AMMAN, JORDAN -- The main attraction at the Abu Herera Mosque here is the round-faced and bushy-bearded Sheik Abdel Moneim Abu Zant, the fiery maverick preacher and orator whose Friday sermons lure thousands and overpower the voices of other muezzins floating across the hills.
Of the 380 mosques that dot every Amman neighborhood and slum, this is the best attended on Fridays. The worshipers come in vans, in cars, on foot, on crutches and in wheelchairs, spreading inside the mosque's arched doorways, in the courtyards and on its rooftops, under the blazing midday sun.
Sheik Abu Zant's great villain last week was "empty-headed, pork-eating President Bush," who, he warned, would leave the White House "as a cripple in a wheelchair."
The sheik also had some advice for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, regarded by many Moslems as a secular leader who pays lip service to Islam.
"I call on you, king of kings . . . oh, Saddam," said the sheik, "to declare the Islamic republic that will have the Koran as its constitution. We urge you to let us hear the voice of justice so we can respond to Bush."
Of Americans and the West, the cleric said: "They only believe in materialism. Oil has now become the property of God. So what will you do with the will of God, Mr. Bush? You cannot exercise your veto against the words of God, Mr. Bush."
"Sheik Abu Zant does not tell us anything we don't know, but he speaks to what is stifled inside each one of us," said Muhammad Feisal Aldoubel, 32, an officer in the Jordanian armed forces, as he left the mosque after the sermon, his prayer rug under his arm. "We have known who our enemies and who our friends are for a long time."
"He distinguishes himself by reminding us of our truth," Majed Mahmoud, 19, a student, chimed in. "He speaks of our wrath against the Americans, their double standards and their harsh treatment of Palestinians, and this is our greatest anger," Mahmoud said.
In this modest Amman neighborhood, lined with crates of watermelons, figs and tomatoes, most residents are immigrants from the West Bank driven out of their land across the Jordan River.
A member of the fundamentalist Moslem Brotherhood and now a member of the Jordanian Parliament, Abu Zant, 52, is from the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Nablus, a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism. He once was the mufti of Jordan's Public Security Department, the third-ranking religious authority in the country. He has been imprisoned four times in Jordan alone, and also in Kuwait, where he was expelled for his searing sermons against the ruling Sabah family.
Abu Zant studied in the al-Azhar Mosque and seminary in Egypt. Before settling here, he was a religious scholar and teacher in Cairo, Baghdad, Kuwait, and Riyadh and Medina in Saudi Arabia. The Israelis jailed him in 1967, and the last time he was arrested in Jordan, in 1989, he spent 32 days in solitary confinement.
Dr. Musa Kilani, an Islamic specialist and author, said the lurch toward Iraq by some groups here has caused a split in the ranks of the Moslem Brotherhood worldwide, a movement that has been funded by money from conservative Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and even Jordan and by religious taxes and collections by charities. Experts on fundamentalism in Jordan say the Moslem Brotherhood here received a massive injection of cash from Baghdad three months ago and last year.
In an interview, Abu Zant claimed credit for Saddam's peace offer toward Iran, with which Iraq fought an eight-year war. "We met with the Iraqi ambassador here and gave him our message to Saddam. He responded, and the Iranian front has been neutralized," the clergyman said.
Well-informed fundamentalist sources here said the pro-Iraqi group sent Saddam a recorded cassette appealing to him to make peace with Iran, but they hedged on whether Abu Zant or his friends deserve full credit for the Iraqi leader's offer Aug. 15 to withdraw from occupied Iranian territory and free Iranian prisoners of war.
In addition to the flowery but now familiar exhortations to martyrdom and warnings to American mothers to start preparing to receive their sons in plastic bags, Abu Zant offered this warning:
"Bush, you have condemned your own people to death. . . . If you, Bush, and the oil princes around you worship oil, we, the soldiers of Islam, worship martyrdom. This shall be the boundary and the demarcation line between us until your capitulation. Either we defeat you or we die for the sake of God."