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» 23.02.2010 - Mauritania recalls ambassador over release of rebels
» 15.02.2010 - Police chief sentenced to 7 years
» 13.01.2010 - Italy to enhance security cooperation
» 10.11.2009 - Mauritanian grassroots groups receive US funding
» 04.11.2009 - Slavery still persists in Mauritania
» 05.10.2009 - Mauritania gets $12 million to boost food production and lower imports
» 18.08.2008 - Mauritania junta assures quick presidential poll
» 15.11.2006 - Islamist ambush in Mauritania polls

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Mauritania pays imams to stop fundamentalism

Central mosque in Nouakchott, Mauritania

© Alexandra Pugachevsky
afrol News, 2 July
- The government of Mauritania is putting 500 imams on its payroll, providing monthly "stipends" if they help stop the spread of religious extremism.

The aim of the operation is to limit the recruitment of fundamentalist scholars to Mauritania and better regulate the mosques and their selection of imams, according to Ahmed Ould Mukhtar of the Nouakchott Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

According to the Arabic language journal 'Magharebia', a competition to get the 500 state stipends was announced to Mauritania's mosques on 20 June. Government officials this week started receiving applications for this unique state salary.

The selected imams are to be paid a monthly salary of ouguiya 50,000 (euro 150) by government.

The scheme has been presented as an official aid to the running of mosques in the predominantly Muslim country. In addition to financial support, the Ministry also could provide some food aid to the mosques' social programmes, it was announced.

But critics hold that the programme only aims at rooting out propagators of unpopular schools of Islam in the country. Authorities have struggled to control the rise of several fundamentalist Muslim groups in Mauritania, putting some of them in connection with terror attacks in the country.

Ministry advisor Ould Mukhtar confirmed to 'Magharebia' that authorities want to improve control of what happens in the country's many mosques. "Mauritanian authorities have recognised the need for regulating the mosques; and for development of control mechanisms for the selection of imams, due to the importance of their role in society in general," he told the journal.

The stipend scheme is seen in connection with a religious control programme launched by the Ministry in October last year. During the programme, all the country's mosques, religious schools and imams were surveyed. The message put through in the Friday prayers of the country's imams were of special interest to the surveyors.

It is expected that the completed survey will for the basis of eligibility for the stipend programme. Imams with an extremist message can count on exclusion from the state payroll.

According to unconfirmed information from Mauritania, the 500 imams that will receive government funds will also be expected to help authorities monitor signs of extremism in their congregations.

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