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memri
October 20, 2016 No.
1275

Jordanian Regime Tackles Problem Of Extremist Mosque Sermons

By: Z. Harel*

Introduction

Jordan has been experiencing a severe shortage of qualified imams and preachers with a formal shari'a education. In March 2015, then-minister of religious endowments Hayel Dawood stated that about half of Jordan's 6,300 mosques have either no imam or an imam who is unqualified for the position.[1] This shortage has resulted in untrained local imams and preachers delivering Friday sermons in these mosques that contain extremist messages - including open expressions of support for terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, and even attempts to recruit fighters to the Islamic State (ISIS).

This issue has been widely covered in Jordanian and Arab media. In February 2016, worshippers in the Al-Mazar Al-Janubi district in Jordan's Al-Karak Governorate complained that several mosques there had no trained imams and were staffed by volunteers with no religious education and that their sermons are not in line with the mosque's religious message.[2] In 2014, the Ministry of Religious Endowments announced that it had fired 26 imams for various reasons, including leading prayers for ISIS or Jabhat Al-Nusra and spreading these groups' ideology.[3] In September 2014, the imam of a mosque in the Al-Russeifa district of the Al-Zarqa Governorate was arrested for calling on worshippers to help ISIS if it entered Jordan.[4] After Jordanian pilot Mu'adh Al-Kasasbeh was burned alive by ISIS in early 2015, several imams refused to lead memorial prayers for him, demonstrating their opposition to Jordan's participation in the international coalition to fight ISIS.[5]

In recent years, the Jordanian regime has made efforts to combat extremism in the mosques. In 2014, it drew up a national anti-extremism plan that set out the responsibilities of various government offices and public institutions to fight it. Under this plan, the Ministry of Religious Endowments is tasked with: reorganizing its Preaching and Religious Guidance Administration and empowering it to select sermons that are in accordance with events and with the needs of the public and that convey moderate ideas; solving the shortage of preachers and imams; increasing oversight of mosques; improving training for mosque officials; taking steps to prevent extremists from preaching and from guiding worshippers; and cutting back on the number of mosques where Friday sermons are provided and transitioning to the model of "Al-Masjid Al-Jami'" ("central mosque"), as will be discussed further below. Additionally, in March 2015, the government approved measures ensuring that mosque imams are given proper shari'a training.[6]

The issue of extremism in mosques made headlines again recently, after several imams ignored orders by Minister of Religious Endowments Wael Arabiyat to include in Friday prayers a prayer for Jordanian security personnel killed in a June 2016 ISIS attack on the Jordan-Syria border. Following this incident the minister of religious endowments launched the Central Mosques Program, as part of which there will be a mosque in each region that will be the only one offering a Friday sermon, led by a qualified imam and without the extremist messages commonly found in smaller mosques.[7]

 There has been criticism of the minister's plan to transition to the Central Mosque model. Opponents of this plan argued that the move is motivated by foreign interests and is aimed at a government takeover of the mosques and control of Friday sermons. They said that it will make it difficult for worshippers to get to mosques that are farther away, and will ensure that all the Friday sermons are identical and also irrelevant to the people's daily problems.

This report will review the Jordanian regime's struggle with extremist mosque sermons, as well as the debate surrounding the implementation of the Ministry of Religious Endowments program for setting certain mosques across the country as Central Mosques.

Imams' Refusal To Pray For Security Personnel Killed In ISIS Attack Triggers Responses

On June 21, 2016, a car bomb targeted a Jordanian army post in the Al-Rukban area on the Syrian border, killing seven security personnel and wounding 14;[8] several days later ISIS announced, via its official news agency A'maq, that the attack had been carried out by one of its fighters.[9] Following the attack, Minister of Religious Endowments Wael Arabiyat ordered imams and preachers in Jordan to include prayers for the souls of those killed in Friday prayers.[10] However, according to reports on social media, a number of imams had refused to follow orders; this caused a stir on social media[11] and also triggered criticism in the Jordanian press.

