Any imam who is part of any political group or party will be banned from orating even if the imam was certified by Al-Azhar, said Shiekh Mohamed Abdel Razek, the undersecretary of the Minister of Endowment for mosque affairs, said in televised interview on Saturday.
The Ministry of Endowment has tightened regulations regarding mosques after the military-backed ousting of former president Mohamed Morsi who, during his one year rule, encouraged the rising tide of political Islam by allowing the unlicensed imams to give orations in mosques.
“When religion was mixed with politics, they both went astray,” Abdel Razek said.
According to a ministerial decree issued in January, the Ministry of Endowment now has authority over all mosques in Egypt. The Ministry has since banned 12,000 imams who do not have Al-Azhar certification from performing oration.
It is “grotesque”, Abdel Razek said, that so many imams were allowed to give orations without licences.
The ministry replaced the banned imams with 17,248 qualified imams with degrees from Al-Azhar who applied to the ministry. “If any citizen violates the regulations of the ministry and orates without a permit, a complaint will be filed to the police,” Abdel Razek said.
A complaint has already been filed against Salafi preacher Mohamed Hussien Yakoub, who, with the help of supporters, “forcibly” orated in a mosque in Minya Governorate in Upper Egypt and prevented the imam assigned by the ministry from performing his job, he said.
The Ministry of Endowment chooses a unified topic every week for the Friday oration after an online discussion between the registered imams on the ministry’s forum. The first unified Friday oration topic was about security on 31 January.
Sherif Taha, spokesman for the Salafi Al-Nour Party, said that the party agrees with having technical regulations that require qualified orators. The party agrees that Al-Azhar and the Ministry of Endowment should monitor such procedures as long as banning the orators is not based on security reasons as it used to be before 25 January Revolution.
The party also agrees that mosque pulpits should not be used for political or partisan propaganda because it causes “disruption”, Taha said.
“Al-Nour Party is against banning any citizen from his constitutional rights as long as he abides by the law and has the required qualifications,” he said.
Al-Nour party supported the 3 July military-backed ousting of Mohamed Morsi, the subsequent road map, and the 2014 constitution.