EGYPT: How a Muslim leader with big brass ones cracks down on radicalization in his own country’s mosques

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (above) has issued an order that will require all Muslim clerics to read out identical pre-written weekly sermons as part of the government’s campaign against Islamic extremism and terrorism, drawing angry criticism from some preachers.

Reuters  The Ministry of Religious Endowments has since 2014 been providing imams with topics for their sermons at Friday prayers but the latest move confines preachers across the country to reading from the same script.

Awqaf Minister Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa speaks during a conference held by the Awqaf (Religious Affairs) Ministry headquarters in Cairo

“No one disagreed during the meeting and all the undersecretaries received the new instructions on pre-written unified sermons without incident,” said the ministry’s First Undersecretary for Qalyubiya province Sabry Dowaidar.

“The minister (Mohamed Gomaa) said he would start with himself and deliver the pre-written sermon (in a mosque) next Friday.” An undersecretary from a different province who requested anonymity said the sermons would be written by ministry officials and senior clerics from Al-Azhar, the 1,000-year-old center of Islamic learning in Cairo.

Egypt

Members of parliament on the House Committee on Religious Affairs would contribute too, as would sociologists and psychologists. Several preachers voiced anger at the move.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who came to power after leading the military overthrow of an Islamist president, has made “reforming religious discourse” and combating extremism a priority. He sees militant Islamism as an existential threat.

Not surprisingly, al-Sisi is adored by the Coptic Christian Church in Egypt

Not surprisingly, al-Sisi has tremendous support from the Coptic Christian Church in Egypt

In a speech delivered at Al-Azhar on December 28, 2014, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on Muslim clerics to combat extremist ideology and said: “We need to revolutionize our religion.” Calling for “religious discourse that is in keeping with its times,” Al-Sisi warned that “the Islamic nation is being torn apart and destroyed” by extremism.

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