To stem the spread of the extremist ideology propagated by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), Ninawa's local government has been working to enhance the role of clerics in promoting religious awareness.
Ninawa provincial council's endowment and religious affairs committee on Tuesday (October 17th) announced the launch of a "guidance and reform" project in co-ordination with the Sunni, Shia and Christian endowment diwans.
The purpose of this project, according to committee head Ghanem Hamid, is "to spread a spirit of brotherhood and peace among members of society and refute the extremist ideology of ISIS".
Provincial authorities have begun holding meetings and consultations with mosque preachers, imams and various clerics, he told Diyaruna, as these figures wield enormous influence among the local population.
"We want this group of people to play an active role in educating citizens on the true Islamic doctrine that focuses on moderation," he said, stressing that this doctrine calls for the ethical treatment of people.
"We also will endeavour to prepare ideological guidance programmes for all social groups, especially young people and adolescents," he said.
Teenagers have been particularly vulnerable to falling prey to groups such as ISIS, he said, which attempt to recruit them by "manipulating their minds and deceiving them with false speech and slogans".
'Disposing of ideological waste'
It is vital for the future of the province that houses of worship and related institutions participate in guidance programmes and activities, he said.
The council also is trying to benefit from the influence of tribal leaders, civic activists and opinion leaders in raising public awareness about the principle of moderation in thinking and behaviour, Hamid said.
The goal is to dispose of the ideological waste of terrorist groups, he added.
ISIS relied heavily on its preachers to broadcast its poison and its propaganda through mosques, seeking not only to mislead people and disrupt their established beliefs, but also to intimidate and silence them, he noted.
"Many of these mouthpieces -- an estimated 100 to 150 preachers -- were killed by the security forces during the battle to liberate the city of Mosul," he said.
But some ISIS preachers managed to flee.
"These people's names and details are known to the security authorities and they are registered as terrorists wanted for trial," he said, expressing his conviction that the authorities will eventually be able to track them down.