Abu Dhabi: The General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments came under fire on Tuesday from members of the Federal National Council for its low presence of Emirati imams, mosque leaders and muezzins (who call the faithful to prayer.)

A report made by an FNC ad-hoc committee put the number of Emirati imams and muezzins as low as four per cent last year, down from nine per cent the previous year.

Dr Hamdan Bin Musallam Al Mazroui, the chairman of the authority, said as many as 2,000 foreign Imams had been replaced by Emiratis since 2006, so almost half of the mosques across the country are now manned by citizens.

Al Mazroui said proposals including higher salaries and villas adjoined to mosques would hopefully attract more Emiratis to these jobs.

The authority oversees religious affairs, including running mosques, issuing of fatwas and managing Haj and Umra trips to Makkah, Saudi Arabia.

Members of the House also demanded that mosques be designed to meet green standards, but Dr Al Mazroui said these standards might be easier to adopt in new urban areas and less so in old buildings.

The representatives also requested that the authority strengthen cooperation with 27 new Muslims centres across the country and diversify resources of endowments.

On a request to boost Quran memorisation, Dr Al Mazroui shed light on the role of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and UAE leaders, in encouraging Emiratis and residents to memorise the Quran.

Dr Al Mazroui lauded the great support of the wise leadership to Awqaf and its projects and their keen interest in mosques, Quranic memorisation centres, as well as efforts aiming at increasing religious awareness and promoting tolerance and moderation in the community.