Al-Azhar suspends licensed preachers
Friday sermon in Cairo - YOUM7 (Archive)
By HANAN FAYED

CAIRO: Preacher Mohamed Amer was suspended and referred to an investigation Tuesday for mocking President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi‘s visit to a survivor of a sex attack in Tahrir Square and describing her as a “dancer” in a Friday sermon in a Cairo mosque, Youm7 reported.

Former President Adly Mansour adopted a decree June 5 limiting religious preaching at mosques to Al-Azhar scholars authorized by the ministry. The law sets forth a prison term of one to 12 months and a fine of 20,000 to 50,000 EGP ($2,790 to $6,900) for delivering a religious lesson or sermon without a license.

“These policies have had the opposite effect, promoting the ideas of these trends in both the political and religious sphere. In fact, they have wide currency among students and professors at Azhar University and among imams employed by the Endowments Ministry,” said Amr Ezzat, a researcher and officer with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) Freedom of Religion and Belief Program, in a statement June 15.

The Ministry of Endowment suspends licensed preachers

Mohsen Shalaan, Imam of Riyad al-Saliheen Mosque in Qalyubia governorate was suspended June 3 and referred to a disciplinary investigation for promoting “subversive ideas” in his sermons, according to a ministry statement.

Shalaan called on his attendees not to recognize the president or ministers and refuses to wear the Al-Azhar official uniform, the statement said.

On June 3, the ministry suspended Sheikh Abdel Halim Kulaib for using his position to involve politics in a Friday sermon, which “raised the ire of attendees,” according to a ministry statement.

Osama Abdel Hamid, preacher of Al-Rahman Mosque in October 6 City, was prevented from delivering sermons and referred to investigation for “exploiting the mosque for political purposes,” according to the ministry on June 1.

“These policies themselves constitute the political exploitation of religion. At the same time, the state has failed to play its fundamental role in protecting rights and liberties from religious and sectarian incitement and advocacy of discrimination,” Ezzat said.

The new law restricts freedom of religion and expression and the right to worship in accordance with rites or opinions that differ from those of the Endowments Ministry, EIPR said in the statement.

“The state’s fundamental role is to put in place policies to counter and hold individuals accountable for the promotion of religious discrimination and sectarian incitement,” EIPR added.

The Ministry of Endowment ordered the removal of all political signs and banners inside mosques and the renaming of mosques that carry the name or title of any group on May 31.

Islamist TV channels remain closed

On May 30, Salafi preacher Mohamed al-Zoghbi was prevented from delivering the Friday sermon in a mosque in Damietta governorate without a license.

“[The ministry] supports all its representatives to strongly and firmly address attempts to infringe on mosques by non-professionals and advocates of fundamentalism who led our society to where we are now,” the ministry said in a May 31 statement.

Zoghbi was a permanent guest on ultra-orthodox TV channels, before the authorities closed them in July 2013 after the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi.

There are still dozens of videos of him available on Youtube criticizing Shiite Islam and Christianity. He still appears on Al-Rahma channel, an Islamist channel that was allowed to resume broadcasting.

Authorities shut down a number of Islamist channels in the hours after former President Mohamed Morsi was ousted in July 2013, including hard-line channels Al-Hafiz, Al-Nas, Al-Khalihiya and Muslim Brotherhood-run Misr 25 and Ahrar 25.

A court ruled in September that the broadcast licenses of the six Islamist channels be permanently revoked for “stirring sectarian strife, degrading human dignity, violating the privacy of others, and broadcasting profanity,” reported Youm7.

Nilesat closed ten “sectarian” TV stations in 2013 after receiving international complaints against them, head of the Egyptian satellite company Nilesat Tharwat Mekki said in December 2013, Saudi newspaper Al-Watan reported.

Coptic Christian Egyptian actor Hany Ramzy previously sued Al-Hafiz channel for “degrading his beliefs” and Egyptian actress Ilham Shaheen also filed a lawsuit against it in August 2012 for “accusing her of adultery.”

Reporters Without Borders said it was “alarmed” that one of the first actions of the new regime in Egypt was to close down TV channels, and that “inaugurating a new era that is supposed to be democratic with such an act of censorship is disturbing.”

Other pro-Brotherhood channels broadcasting from outside of Egypt have emerged on Nilesat, including Al-Shareia and Rabaa channels.

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