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Monday, July 23, 2007

Mosque crackdown: Gulf states to install computers, monitor sermons by Internet

ABU DHABI The Gulf states are stepping up programs to monitor mosques and stem the spread of the Al Qaida network.

In the United Arab Emirates, authorities plan to install computers and Internet in mosques. Officials said the first stage of the project would focus on the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Officials said virtually every one of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states has taken measures to monitor mosque activity and sermons. They said the goal was to prevent the mosque from being used as a place for insurgency recruitment.

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The Internet project would link all mosques in Abu Dhabi to the UAE Islamic Affairs Ministry. The ministry would communicate with preachers and relay sermons for Friday prayers.

"The mosque is where Al Qaida usually meets its recruitee and where it sets the agenda for terrorism," a GCC official said.

Officials said authorities in all six GCC states have warned mosque preachers to adhere to guidelines set by the Islamic Affairs Ministry. They said preachers were also ordered to report suspicious activity in houses of worship.

In June 2007, UAE Islamic Affairs Ministry director-general Mohammed Mattar Al Kaabi gathered new mosque preachers and warned them not to issue religious rulings without permission. Al Kaabi said Muslims could acquire Islamic rulings through the ministry.

Officials said GCC states would also record Friday sermons to ensure that they don't support Al Qaida doctrine. They said preachers would be directed and trained to communicate with authorities.

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