Egypt takes anti-Muslim Brothers fight to small mosques

Authorities try to limit influence of 'political' preachers

08 July, 17:46

    Un uomo legge il Corano nella moschea di Al Azhar al Cairo Un uomo legge il Corano nella moschea di Al Azhar al Cairo

    (ANSAmed) - CAIRO - The struggle against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is being played out in part through surveillance of small mosques across the country, where incendiary preachers use their speeches for political ends. Several media outlets have reported on the actions taken on the authorities in recent weeks, especially important as the last ten days of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan near. In late May, a few days prior to leaving the post, acting president Adly Mansour issued a decree restricting the giving of sermons to preachers that have been approved either by Al Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayyeb or the Ministry for Religious Endowments (Waqf).

    The measure also applies to public spaces used as mosques, and states that people not connected with these two institutions can preach but must follow the ministry's directives. Anyone found to be violating the decree is subject to between three months and one year in prison, as well as high fines and a doubling of the sentence if a repeat offence. The law has served as a basis for the closing of 'zawya', small mosques dotting the country that do not operate under the control of the ministry or Cairo's Al-Azhar University, one of the main centers for religious instruction. In the city of Alexandria alone - where there are at least 2,000 mosques - over 650 have been shut down. An imam of the port city on the Nile delta, Ahmed Baheyi, has told the media that he sees the move as a positive step forward. In his opinion, the law is necessary to prevent sermons from being used for political ends. ''We have few imams and preachers, and so they are sent to the larger mosques and the smaller ones operate without any supervision from the Waqf,'' said the imam of the Sidi Gaber mosque, referring to the ministry. This shortage offers opportunities for members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafis and jihadists to preach. Baheyi said that worshipers had reported zawya preachers for inciting sectarian hatred, such as by referring to Christians as 'infidels'. In a television interview, Salama Abdel-Qawi - a preacher who was Waqf ministry spokesman under Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi - called the law ''arbitrary'', saying that it aims to exclude thousands of his colleagues ''that are against the coup d'etat'' (i.e. the ousting of Morsi last year by current president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi when he was head of the armed forces). The 'sweep-up' operation for firebrands in mosques is especially significant during the last ten days of the month of Muslim fasting (Ramadan), which this year ends around July 29.

    During the ten days, many worshipers spend the night praying and listening to sermons in mosques. Imam Baheyi said that the period could serve as an opportunity for those wanting to engage in ''brainwashing'', but that the Egyptian authorities were trying to prevent this. In line with the decision to standardize prayers in all the country's' mosques, Minister for Religious Endowments Mokhtar Gomaa has asked for tight surveillance of the Friday community prayer. (ANSAmed).

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