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Official sources at the Religious Endowments Ministry say a recent decision to ban Egypt's Sufi orders from holding gatherings for the performance of zikr--a ritual devoted to the remembrance of God--was aimed at preserving the sanctity of local mosques in which such gatherings are traditionally held.
Shawqi Abdel Latif, the ministry's undersecretary for dawaa affairs, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the ban was intended to preempt undesirable behavior at such gatherings, such as the shouting of invocations and late-night loitering in mosques. He added that the authorities had also discovered that some Sufi members lacked official permission from the Supreme Council for Sufi Orders to hold Zikr gatherings and tended to use the occasions for boisterous eating and drinking.
Abdel Latif stressed that the ministry supported moderate Sufism and respected all Sufi orders, insisting that it had no intention to engage in confrontations with them. He went on to say the ban would remain temporary until such gatherings could be more comprehensively regulated. He also stated that state security agencies had had nothing to do with the decision to ban the events.
The Sufi Council held an emergency meeting yesterday at which Chairman Abdel Hady el-Qasaby announced his intention to meet with Religious Endowments Minister Mahmoud Hamdy Zaqzouq. The meeting with Zaqzouq never materialized, however, as the latter was busy attending a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif.
Yesterday also witnessed a number of clashes at Cairo's El-Hussein and El-Sayyida Zainab mosques between members of Sufi orders and security agents that had forced them to evacuate the two shrines.
Shiekh Mohamed el-Shabrawi, leader of the Shabrawi Sufi Order, said he planned to lodge a formal complaint on the issue with President Hosni Mubarak, who, as president of the republic, is directly in charge of Sufi affairs.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.