Egypt bans unlicensed preachers and tightens grip on mosques

By Reuters Staff
June 10, 2014
(Saudi preacher Mohamed al-Eraify speaks during Friday prayers in Amr Bin Aaas mosque in Cairo June 14, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany )

(Saudi preacher Mohamed al-Eraify speaks during Friday prayers in Amr Bin Aaas mosque in Cairo June 14, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany )

Egypt has banned unauthorized 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.

The decree issued by interim President Adly Mansour’s office also threatened fines and jail for freelance imams, especially if they wore clerical garments associated with the respected Al-Azhar center 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 Mursi 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.” [ID:nL6N0N22CZ] It also disclosed it had removed 12,000 unapproved preachers.

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

Read the full story by Maggie Fick and Ali Abdelaty here.

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