The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) issued a statement Sunday expressing its concern over a new law regulating religious speech.
Law 15/2014 regulates religious speeches and lectures in mosques, which the EIPR views as “a continuation of policies that restrict the freedom of religion”. The group adds that it is a “legal monopolisation on opinions related to Islam, which is the official religion of the country”.
Article 2 of the new law states that religious speeches and lecturing cannot be practiced without a licence from the Ministry of Endowment or from Al-Azhar. Violating this results in an imprisonment of between one month and one year and a fine of between EGP 20,000 and EGP 50,000, or either of the two punishments according to Article 5.
“The new law… is an extension of the government’s decades old policies that restrict religion, allegedly for facing extremism,” said Amr Ezzat, researcher responsible for the programme on religious freedom at the EIPR.
Ezzat added that the policies “end up with consequences that are the complete opposite of their aims” and are “using religion in politics.”
This, he said, constitutes a failure by the government fails in its main role, which is to protect the rights and freedoms of citizens from sectarian incitements.
Officials from Al-Azhar and the ministry discriminate against members of the Baha’i religion or against the followers of the Shi’a sect, he added.
Former interim president Adly Mansour had issued the law on 5 June, a few days before handing over power to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.