Jordan's parliament endorses new mosque preaching law that blocks militants from pulpits

Amman, Jordan - Jordan's parliament has approved a law that gives the state the authority to approve mosque preachers, a setback for Muslim militants seeking to enter the country's pulpits. King Abdullah II must decide whether to sign the legislation.

Following last November's triple hotel blasts in Amman, Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit pledged to tighten Islamic teaching at mosques to prevent extremist ideology from taking root.

Violators can be imprisoned up to one month and fined up to $142.

Al-Qaida in Iraq took responsibility for the hotel bombings, which killed 60 people.

The new law, replacing one enacted in 1986, was approved by a show of hands after a heated debate during which some lawmakers accused the government of curbing religious freedoms and succumbing to U.S. and Israeli pressure to crack down on hard-line preachers.

"The government is pleasing the Zionists and the Americans by gagging the people who speak out on resistance and jihad (holy war)," said legislator Abdul-Rahim Malhas.

Under the previous law, any one could enter a pulpit, but risked penalties if his speech was considered a public incitement.

Military court records show that several terror suspects on trial here have been recruited at the country's mosques.

Jordan, a moderate Arab nation with longtime ties to the United States and a peace treaty with

Israel, has been spearheading Arab efforts for religious reforms.