First helpline in UAE to fight extreme interpretations of Islam
Dubai, October 10, 2008
Muslim clergies in the UAE have put in place the world’s first Islamic helpline in an attempt to root out extreme interpretations of Islam by extremists. The UAE, which established the call centre three months ago, ensures that the rulings based on Islamic law comply with the government’s moderate religious stance.
“The hardest questions I am asked involve sex. I feel shame, but I have to answer the questions because it is my duty,” Mufti Abdulrahman Ammoura was quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph newspaper on Friday.
His advice counts as an official fatwa in the UAE, under new rules issued by the General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments.
A group of 48 Islamic scholars and Imams man the call centre telephones from morning till evening and deliver rulings in an attempt to root out extreme interpretations of Islam.
Muslims from all over the world are reaching out to the helpline, with organisers putting the number at about 3,700 calls a day.
The helpline staff work in teams, with six men and two women on six-hour shifts and a skeleton staff takes calls for “religious emergencies” during the night, the report in the British daily said.
Callers have a three minute time slot and have the option of choosing service in Arabic, Urdu or English.
The authorities are surprised by the overwhelming response. “We were not prepared for the popularity. Already, we get more calls than Emirates Airlines,” one official said.
With growing popularity of the service, plans are being sketched to employ extra 50 muftis and open satellite centres elsewhere in the Muslim world.