Egypt tightens grip on mosques

2014-03-04 12:49

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cairo - Egypt's military-installed authorities are tightening their grip on mosques by laying down the theme for the weekly Friday sermons, in the latest move to curb Islamist dissent.

The controversial measure comes as Egypt remains deeply polarised after a government crackdown on supporters of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, who was deposed by the army last July.

Morsi's supporters have since capitalised on the weekly prayers to garner backing for their protests calling for his reinstatement.

The authorities accuse Islamist groups, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood to which Morsi belongs, of using mosques to spread their ideology and enrol new recruits across Egypt.

The religious endowments (Waqf) ministry in late 2013 dismissed 55 000 imams (prayer leaders) who did not hail from the state-controlled Al-Azhar university, the most prestigious institution in Sunni Islam.

They were accused of "inciting violence and using mosques to spread religious extremism and promote Islamist groups".

Amnesty International says the crackdown on pro-Morsi supporters have already left more than 1 400 people dead since his ouster.

In January, the ministry, which has nearly 120 000 mosques on its list, decided to unify the Friday sermon by setting a common theme for the weekly prayers.

"The latest procedures aim to prevent incitement to violence and the spread of lies in mosques, which were being used by the Brotherhood to spread their ideas and fool people," ministry official Sabry Ebada told AFP.

Political strife

The decision was also taken to "spare mosques from political fights".

Scuffles have often broken out between pro- and anti-Morsi camps during Friday prayers, particularly when the sermon appears to favour one side over the other.

But now imams have government-approved themes such as squatter settlements, the role of youth, employment and the environment.

"The ministry's decision is aimed at controlling the Islamist current supporting the Brotherhood at a time when many imams feel sympathetic towards the Brotherhood and Morsi," said Amr Ezzat, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

"Mosques are the scene of an ongoing battle between authorities who are trying to prove that their policies are in line with Islam, and the current of political Islam which is trying to strip the state of its religious legitimacy."

But not all imams are toeing the government line, and Ezzat said the ministry had "no tools allowing it to impose its control over all mosques".

Khalaf Massoud, imam of Montazah mosque in Cairo's working-class neighbourhood of Imbaba, has talked of what is "right and wrong" in his Friday sermons, in a reference to the ongoing political strife in Egypt.

"The state is adopting measures to secure backing through religious preachings. This is unacceptable," Massoud told AFP.

"I am an imam who follows religion, not an imam who follows power."

After last Friday's sermon, four Cairo imams were being investigated by the ministry for "inciting violence and calling for anti-government protests," ministry official Ebada said.

Political intention

The control of mosques, many of which run their own charities, is important for both sides, said Georges Fahmy, an analyst with the Cairo-based Arab Forum for Alternatives.

These places of worship are "channels through which public opinion is formed", particularly in Upper Egypt and the Nile Delta, both rural areas, he said.

And the control of mosques is vital for Islamists to air their views since the authorities have shut down many of their television stations, Fahmy added.

Each week's theme is published on the ministry's website and also passed on to imams by their local waqf offices in Egypt's 27 provinces, said Mohamed Abdel Salam Badr, imam of a northern Cairo mosque.

Worshippers are divided over the measure.

"I am against unifying the sermon," said engineer Bahaa Marwan, as he attended a sermon at Assad Ibn Al-Furat mosque, a stronghold of pro-Morsi Salafi preacher Hazem Abu Ismail.

"The intention is political and the objective is to silence dissent."

Another worshipper, Ahmed, agreed, saying the aim was "to make people listen only to what the government has to say".

But Mahmoud Hussein, a 53-year-old electrician, backed the move.

"The government is trying to defuse the situation by silencing those who are inciting violence," he said.

Read more on:    mohammed morsi  |  egypt  |  north africa  |  egypt crisis
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
SPONSORED CONTENT
When is a mountain more than just a mountain? 2014-12-18 07:26

When it’s an adventure! A group of Old Mutual employees found out how much is enough courage, endurance and camaraderie to take on Africa's highest peak.

/News
 

Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!

 
 

I love summer.24

The craziest deaths of 2014
How to make this a sensual, sexy summer!
This is what South Africans Googled in 2014!
This hilarious song is your new holiday anthem

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be emotionally defensive or reserved today. You need to step up today as there may be extra responsibilities to deal with....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.