Iraq News

New plan aims to moderate religious discourse in Anbar

By Alaa Hussain in Baghdad

Sunni Endowment head Sheikh Abdul Latif al-Hamim leads the Friday prayers in a mosque in Anbar province. [Photo courtesy of Anbar police directorate]

Sunni Endowment head Sheikh Abdul Latif al-Hamim leads the Friday prayers in a mosque in Anbar province. [Photo courtesy of Anbar police directorate]

Iraqi officials unveiled a new plan to guide religious discourse in Anbar mosques towards moderation as some had been used as pulpits for extremism and fanaticism during the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant"(ISIL) occupation.

The Iraqi parliament's endowments and religious affairs committee is working in co-ordination with the Sunni Endowment to regulate the operation and administration of Anbar mosques in the post-ISIL era, said committee chairman Abdulazeem al-Ajman.

The committee will operate according to guidelines established by the National Commission for the Protection of Peaceful Co-existence and the Fight against Extremism and Terrorism, formed by parliament last November in an effort to spread a culture of moderation, he said.

The commission commenced its work in liberated areas such as Fallujah, by selecting a number of new imams, he said.

The Sunni Endowment will work to prevent the return of preachers who paved the way for ISIL's deviant ideology, he said, adding that preachers will not be allowed to return until their ideological stance has been vetted.

Re-testing preachers and imams

Earlier this year, the Sunni Endowment prepared a study that called for the formation of specialised working committees to explore new ways to administer mosques, endowment head Sheikh Abdul Latif al-Hamim told Diyaruna.

These committees would appoint a scholars' council, as a top priority, to re-test imams and orators in Anbar, Salaheddine and Ninawa mosques, confirming the qualified, and excluding those who disseminate extremist thought.

The endowment also will organise training courses for imams and orators at Egypt's Al-Azhar University and in Kuwait and Dubai to rehabilitate them in line with moderation, he said.

Al-Hamim said the courses abroad will take place in conjunction with 500 other in-country courses that will be held over the next two years, which aim to rehabilitate more than 14,000 imams and orators.

Sheikh Faisal al-Asafi, head of the Council of Tribes Against ISIL, told Diyaruna the crisis of fanaticism and extremism in Anbar mosques dates back to the regime of Saddam Hussein.

During that time, he said, Fallujah, which is known as the city of mosques, became a hub for fanatic and extremist orators whose leanings and opinions influenced many people of the current generation.

He called for returning mosques to their original standing as platforms for tolerance and moderation.

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