CAIRO: The majority of Islam Online (IOL) Egypt’s 330 staff submitted their resignation following a two-day sit-in spurred by warnings of mass lay-offs and employee investigations by the website’s Qatari owner.
The sit-in, at IOL’s Egypt headquarters in Sixth of October City, continued for the second day Tuesday after staff at the Cairo office were informed Monday that the holding company Al-Balagh Foundation would not renew their contracts when they expire at the end of March.
They were given the option of resigning to receive their benefits packages.
It is believed a recent board change at Al-Balagh Foundation, the Qatari NGO behind IOL, is what led to the current stand-off. Two hundred and fifty members had sent a statement to IOL founder and chairman of Al-Balagh Foundation Sheikh Yousef El-Qaradawi complaining about the tactics of the new board in Qatar.
Al-Balagh sent a delegation of lawyers to the Egypt office to take over affairs in the branch and conduct an investigation into the 250 employees who signed the statement.
Lawyers and upper management of the Egypt IOL office remained locked in talks behind closed doors for most of Tuesday reportedly to discuss the details of the severance packages.
Daily News Egypt reporters couldn’t meet members of Al-Balagh delegation at the IOL Egypt premises. Calls to Al-Balagh’s offices in Qatar went unanswered by press time.
An editor at IOL, who asked to remain anonymous citing a request by El-Qaradawi not to speak to the media, told Daily News Egypt, “What management had communicated to the editorial team was that the editorial content would not be interfered with in any way, but there was a feeling that there was a desire [to have IOL] take on a more conservative stance.
“And they wanted to shut down certain sections of the site, especially the news, so people were concerned that they would have more editorial control, the editor added.
As for El-Qaradawi’s position, the editor said, “It was communicated to us that Sheikh El-Qaradawi wanted us to hold off talking to the media until everything was finalized because it is fueling rumors and speculation. What we have been told is that he is not happy and he might resign as well.
El-Qaradawi did not have much say over the current impasse because “he’s become a more symbolic figure and does not have much managerial control.
IOL was founded by El-Qaradawi in 1997 and became a popular Islamic resource on the internet that fielded questions on religiously risqué topics such as sexuality that were not discussed as openly before. It developed into a wholesome website, offering news, commentaries and analysis.
In a pioneering move, the IOL protest was streamed live online and IOL staff continuously updated news of the sit-in on sites such as Twitter.