Yemen begins reeducation program for state-hired imams

Sunday, November 23, 2003< /FONT>

CAIRO Yemen is reeducating clerics to prevent their mosques from being used to recruit Al Qaida insurgents.

The Yemeni government has imposed a training course on state-hired imams, or mosque preachers. So far, 200 imams have registered to begin the course.

The new Yemeni training course has angered the opposition. The parliamentary opposition has accused the goverment of seeking to control the mosques in the country, Middle East Newsline reported.

Yemeni officials said the course by the Islamic Affairs Ministry will seek to revise sermons given on Friday to the usual large crowds in mosques. The sermons will eliminate references to jihad, or holy war, against the West or Israel.

In addition, officials said, imams will voice opposition to Muslim suicide bombing attacks. They said mosques have often been used by Al Qaida and related groups to recruit suicide bombers and those for other missions.

The course has been designed by Egypt's Al Azhar seminary, regarded as the seat of Sunni Islam. Al Azhar has sent a team to Sanaa to teach the course and train Yemeni personnel to help draft prayer services and other activities that do not stress extremism.

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Officials said the mission by Al Azhar personnel in Sanaa is part of the security cooperation between Egypt and Yemen. The two countries have cooperated on such issues as intelligence exchange on Islamic insurgency groups and joint investigations.

On Tuesday, Yemeni jets pounded an Al Qaida stronghold in the Jouf mountaineous region east of Sanaa. Yemeni Al Qaida leader Mula Moutaz Al Qandahari was seriously injured in the attack and an arms depot was destroyed, the daily Yemeni Al-Balagh said.

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