Minister Of Religious Endowments: My Office Will Work To Change The Misguided Views Of Some Imams

Arabiyat quickly responded to the refusal to follow orders, stating that his office had received complaints from citizens that there had been no prayers for the victims at their local mosques. He stressed that the victims of the attack were martyrs and that everyone must pray for their souls, adding that as part of his anti-extremism strategy, which was also aimed at presenting the true face of Islam, the ministry would step up activity promoting? religious and ideological awareness among imams with the aim of changing any misguided views among them.[12] Several days later, ministry spokesman Ahmad 'Izzat said that the ministry had launched an investigation of the errant imams, and that it was already known that at over 200 mosques, there had been no prayers for the victims. He stressed that once the investigation is concluded, the ministry will take disciplinary measures against imams found to have refused to follow the minister's orders.[13]


Minister of Religious Endowments Wael Al-Arabiyat (Al-Rai, Jordan, August 15, 2016)

Former Jordanian Minister: ISIS Supporters Are Hiding Among Us - What Is Our Plan To Combat The Danger They Pose?

Former Jordanian minister for political development and parliamentary affairs Muhammad Dawodieh wrote on Facebook that imams in two mosques in Amman, the Jordanian capital, had refused to follow the minister's orders to pray for the souls of the victims, and added that an imam in another mosque in the Marka area in Amman Governorate said that he would conduct these prayers although he opposed them. Dawodieh wrote: "This ISISist behavior complements the ISIS terrorist crime. Those who murdered our sons across the border and those who refrained from praying for them at home complement each other. There are criminal ISIS supporters hiding among us. Where is our cultural, political, and legal plan to combat the danger they pose?! This extremist behavior will quickly escalate to actual bloody terrorism."[14]

Al-Ghad Writer: Extremists In Society Are A Domestic Threat

In his column in Al-Ghad, Muwafaq Malkawi wrote that those with extremist views are no longer a minority in Jordanian society, that some of them are staffers at the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Religious Endowments, and that their infiltration into these state institutions poses a real danger to society. He wrote:

"They are not a minority; these people are a large group in society... The danger lies not only in their numbers, but also in the fact that some of them have infiltrated two sensitive and important institutions: the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Religious Endowments... They constitute a hidden domestic threat... They teach our children in schools, and preach to them and guide them in the mosques. They openly sympathize with the violence carried out by terrorist groups that fight the homeland and the citizen, thus setting themselves against us and against our love of life.

"They have been in our midst for many decades... We must not turn a blind eye to their massive influence on society, especially in light of the fact that there is only minimal oversight of what they do and how much contact they have with our children. We face a real danger, and ignoring it will no longer help. Even though a battle has been declared against the terrorist groups that we can see, we must still not forget those who live among us and who are trying with all their might and all subversive means at their disposal to build a front against our plan of loving life. Thus, their goals are the same as the goals of anyone attempting to bring destruction and chaos to Jordan. The fight against them must be top priority."[15]

Al-Dustour Columnist: The Extremism In Society Endangers Jordan

Al-Dustour columnist Hussein Al-Rawashdeh also wrote about extremism in Jordan, calling on the government to fight it: "The extremism developing in our society is not limited to a handful of imams who refused to pray for the souls of our martyred sons - even though that incident signals strongly that there are ISIS supporters at home... The results of public opinion polls and statistics also show that some among us are sympathetic to ISIS and other [terrorist] organizations. [Bad] enough that some 2,500 Jordanian fighters have joined the ranks of ISIS and Jabhat Al-Nusra in Syria and Iraq, and that according to a recent poll by the Center for Strategic Studies [at University of Jordan], sympathy [for ISIS and its ilk] is running at a dangerous 1%. Additionally, the Salafi-jihadi stream has 7,000 members or even more, and some its theoreticians still live among us.

"If we examine the danger of the terrorist organization that claimed responsibility for the Al-Rukban attack [in which the Jordanian security personnel were killed]... and the danger of the extremist ideas that justify ISIS [ideology]... we will discover that our country is facing an unlimited and infinitely dangerous war, and that making do... with traditional solutions to deal with it is no longer sufficient...

"We must demand that the government and other social institutions deal with the danger of extremism, which is developing and is no longer hesitant to show its face in public. [This must be done] not only by means of a strategy of allocating labor and tasks, and standard approaches, but also by means of a true revolution in religion, culture, politics, and education. We must change the terminology, and then smash extremism's objects of admiration... using persuasive answers that reassure [young people] about their identity, their reality, and their future and that sever their connection to the demons of extremism, wherever they may be.

