We are all virtuous people [Archives:2008/1183/Opinion]

August 21 2008

By: Dr. Waheeba Farea
Having observed allegations of establishing the so-called “Virtue Authority” and reactions to it, I then sympathized with a noble writer who said, “I hope that we think about establishing organizations to protect our rights and freedoms, call for sharing of bread and luxury and encourage spread of forgiveness in our communities. This writer summarized the problem as having nothing to do with establishing committees for cynicism and controversy.

He explained that we should establish the kind of committees that help people improve their dire economic, social, educational and cultural conditions, adding that these committees will be eventually virtuous organizations.

Having searched for the principle of establishing the authority, I found that new enthusiasts play no role in its establishment because virtue doesn't concern them. Virtue is a human value for all societies that are in an urgent need for spreading the values of goodness, righteousness, forgiveness, equality and justice.

People are all interested in calling others to virtue even if they have specific share in it. It is the hard life that made us violate our nice values such as generosity, hospitality, bravery, sincerity and honesty, which man has got by nature.

But, as values in life even the nice ones exist relatively, no one of us could claim that he is infallible because infallibility is only enjoyed by God. God sent his Prophet Mohammed (Peace be Upon Him) to the mankind to help them gain the moral values in full, as people are usually born with some values by instinct.

The subject is clear and easy to understand. But establishing the “Virtue Authority” amid the current dire conditions and with dictated conditions for promoting goodness and preventing evil persuade us to bear in mind that the authority is nothing more than a political contrivance. It appeals to our minds that this authority is a movement of internal and external political pressure on a right concept, which the authority founders want to convert into a wrong concept.

Establishing a virtue authority this way may lead to shaking security, safety and faith, particularly as the authority began labeling things as taboo or permissible according to the desire of its founders.

The virtue may be a noun or an abstract adjective for a certain party or school, but it is impossible for it to have an authority or institution with an official responsibility to label things as taboo or prohibited according to its whimsical desire.

This authority is operating in a virtuous society, and we are all virtuous people. No one of us claims that he is better than the other, and the Muslim is the one who doesn't harm others with his tongue or hand.

So, the virtue concerns us all but without any argument or controversy, and it is impossible for any of us to direct behaviors of others since this is the job of legislative and legal bodies established by the state. The state should protect and sponsor such bodies by directing their operations according the constitutional and legal provisions.

If the Virtue Authority founders include people who are virtuous, they certainly include others who are hypocrites and deceivers. They may include illiterate individuals, who have been convinced in advance not to believe those around them even if they perform the five daily prayers regularly in mosques. These founders still cast doubt on their intents, worship and faith.

Infallibility: An exclusive quality of God

I advise those who contributed to establishing the “Virtue Authority” to search for virtue and help their children learn about virtue because infallibility is an exclusive characteristic of God. It is difficult for them to claim possession of virtue and believe that other people inherited it from prophets and messengers.

The most important thing is educating generations to be virtuous by good instructions and preaching, and the teaching of virtue doesn't necessitate division of society into angels and devils.

Virtue is a common human value. It is also part of the behavior followed by a certain individual, characterized by credibility, justice, honor and integrity.

Insistence of some people to place this authority in the rank of prophets is an inexcusable error. And, insistence of the authority that people are ignorant and still need a punitive instrument to teach them how to behave is unprecedented political hypocrisy. This kind of treatment oppresses people and makes them lose the vital qualities of good citizenship.

As a result, people may turn to cast doubt on their loyalty with homeland and Allah, who created them to live free, and respect and defend freedom. Anyone denied free living may do nothing for his religion, and whoever is insane is not obliged perform duties required by his religion.

Such classification and division in the authority's operations is viewed by some people as a flagrant crime, and this crime may grow to be then classified within the crimes of darkness that harm the innocent human nature.

Ordinary people are enraged by behavior of the authority founders, who associate religion with politics, trade and hypocrisy, thereby exposing Islam to criticism and insult, even in the minds of little children who cannot understand contradictions of this orientation.

It is evident that such an orientation, based on racial discrimination, may lead to an unprecedented national catastrophe because it implies disobedience, escapism and disrespect for the rule of law, thereby hindering role of the state in eliminating extremism.

In conclusion, people are entitled to publicize their concerns that establishing an authority this way is an initial step to fomenting ethnical and sectarian conflicts, which may direct the country and its people toward unknown collapse.

Waheeb Farea is a Sana'a University Professor.

She also served as Human Rights Minister.