Why do some people use religion for political reasons?

Agal Al-Agal

By Agal Al-Agal

I RECENTLY saw a video of a beautiful sculpture being torn down by tractors near Al-Qassim Municipality building. The reason why it was removed was because it resembled a cross. What is strange is that it had stood there for 25 years before being removed. It was located in the heart of Buraidah. The municipality decided to remove it following objections from many citizens. How the sculpture was able to stand there for a quarter of a century with nobody objecting is not quite clear. Could it be possible that nobody noticed its shape until recently?

Frankly speaking, I don’t understand why. All I know is that the sculpture was erected 25 years ago when the Islamic awakening period was at its peak and strength. At that time, religious activists stood up against any action that could oppose the values and teachings of Shariah, especially all forms of art. For example, some cities and regions did not allow anyone to open stores selling music cassettes. Why did no one notice this sculpture at that time?

I think we still have some of those religious activists who supported the awakening period over 25 years ago. They still insist on doing things that embarrass us. Some of them insist that there is a Western Christian conspiracy against Islam. But I am sure that those who oppose having such sculptures in the Kingdom would not say anything against having them in another Islamic country. In fact, some of them might take a picture standing next to a sculpture in a Muslim country, but not in the Kingdom.

I do not understand how these activists think. Some of them say it is impermissible for Muslims to enter churches. The next day we see them entering churches and even shaking hands with priests. Some of them say it is impermissible for Muslim men and women to intermingle with one another but we see them sitting next to women at international conferences. I think it is an act. All they want to do is to mess around with public feeling. The removal of the sculpture, in my opinion, is designed to stir public opinion, especially since the Kingdom is opening up to the arts.

Some activists might see a monument or shape in a public place and claim that it looks like a cross and that it should be removed. This is wrong. Islam views things from a larger perspective, not a narrow one. Islam is beyond such simple interpretations. In our knees, we have something called the cruciate ligament; cruciate means cross-shaped. As Muslims, should we stop calling it such because it refers to the cross? We do not want the world to criticize us for tearing down our monuments or sculptures like it did when the Taliban destroyed statues or like Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) did in Iraq and Syria.

The Kingdom established the King Abdullah International Center for Dialogue to promote interfaith peace and understanding. Some activists, however, insist on using religion for political reasons. We have to respect the religious symbols of others. We should treat others in the same way that we want them to treat us.