"Clearly, this task is difficult. But as part of the war that we are dealing with, it is a religious duty [to carry it out], and we must do so quickly and aggressively. Our victory in the war against terrorism will be based on our success in carrying out this task."[16]

The Central Mosques Program: Ministry Of Religious Endowments Attempts To Combat Extremist Imams

On July 11, 2016, Minister of Religious Endowments Wael Arabiyat met with the heads of religious endowment administrations from across Jordan to discuss the central role played by imams and preachers in the fight against extremist ideology. Arabiyat announced the implementation of the Central Mosques program, aimed at bringing worshippers together in large central mosques for Friday prayers led by a qualified imam. This program, he said, would end the establishment of improvised mosques led by unqualified preachers without proper religious training and allow worshippers to hear sermons based on principles, knowledge, morals, and guidance delivered by qualified clerics. According to Arabiyat, Jordan has thousands of mosques offering Friday prayers that need many qualified preachers to give worshippers real substance instead of empty words. He stressed that no mosques would be shut down, but that worshippers would come to the central mosques on Fridays for prayers conducted according to set criteria. He directed the head administrators to provide the ministry with a list of mosques that could be consolidated under the program.[17]

The program was launched on July 15, 2016, with the head of the endowments administration in the Ma'an Governorate, Sheikh Bilal Al-Bahri, delivering a Friday sermon at the Maria Al-Qibtiyya[18] Mosque in the city of Ma'an. Referring to the program in his sermon, the sheikh linked the concept of a central mosque to the time of the Prophet Muhammad, and stated that the central mosques program was aimed at eliminating disagreement, hostility, and hatred by bringing Muslims together.[19]


Sheikh Bilal Al-Bahri delivers a sermon at Ma'an mosque (alqalahnews.com, July 15, 2016)

On August 5, the program was rolled out in Al-Balqa Governorate, where Arabiyat himself served as the Friday preacher at the Fatimah Al-Zahraa Mosque in the city of Al-Salt. In his sermon, Arabiyat said that Friday prayers at a large central mosque is a good practice aimed at uniting believers instead of dividing them, and stressed that the goal of the central mosques program was to bring religious discourse back to a path of moderation and rejection of extremism.[20] In July and early August, preparatory meetings for launching the program were held in several governorates.[21]

At the same time, training began for imams and preachers on the topic of fighting extremist takfiri ideologies. On August 11, 24 imams and preachers from the endowments administration in the northern governorates of Al-Mafraq and Irbid completed a course in Al-Mafraq conducted by the center for a healthy society, which belongs to the Preventative Security Department of the General Security Directorate. The course was aimed at clarifying the dangers of extremist ideology, setting out methods to deal with it, and explaining the role played by imams and preachers in conveying messages to society via the pulpit.[22]

Ministry Of Religious Endowments Promotes Its Central Mosques Program

After announcing the central mosques program, Arabiyat began promoting it in meetings with ministry employees across the country. At one such meeting, he told imams, preachers, and religious guides from mosques in the Al-Karak Governorate that their role was to lead a moderate religious discourse and to combat oppression, crime, and takfiri ideas that he said have distorted the image of Muslims and Islam. The mosque, he added, plays a crucial role in bringing believers together to worship God, to learn about the dictates of the religion, and to condemn extremism and fanaticism. He also said that the imam needs to play a central role in supporting the army and security forces with a religious discourse that lionizes soldiers defending their homeland and the holy sites, and that his ministry would be training imams and working to improve the content and language of the sermons that they deliver so that the citizens can be faithfully served.[23] At another meeting, with imams, preachers, and religious guides in the Al-Zarqa Governorate, the minister stressed the crucial role played by imams in defending mosques, and the role of the mosque pulpit in instilling in the public an awareness of moderate Islam.[24] He also met with the secretary-general of the Conference of Endowments and Islamic Affairs Ministers in Islamic Countries, Zaid Al-Dakan, presenting to him the central mosques program and stressing the need for creating enlightened discourse in the Muslim world in order to combat terrorism and counter those trying to harm the true image of Islam.[25]

Arabiyat also praised his program in a series of interviews with local media. He told the daily Al-Dustour that he wanted to make central mosques into ideological and cultural lighthouses for the local population, adding that they, along with an enlightened Islamic discourse, will protect Islam.[26] In another interview with a local radio station, he added that the central mosques program had been under consideration for 15 years, and that his predecessors had decided to postpone implementing it.[27] In a comprehensive interview with the official daily Al-Rai, Arabiyat dismissed criticism of the program, stating that the program is based on ideological and religious foundations and is not aimed at large mosques but at mosques with only a handful of worshipers, and reiterating that the preachers at these mosques spread dangerous ideas. The central mosques, he said, would meet the need to intelligently curb extremism in religious discourse, and under the program preachers will be trained in topics such as religious law, Arabic grammar, education, and communication skills, including body language.[28]

