Jordan lawmakers limit religious edicts

Amman, Jordan - Lawmakers have approved a measure that would only allow a state-appointed council to issue religious edicts, a move aimed at denying Islamic hard-liners a forum for disseminating extremist ideology.

The proposal on "fatwas," Arabic for religious edicts, follows a pledge by Jordanian ruler King Abdullah II in the wake of terror recent attacks to tighten legislation to prevent radical viewpoints from taking root.

It represents a setback for the Islamist opposition, which vehemently opposes the country's close ties with the United States and peace treaty with Israel.

The measure, approved by the lower house of Parliament on Wednesday, will become law with the expected approval of the upper house of Parliament and the king.

The proposed legislation would restrict fatwas only to a state-appointed council. Currently, the powerful Muslim Brotherhood movement and other smaller hard-line Islamic groups issue edicts.

The legislation also makes it illegal to criticize fatwas issued by a government-appointed council, whose members have yet to be named but will likely include top Muslim clerics and scholars.

Lawmakers endorsed the legislation by a vote of acclamation following a heated debate in the 110-seat Chamber of Deputies, where some Islamic hard-liners accused the government of bowing to Israeli and U.S. pressure.

In the last month, parliament passed legislation that gives the state the authority to approve mosque preachers, enabling it to prevent Muslim militants from using the country's pulpits to spread extremist ideas. It also approved anti-terrorism legislation that imposes severe penalties for involvement in terror acts.

Al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for last November's attacks in the Jordanian capital that killed 60 people.