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Mosque-watch: Saudis to release book of authorized sermons

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Monday, January 13, 2003

ABU DHABI Saudi Arabia has launched a program to tighten supervision over mosques to ensure that they are not used for the recruitment of Islamic insurgency groups.

Officials said the program increases supervision over mosques, preachers and their Friday sermons. They said the regulations have been drafted by a government committee appointed by the Islamic Affairs Ministry. Saudi Arabia has an estimated 50,000 mosques.

The ministry said it will release a book of authorized sermons for preachers in Saudi mosques, Middle East Newsline reported. The book will serve as a guide for Friday sermons meant to avoid politics and anti-Western rhetoric.

Officials said the government will not allow mosques to be used for incitement against Saudi Arabia's allies, including the United States. They said the regulations are in response to the arrest of hundreds of Saudi nationals accused of being members of Al Qaida and recruited in mosques around the kingdom.

Saudi analysts said the government must broaden the role of mosque preachers. This would include the use of preachers as family counselors.

"I suggest that we employ full-time preachers to serve as imams, preachers, teachers of the Holy Koran and Islamic sciences as well as social counsels serving their neighborhoods," Muhammad Al-Harfi, an analyst at the Riyad-based Al Watan daily, said. "By doing so, the ministry would kill two birds with one stone. It would guarantee genuine mosque reform and help fight unemployment among the jobless graduates of Shariah colleges."

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