Al-Rai published several articles promoting the program. One, "Implementing the Central Mosques [Program] - To Avoid Misunderstandings," stressed that the sole purpose of the program is to actualize the public interest by consolidating mosques so as to prevent untrained preachers who are not employees of the Ministry of Religious Endowments from giving sermons. The article emphasized that the program is not bid'a, that is, innovation forbidden by Islam, and that similar programs had been implemented in the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia, the Al-Azhar Mosque in Egypt, the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and others. The article also stated that the ministry had no intention of shutting down mosques or preventing new ones from being built, and that worshippers who cannot reach the central mosque in their area are free to pray at a mosque of their choice but that there would be no Friday sermons at the smaller mosques because the Ministry of Religious Endowments cannot provide a preacher.[29] Another article stressed that attending a central mosque for Friday prayers was common in the ancient Islamic world, citing a professor of Islamic law from the University of Jordan in 'Amman.[30]

Also to promote the program, the ministry's Fatwa Department issued a ruling stating that it was best to bring all worshippers together at a large central mosque so that they can pray in peace and security, that attending a central mosque for Friday prayers adhered most closely to the shari'a, and that there should not be too many mosques offering Friday prayers except when the central mosque is too crowded or too far away.[31] The ministry also posted on its website a suggestion for a Friday sermon on the topic of central mosques in Muslim society, complete with Islamic sources.[32]

Criticism Of Centralized Mosques Program

Despite the promotional efforts, the program was not overwhelmingly welcomed in the country, and most of the criticism came from the Muslim Brotherhood newspaper Al-Sabil and local websites. Several imams argued that the program's real aim was to tighten state control over the mosques and that it will serve the government's policy of silencing dissent. Another claim was that worshippers, particularly the disabled and elderly, would refrain from traveling to distant mosques.[33] Individuals who had reservations about the program wondered whether the ministry had considered security aspects, since such a large concentration of worshippers could become a target for attacks.[34] Majed Al-'Omari, a former official in the Jordanian union of imams, expressed concern that the program would result in preachers delivering similar sermons dictated by the administration and government, and that the sermon topics would be far removed from the daily reality of Muslims across the country and in the entire Muslim world.[35] Another concern was that all preachers would only be allowed to read aloud the sermon issued to them, as was proposed in Egypt.[36] Several opponents of the program even called on the minister to cancel it altogether.[37]

The Program's Real Purpose Is To Take Over Friday Sermons

Anis Khasawneh, an academic and Islamist political analyst, published several posts on Facebook, which also appeared on local websites, attacking Arabiyat and the central mosques program. In a July 29 post titled "Will the Minister of Religious Endowments Lose His Job over His Decision for Uniform Friday Sermons?!" Khasawneh wrote: "The decision by the minister of religious endowments for uniform Friday sermons and to consolidate Friday prayers in a limited number of mosques is provocative, burdens the citizens, and makes it difficult for them to worship. This decision can only be seen as a takeover of Friday sermons, and as coming between the faithful Muslim and Allah. Its real aims are clear, even if Minister Arabiyat disguises them as Sunnah [i.e., a religious custom that is regarded as positive but not mandatory] and claims that the central mosque is modeled after the activity of the Prophet. Indeed, worshippers in the north, center, and south of the kingdom already suffer greatly because many mosques have been shut down in order to force them to attend specific mosques in accordance with this decision - a decision like those of dictators and tyrants who fought the religion and did all they could to limit its spread and the role of mosques in dealing with the matters and problems of the ummah...

"Minister Arabiyat, who is known for his ties to and bias in favor of the regime and the security apparatuses, is forcing the faithful to implement his decision and vision - as if the Jordanians were sheep or cattle that he, a young and inexperienced [government] minister set on pleasing the powerful in any way possible, is leading. Minister Arabiyat insists on following in the footsteps of the regime sheikhs in Egypt, like [former Egyptian mufti and Al-Azhar Council of Senior Scholars member] Ali Gomaa and Kamal Al-Helbawi [the former spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe who left the movement in 2012]... Minister Arabiyat has launched an improper practice that is contrary to Allah's words [Koran 2:114]: 'And who are more unjust than those who prevent the name of Allah from being mentioned in His mosques and strive toward their destruction. It is not for them to enter them except in fear. For them in this world is disgrace, and they will have in the Hereafter a great punishment.'

