Endowments Ministry bans political sermons, suspends popular sheikh

After issuing repeated warnings, the Endowments Ministry has ordered religious leaders to prevent political discourse in mosques, according to the minister.

The instructions encompass any political discussions, whether they are for or against the government, Endowments Minister Talaat Afify said in a phone-in with the 90 Minutes talk show on Mehwar Channel Tuesday evening.

Afify said mosques should be reserved for the spiritual teachings of Islam and that the ministry has warned preachers multiple times against using their sermons as political platforms.

On Tuesday the ministry suspended popular Sheikh Mazhar Shaheen, the imam of Omar Makram Mosque who often gives sermons in Tahrir Square. Afify said the ministry had received video evidence of Shaheen tackling politics in his recent Friday sermons.

Shaheen alleges his suspension was politically motivated and that the minister removed him from his post, replacing him with a pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam, without questioning or warning. He added he would take legal action against the decision.

"Because of my position against 'Brotherhoodizing' Al-Azhar and the state, and my defense of Al-Azhar and its [grand] sheikh, the minister of endowments issued a decision to suspend me before any interrogations were carried out. He assigned in my place one of the pro-Muslim Brotherhood group imams, without prior warning or interrogation, in violation of the law," Shaheen said.

"They are trying to get rid of me because of my opposing views and to implement the orders of the Guidance Bureau which runs the Endowments Ministry," Shaheen added, saying he would not backtrack on his pro-revolution stances.

During the phone-in, Afify denounced the allegation that the Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Bureau instructs the ministry decisions as a "lie and slur."

The Endowments Ministry is responsible for appointing imams at state-owned mosques, which total 106,000. It also manages Islamic centers and issues opinions on some jurisprudential matters.

In March, dozens of imams protested in front of the ministry against Afify's policies and the Brotherhood's perceived influence on the state institution. At the time, the ministry responded with a statement claiming it was subject to a smear campaign.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm


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