change, it appears, according to the American documentary film, "Unmosqued", (to be released) the mosque will soon be empty.

Please check out and share our (broad) Recommended Guidelines for Khateebs in Canada here. Recommended Guidelines for Khateebs in America are here.

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