"This minister, who, maybe even on his own initiative, met in his office with the U.S. ambassador to Jordan,[38] wants to turn Islam and the good deeds related to the worship of Allah into modern rituals that take place only inside mosques... It is strange that the minister wants to marginalize Muslims in a Muslim country, while Israel does not interfere with Friday prayer locations and does not impose a uniform Friday sermon. In the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Germany - countries afflicted by extremism - Muslims and mosque-goers carry out their rituals and prayers on Fridays and other days with full freedom and no interference by authorities. We worshippers do not care about Minister [Arabiyat's] professional ambitions or his connections to the security apparatuses, since that is his [own] business, but we want to pray and perform our religious duty of worshipping Allah in our own mosques - most of which were not built by the Ministry of Religious Endowments, which also doesn't spend much to maintain them, leaving the citizens to carry most of the burden through donations and charity.

"Many citizens today have promised to challenge the minister's decision, because it is illegitimate, against the people's beliefs, and is no way to treat the elderly, the sick, and anyone without means of transport... Yes, next Friday many will protest against this decision, by opening [smaller] mosques for Friday prayers, or even by praying outside [the mosques] in the blazing sun. We must not obey the words of one of Allah's creatures who calls for defying Allah; Allah's blessing does not extend to decisions that are difficult for Muslims to carry out and that hamper them in performing the duty of worshipping Allah.

"Will the leaders hear [us], understand this situation, and remove the minister before things get worse, protests increase, and the situation ends bitterly???"[39]


Anis Al-Khasawneh (Facebook.com/Prof.Anis, June 2, 2014)

The Program Will Produce The Opposite Of What It Seeks To Achieve - And Mosques Will Be Established In Secret

In another Facebook post, on August 9, Khasawneh wrote: "The major efforts by young Minister of Religious Endowments Dr. Wael Arabiyat to strengthen control of the mosques and their preacher pulpits, to restrict Friday prayers to central mosques only, and perhaps even to choose the topics of the sermons from a website designated for this purpose by the ministry all undoubtedly show that the government intends to consider mosques to be dangerous centers for fostering terrorism, violence, and extremism...

"It is interesting what the minister said on TV a few days ago regarding religious extremism and children's fear of going to mosques. I have closely examined this dangerous statement, which has shifted Minister Arabiyat closer to Bashar Al-Assad, who speaks of terrorist incubators and institutions. Oh, young minister, the mosques are the safest place for our [young] generation and are a safe haven against deviation [from the straight path]. It is from the mosque pulpits that teens are educated in good deeds, proper behavior, and reverence for Allah...

"I fear that these measures by the minister, and what will follow them - such as installing cameras and overseeing worshippers, imams, and those at Friday prayers, could lead to considering mosques to be suspicious places, or [terrorist] sleeper cells... The great danger is that the steps being taken by the government that Minister Arabiyat represents will lead to what we are already hearing about - that some worshippers are considering conducting Friday prayers secretly, in private locations and homes. [If that happens,] conducting prayers and selecting preachers will be only with the consent of a handful of worshippers... and prayers will be held in alternating locations to ensure that security apparatuses will not pester the worshippers.

"Jordan's minister of religious endowments is pushing things in unhealthy directions, and his effort to take over the mosques could produce the opposite of what it seeks to achieve, and force people underground."[40]

Shuttering Mosques Will Reduce The Ministry's Income - Which Is Based On Donations From Worshippers

Jordanian writer Salah Amin Okasha addressed the possible economic damage the program could cause the Ministry of Religious Endowments if it shutters smaller mosques that are supported by donations from worshippers: "The central mosque [program] is being implemented, and [small] mosques are already closing their gates [and not offering] Friday prayers. I will not address the false claim of the author of this decision, namely that he is following the path of the Prophet and reviving it [except to say that]...  it is wrong to compare the situation during the time of the Prophet... to ours, as the circumstances are different and worlds apart...

"We are not interested in [the minister's] lofty goals, his aspiration to build bridges of love and trust between him and U.S. administration officials [such as] the U.S. ambassador, or his attempt to please [his superiors] in order to keep his position... It is also clear to all that the aim is not to create a uniform religious discourse, as that would be is a simple matter regulated by issuing internal memos and guidelines for Friday sermons... Mr. Minister, there is no doubt that the paucity of skilled and trained imams is not [such] a big problem, for there are many ways to address this gap, by means of a mechanism that the Ministry of Religious Endowments and the Ministry of Higher Education can adopt...

