Robotic Imam prompts police inquiry as
worshipers express their horror
A small mosque near the coastal town of Nishtun in Yemen is currently shut down as police investigate the unauthorized use of a humanoid. While details are still lite, it appears a humanoid, a robot indistinguishable from that of a human, was acting as an Imam in the mosque and performing congregational prayers when passers by would visit the mosque.
Worshipers only became aware of the situation when structural damage caused a beam in the roof to fall mid prayer, hitting the Imam on the head. Expecting catastrophic injury, worshipers were perplexed and then horrified to find computer parts and electronics instead of a brain. While counselling has been provided, particularly for children that were involved at the time, deeper and unexpected questions are being raised about the validity of prayer by a non-human Imam.
Currently, the humanoid is under examination at a robo-forensics laboratory in the north of Somalia however preliminary investigations have revealed startling insights. Firstly, it appears the artificial intelligence within the humanoid was sufficiently advanced to be undetectable by humans. Consequently, due to the level of sophistication and quality of parts used, early suggestions indicate a rogue state-sanctioned group as a likely culprit. Witness accounts report that the “roboImam” was exceedingly friendly, with a sense of sabr and perfect Tajweed. Due to the nature of the small town though, with most mosque traffic coming from travelers, no one is entirely sure how long the “roboImam” was active for.
In the meantime, the Khalifa has ordered a special counsel to investigate the use of AI and “roboImams”, and how they may effect the validity of prayer. The Artificial Imam Taskforce (AIT) as it is now known, is being led by the one of the senior members within the Khalifas personal circle of Fuqaha, Sheikha Miriam Bint Qali. While the taskforce is expected to take some months before it presents its findings, Sheikha Miriam has issued an immediate and temporary Fatwa declaring the use of any robotic technology to conduct religious activities outright banned.
This comes nearly a year after the infamous VRHajj incident which saw the Council of Islamic Scholars declaring virtual Hajj and virtual Salah a Bida, and not part of the deen. Discussions and debates are expected to be heated however, as Sheikha Miriam invites Fuqaha from around the Khalifa to share their expert knowledge and opinion. Debate has already begun to rage online as people question why prayer would be invalid behind a roboImam if the roboImam was completely indistinguishable from humans in the firstplace.
Isa Jurado, a librarian in the small coastal town of Fujairah, says theres been a noticeable increase in interest as people borrow more books on robotics and Philosophy:
The roboImam has really captured the imagination of people around town. While the library is often busy, it’s really become a hive of activity these days as people borrow books on Philosophy, Ethics and Fiqh. It seems for the last few days I’ve had to push people out of the library at closing because they were too caught up in their conversations and arguments, only to find them waiting at the door again the next morning to be let in. Not that I’m complaining mind you. A full library is a good library.
Some however are less optimistic, including Ministers within the Khilafa. While Heba Qureshi (the Minister of Defence who was recently involved in a helicopter incident) has remained silent, public officials within the Department of Defence have indicated an internal review of defence forces and a re-allocation of funding towards cyber defence.
In particular, questions around how such a high-tech piece of equipment found itself in a small Yemeni mosque are deeply unsettling to members of the intelligence and defence communities. This latest incident also comes at a time of increased diplomatic tension between the Khilafa and problem states like Burma and the UK.