Taking a leap towards countering the rise of extremism, Islamabad officials have decreed that all Friday sermons being delivered by mosques in the capital territory will have to be approved by the capital administration.

This is one of many slow gradual steps we are seeing being taken by the government towards countering the growth of extremism. Whether this new policy of monitoring sermons is intended to prepare for the FATF review in June is not clear, but whatever the reasons, it is a long-needed step to wipe out the secret hate-mongering and sectarianism being taught in some sermons.

However, there are technical difficulties when it comes to monitoring sermons. There are 980 mosques and imambargahs in the capital, of which 89 are supervised by the capital administration, which leaves a lot of mosques unsupervised. There are also bound to be several hurdles in the monitoring of the registered ones as well, where the administration and Auqaf should be expected to practice vigilance.

Luckily, Pakistan is not alone in this policy, as we have seen various Muslim countries go further beyond than monitoring sermons. Kuwait and Saudi Arabis have enforced strict surveillance on clerics since 2013, on concerns that preachers could use their influence to inflame sectarian divisions at a time of high tension over the crises in Syria and Egypt. In Kuwait, the authorities entailed the monitoring of sermons, pulled a television preacher off the air and deported a foreign imam, where Saudi Arabia sacked more than two dozen clerics over extremist sermons.

While it is welcome, this is one of many steps that need to be taken to curtail extremism, and we can look at our fellow Muslim countries for guidance. Monitoring should also be extended to online websites which promote sectarian hate, as well preachers on television, some of which who openly call for death for some sects.