"I am talking about the financial impact this [program] will have on the Ministry of Religious Endowments, which is not financially dependent on the Public Funding Law. The [ministry's] economic independence was aimed at facilitating the receipt and distribution of donations, which are the main source of income for the ministry. This is because most mosques in the kingdom are funded by [worshippers'] offerings, and their [ongoing] expenses, maintenance, and renovations [depend] on these offerings.

"Friday is the day the offerings are collected. So what will happen when the mosques are closed?!... How will mosques in the kingdom pay their expenses? What will become of the mosques? Will you [Arabiyat] fund them from your own pocket?

"I am telling you that your decision is a failure, by all the standards mentioned above. You will ultimately back down from it - not because you want to, but because you will have no choice once the ministry is unable to fund its expenses."[41]

 

* Z. Harel is a research fellow at MEMRI.

 

Endnotes:

[1] Al-Sabil (Jordan), March 4, 2015.

[2] Al-Rai (Jordan), February 21, 2016.

[3] Arabic.cnn.com, November 14, 2014.

[4] Jordanews.com, January 20, 2015.

[5] Hournews.net, February 15, 2015.

[6] Al-Sabil (Jordan), March 4, 2015.

[7] The full details of the plan were only reported for the first time by the daily Al-Ghad on June 16, 2016.

[8] Al-Rai (Jordan), June 21, 2016.

[10] Al-Rai (Jordan), June 23, 2016.

[11] Raialyoum.com, June 25, 2016.

[12] Al-Ghad (Jordan), June 27, 2016.

[13] Alanbatnews.net, June 29, 2016.

[14] Facebook.com/mohammad.dawodieh, June 24, 2016.

[15] Al-Ghad (Jordan), June 30, 2016.

[16] Al-Dustour (Jordan), June 28, 2016.

[17] Al-Rai (Jordan), July 12, 2016.

[18] Maria Al-Qibtiyya was a wife of the Prophet Muhammad, and the daughter of a dignitary of the Coptic Church in Egypt.

[19] Alqalahnews.com, July 15, 2016.

[20] Al-Ghad (Jordan), August 6, 2016.

[21] For example: Ajloun Governorate, gerasanews.com, July 13; Al-Ramtha district of Irbid Governorate, Al-Sabil (Jordan), July 19, 2016; Al-Kurah district of Irbid Governorate, Al-Rai (Jordan), July 24, 2016; Al-Karak Governorate, Al-Sabil (Jordan), July 27, 2016.

[22] Al-Rai (Jordan), August 11, 2016.

[23] Ammonnews.net, July 12, 2016; Al-Rai (Jordan), July 12, 2016.

[24] Al-Ghad (Jordan), July 27, 2016.

[25] Al-Dustour (Jordan), July 24, 2016.

[26] Al-Dustour (Jordan), July 28, 2016.

[27] Al-Sabil (Jordan), August 10, 2016.

[28] Al-Rai (Jordan), August 17, 2016.

[29] Al-Rai (Jordan), July 24, 2016.

[30] Al-Rai (Jordan), July 25, 2016.

[31] Al-Rai (Jordan), August 3, 2016.

[32] Awqaf.gov.jo, July 14, 2016.

[33] Al-Sabil (Jordan), July 13, 2016.

[34] Ammanalyoum.com, July 26, 2016.

[35] Arabi21, com, August 7, 2016.

[36] The Egyptian government eventually withdrew the notion of uniform sermons provided by the ministry of religious endowments. For the debate on this topic in Egypt, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6556, Egypt's Al-Azhar Opposes Ministry Of Religious Endowments Plan For Uniform Friday Sermon, August 4, 2016.

[37] Jo24.net, July 18, 2016.

[38] A few days after it was reported that several imams refused to pray for the souls of the victims of the ISIS attack, Arabiyat secretly met with U.S. Ambassador Alice Wells. Local websites exposed the meeting, and criticized it due to claims that it dealt with the need to guide the religious discourse and combat extremism. Alanbatnews.net, June 28, 2016.

[39] Facebook.com/Prof.Anis, July 29, 2016.

[40] Facebook.com/Prof.Anis, August 9, 2016.

[41] Sawaleif.com, August 6, 2016.