April 23, 2013 , Manama: Saudi Arabia has launched a campaign to ensure that all mosque imams (prayer leaders) and muezzins (callers to prayers)in the Makkah area are Saudi nationals.
“We will be very strict about the issue and we will adopt a zero-tolerance policy,” Shaikh Abdullah Al Nasser, the head of the Islamic and Endowment Ministry office in Makkah, said. “The campaign will be extensive and will cover all the mosques to make sure there are no exceptions,” he said in remarks published by Saudi news site Sabq on Tuesday.
The official attributed the campaign to “the ministry’s determination to address all mistakes made by imams, sermon givers and muezzins”. The field inspectors have the prerogative to make decisions and to apply the law on violators, he said.
Shaikh Abdullah did not elaborate on the nature of the mistakes that foreigners were making. However, he called on all imams and preachers to comply with the guidance of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) whenever they addressed and advised worshippers and to steer away from any issue that might cause confusion or hatred among Muslims.
“We have pledged to impose the maximum penalty against any imam or preacher who uses his lectures or sermons to delve into lineages or other sects,” he said, referring to issues that have often divided Muslims along sectarian lines. “The ministry will not hesitate to take stringent action against anyone who violates its instructions or regulations.”
Shaikh Abdullah added that the ministry encouraged teachers to become more actively involved in leading prayers. “We welcome all teachers and want them to continue leading prayers and giving lectures because they are trustworthy people who possess solid knowledge and have excellent rapport with everyone. They are always ready to assume responsibilities in a dependable way,” he said.
The city of Makkah in western Saudi Arabia holds a special significance for all Muslims and more than three million people congregate there yearly to perform Haj, the fifth pillar of Islam. The city is the spiritual epicentre of Islam and the location of the Kaaba, the first Islamic house of worship, built by Abraham and his son Esmail, and to which Muslims must orient themselves when they perform their five daily prayers.