The Sunni Endowments Directorate in Kirkuk province on Friday (August 11th) launched a centre for combating extremist thought and announced that its employees have started undergoing religious tests.
The directorate has opened "the Religious Awareness Centre in order to combat extremist ideology and promote tolerance and moderation, which are at the core of Islam", said directorate head Ahmed Jameel al-Mudaris.
The centre will guide the Sunni Endowment's imams and preachers to promote moderate religious discourse and confront hate speech and doctrinal deviations, he told Diyaruna.
It will work on inoculating the public against extremist ideology by organising education programmes based on moderate religious thinking, he said, adding that the centre will also boost moderate thought in school curricula and at the Imam al-Atham College.
"Terrorist groups have been defeated on the battlefields, but terrorist ideology still poses a threat to society," al-Mudaris said.
"We, as religious institutions and thinkers, are required to work very hard to combat it and build a sound doctrinal and ideological structure," he added.
Employees undergo testing
On Monday (August 7th), at the direction of the Sunni Endowments Office, the directorate began holding religious tests for preachers, imams and other employees, including muezzins (those who call to prayer), reciters and mosque workers.
"These tests include various questions on ideology and Islamic doctrine," al-Mudaris said.
The goal is to evaluate employees' thinking and understanding of religious concepts, and whether they are influenced by extremist ideology, he added.
"The assessment of answers is conducted by a specialised committee consisting of top scholars and professors of sharia and Islamic jurisprudence," he said.
As a first stage, tests were held for the Kirkuk Sunni Endowments Directorate’s cadres who work as imams, preachers and female religious guides.
"All our cadres will sit for the test," he said. "We have completed tests for two batches so far, and we still have 10 more batches ahead."
Each batch includes at least 50 of the directorate’s employees, he said.