Online sermons weakening mosque-based Islamic teaching

The Internet is undermining religious education in families and traditional educational institutions. As many faithful abandon mosques, radical groups use them to spread their ideology. For experts, mosques should be revived to fight absolutism.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Sermons via social media are reducing the influence of mosques in teaching Islam, this according to a 2018 study by the Centre for the Study of Religion and Culture (CSRC), at the Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic State University (UIN) in Jakarta.

The study surveyed young Muslims aged 17 and 24 in 18 regencies and cities throughout the country. Its findings indicate that online sermons have undermined the hitherto pre-eminence of religious education taught in the family and other traditional educational institutions.

Muslim scholars and leaders met in Jakarta recently to discuss how to bring young people to mosques. Masdar F. Mas'udi, from UIN, said that radical groups often rely on underused mosques to spread their ideology.

"This is what happens at least in some mosques in Bogor, West Java province, where I studied the phenomenon," said the scholar.

Recent reports have revealed that a number of mosques in the country are infiltrated by groups affiliated with the Islamic State group seeking to recruit militants for the terrorist network. According to experts, mosques need to reach out to stop the spread of radicalism.

For CSRC director Irfan Abubakar, millennials must attend mosques to reach a deeper understanding of Islam. "Often the lack of religious literacy leads to absolutism, which threatens the country’s pluralistic society," he said.

Irfan Amalee, founder and activist of Peace Generation, agrees that a transformation is needed to attract millennials to mosques. The changes could take place via "new sermons, with which it is possible to relate".

The renewal should also involve mosque takmir (managers) and preachers. Mosque buildings should also be renovated. "We shall use new innovative approaches to draw people to our mosques," he explained.

Finally, Amalee cites the example of several mosques in Bandung, which have achieved success among the faithful by providing free Wi-Fi and advertising in social media.