Egypt bans unlicensed preachers, tightens grip on mosques

CAIRO — Egypt has banned unauthorised preachers from giving sermons or teaching Islam in mosques and other public places, according to a decree on Saturday marking a further step in official efforts to curb Islamist influence.

Soldiers on Egypt’s military vehicle guard in front of the supreme constitutional court in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday (AP photo )

Soldiers on Egypt’s military vehicle guard in front of the supreme constitutional court in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday (AP photo )

The decree issued by interim president Adli Mansour’s office also threatened fines and jail for freelance imams, especially if they wore clerical garments associated with the respected Al Azhar centre of Sunni learning in Cairo.

Selected employees of the religious endowments ministry will be empowered by the justice ministry to arrest anyone caught violating the decree, it added.

“No preacher will mount a minbar next Friday without a permit,” the ministry said on its Facebook page, referring to the traditional raised pulpit in a mosque. The decision was taken to “preserve national security,” it said.

The military-backed government sees mosques as recruiting grounds for Islamist parties and has moved to bring them under tighter control since the army toppled President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood last July.

It said in April it had licensed more than 17,000 state-approved clerics to give Friday sermons to stop mosques from falling “into the hands of extremists”. It also disclosed it had removed 12,000 unapproved preachers.

Many Egyptians pray at small neighbourhood mosques beyond the control of the state, where outsiders can easily move in to take over and preach their brand of Islam.

Fines and jail

The Muslim Brotherhood, until last year Egypt’s best-organised movement, has been driven underground, with most of its leaders in jail or in hiding. It denies any involvement in lethal attacks on security forces since Morsi’s overthrow.

According to the decree, “only designated specialists at the ministry of religious endowments and authorised preachers from Al Azhar shall be permitted to practice public preaching and religious lessons in mosques or similar public places”.

Only Al Azhar officials and graduates as well preachers from the ministry or the grand mufti’s office will be allowed to wear the trademark “turban” — a red hat with a white cloth band — and robes that designate an Al Azhar cleric, it said.

Unauthorised preachers face fines jail terms up to a year and fines up to 50,000 Egyptian pounds ($7,000). Wearing or denigrating Al Azhar garments in any way will carry similar penalties, it added.

Galal Mora, secretary general of the Nour Party, an Islamist group that backed the army’s removal of Morsi, told Reuters the group approved of the law and urged respect for it.

The religious endowments ministry has been keeping a close eye on authorised imams as well. The state news agency MENA reported on Saturday that it had removed three government appointed imams from their positions in Minya province.

Accused of mixing religion and politics, the men will be switched to administrative jobs and be banned from giving Friday sermons, it said.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s worldwide website, which still operates despite the clampdown on the movement in Egypt, protested against the removal of the three imams.


Categories: Africa, Arab World, Egypt

1 reply

  1. Although of course the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at does NOT pose any threat or danger or even annoyance to any state such measures as mentioned in this article can have a negative effect on us also, as our Imams are not paid by the Governments or Ministries. Often Arab countries do sort of ‘close an eye’ and let us be (knowing that we are obedient and supportive to any government, but yes, our Friday Sermons are our Friday Sermons and we do not just repeat what the Ministries tell us to ….). May Allah protect us (and all others…). Love for All and Hatred for None.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.