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UAE government asks Islamic clerics to cool it

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Friday, August 15, 2003

ABU DHABI The United Arab Emirates has launched an effort to restrict the activities of Islamic clerics.

"The Friday sermon is considered a source of spiritual and religious education for the Islamic nation," Islamic Waqf Undersecretary Mohammed Salim said. "Muslim clerics should stick to the text of the sermon and should not drag on for a long time, especially in the hot summer hours."

Officials said the UAE will increase supervision on clerics and houses of worship. They said this will include the activities of state-owned mosques and religious seminaries, Middle East Newsline reported.

The effort was expected to focus on Friday sermons given by Islamic clerics. Mosque attendance is heaviest on Fridays and sermons have often contained anti-Western and anti-U.S. messages.

Officials said a government panel plans to provide guidelines for the content of Friday sermons. They said the effort by the Islamic Waqf Ministry aims to prevent what they termed extremist teachings.

UAE officials and security agencies have long monitored mosque sermons. But officials acknowledged that enforcement of preventing anti-Western rhetoric was inadequate over the last few years.

"We want to ensure that the sermon is a contemporary one that illustrates the clear Islamic vision based on firm pillars of moderation and tolerance," Hamdan Bin Musallam Al Mazroui, another Islamic Waqf undersecretary, said.

Other parts of the program, also drafted by the Justice Ministry, are meant to bolster the clergy in the UAE. This includes constructing at least 60 mosques and eliminating mosques in mobile homes.

The drive has been termed as a means to moderate the behavior of the state-supported clergy. One measure would translate Friday sermons in outdoor areas into several foreign languages, including English and Urdu. The UAE contains a large Pakistani population.

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