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I don't know what the weekly sermon sounds like in your local house of worship, but here is a sampling of what the Arab world was being told last Friday, July 19, from pulpits throughout the Middle East:

In a sermon carried live on official Syrian radio from the Anas Ibn-Malik mosque in Damascus, Sheikh Dr. Ziad al-Ayubi told his listeners, "O God, help our people in Palestine and the Golan. O God, annihilate the Zionists and make them destroy themselves."

A preacher appearing on Saudi Arabia's official TV1 network displayed broader ambitions, seeking to invoke Divine wrath not just against "the Zionists," but against all "infidels," i.e. Christians and Jews. "O God," he said, "support our brother holy warriors for your sake everywhere. O God, grant them victory in Palestine, Kashmir, and Chechnya. O God, deal with the aggressor Jews and all aggressive infidels. O God, deal with them for they are within your power."

Needless to say, the Saudi preacher's sermon was broadcast just a day after Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, together with the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan, met with an "infidel" named George W. Bush in Washington.

But the Saudis are not alone in spreading this kind of venom. Yemen, another ostensible American ally in the war on terror, is no less fervent in the views which it airs on its official media outlets. Friday's sermon, broadcast live on state-run Yemeni television from Sanaa's Grand Mosque, included these gems of ecumenical tolerance:

O God, deal with the enemies of religion. O God, deal with Jews and their supporters and Christians and their supporters. Shake the land under their feet. Instill fear in their hearts, and freeze the blood in their veins. O God, scatter their ranks, make fate turn against them, and continue pressure on them. The criticism in such homilies is not always directed at those perceived to be the external enemies of the Arab world. Occasionally, the orator seeks to inspire the listener to action by surveying events in the region and pointing out the failings of the faithful.

If that is not an outright call for jihad, or holy war, then what is?

This tactic was evident in the sermon broadcast on Yasser Arafat's official radio and television stations last Friday. Addressing a crowd at the Sheikh Ijlin Mosque in Gaza, the preacher said that because of laxity in fulfilling various Islamic precepts, "God has afflicted us with sedition and an enemy, who does not fear us, but sweeps our towns, kills our children, and imprisons our heroes." This would not have happened, he insisted, "had we carried out God's orders, especially jihad, and had Muslims carried out their God's orders for jihad and not listened to this empty talk about peace... The Muslim must carry out his God's order."

If that is not an outright call for jihad, or holy war, then what is?

It would be easy to dismiss these frightful orations as the rantings of frustrated clergymen. But bear in mind that these weekly prayer sermons are broadcast on official, government-run stations in countries that are neither democratic nor free. The messages they convey are part and parcel of their government's overall propaganda strategy, and they are designed to shape and mold Arab public opinion.

The fact that Arab preachers, throughout the Arab world, are circulating such hatred so openly, is a sign not only of the antipathy they bear for both Christians and Jews, but also of the utter lack of concern they have over their messages being heard abroad.

Indeed, the quotations above all come from FBIS, the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, an arm of the U.S. government that monitors and translates media throughout the world. Propaganda officials in Syria or Saudi Arabia know full well that their regime's mouthpieces are being observed in Washington and elsewhere. Nevertheless, week in and week out, they continue to deliver fire-and-brimstone-style sermons against America, Israel, and the West.

And this, of course, is due in no small part to the State Department's failure to make an issue of such rhetoric, fearing perhaps that it would cast a pall over America's relations with various Arab regimes. Rather than calling for an end to such hatemongering, which fuels extremism and terrorism, the bureaucrats sit tight, content to let it fester.

Congress should step in where State has failed to tread, and require the secretary of state to compile and issue a quarterly report on anti-American and anti-Israel invective in the official Arab media. Such a document would go a long way toward raising public awareness about the issue, and putting Arab regimes on notice that America is not only hearing their words, but listening to them too.

For, as we know all too well, words have a power all their own. They can inspire and uplift, but they can also denigrate and demonize. And, worst of all, they can kill.