The Sunni Endowment in Anbar on Tuesday (January 23rd) announced it has set "strict conditions" to unify religious discourse in all the province's mosques.
"The endowment is committed to fighting terrorism and extremism," deputy director Hamed Jabbar told Diyaruna.
"We have set strict conditions in this regard to ensure that religious discourse in mosques does not deviate from its basic role; to educate the people and urge them to practice peaceful co-existence and to reject extremism," he said.
These conditions prohibit "persons who have not been authorised by the Sunni Endowment Diwan to use the pulpit in mosques or to lead worshipers in prayer", Jabbar said.
"Any imam or preacher must obtain permission or an administrative order from the diwan allowing them to ascend the pulpit and to preach or lead worshipers in prayer," he explained. "Imams and preachers also must obtain a certificate officially qualifying them to carry out their duties."
Each month, at least 20 imams and preachers undergo a qualifying examination set by the Sunni Endowment’s Scholarly Council, which consists of 10 prominent figures, each of whom are senior religious scholars and professors of sharia.
The tests are difficult, Jabbar said, and the questions address many aspects of the applicant’s ideological integrity, to ascertain his level of religious scholarship and ensure he has not been compromised by extremist ideas.
They also test the applicant's memorisation, language and oratory skills.
Preaching must focus on unity
The tests have been going on, uninterrupted, since Ramadi was liberated from the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), on December 28th, 2015, he said, adding that they have "contributed to the selection of worthy people".
Friday sermons preached inside Anbar mosques are carefully observed, and must not deviate from the diwan's specified guidelines, he added.
"Preaching topics should generally focus on uniting the discourse, consolidating co-existence without discrimination based on religion, race or sect, and co-operating with the security forces," he said.
"There is co-ordination with the security services, and periodic meetings for the sake of bilateral co-operation in consolidating peace and stability throughout the cities of the province," Jabbar added.
New statistics reveal the number of clerics killed by extremists in Anbar, he said.
Since 2006, 500 preachers, imams and religious scholars "were assassinated by terrorist elements because of their national positions and their refusal to obey those elements’ orders", he said.