The Ministry of Religious Endowments has banned famous Islamic preacher Mohamed Jebril from all preaching activities in Egyptian mosques, charging him with politicising prayers.
According to a ministry statement, a police report was also filed against Jebril, “ordering him to return home and banning him from leading people in prayers so as to be an example to those who tamper with God’s Law”. The report and the ban is part of the ministry’s right to arrest any civilian who violates religious speech laws and regulations inside mosques.
The decision aims to ensure that religious speeches at mosques do not contain political elements, by banning “outsiders and those who don’t qualify” for giving speeches. This ban also extends to those who use the platforms for personal or partisan interests, the Ministry of Religious Endowments said in a statement on its official website.
The disputed prayers were given during the celebration of Laylat Al-Qadr, which is considered the holiest night of the year for Muslims, and is traditionally celebrated on the 27th day of Ramadan. Jebril prayed against the “evils of media and poets”, the “ignorance of rulers”, “debauchery”, and “oppression.” He also asked the divine to “eliminate the oppressors” and “accept the martyrs”.
The prayers took place in the Mosque of Amr ibn Al-Aas in Old Cairo, where thousands celebrated Laylat Al-Qadr.
The ministry said that Jebril “utilised the prayers politically”, and “traded with the people’s emotions”. The highly emotive prayers lasted for several hours, pushing many worshipers to tears.
Minister of Religious Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa said that “these faces trade with religion and work on building personal gains”. He added: “The first decision taken was to ban Jebril from any activity inside the mosques. Any person who permits him to do so will be punished.”
Gomaa added that “he can enter as a worshiper, but not as an imam or a preacher. He will stand in front of a committee where he can defend himself”. He also demanded: “All countries that fight terrorism to stop inviting Jebril to lead prayers in them. And I also call upon the Egyptian Television to stop broadcasting Jebril’s prayers, until he officially apologies.”
Jebril is the fourth preacher to be banned, after ministry spokesman Mohamed Abdel Razek said that a professor in Al-Azhar University named Mohamed Al-Nour, and two other clerics, will be banned from working in mosques as preachers.
Egypt’s religious institutions have been acting as the vanguard of “spreading moderate Islamic teaching”, which is arguably clear of political rhetoric. After a year of rule of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated former president Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian state and its supportive forces adopted the discourse of banning critical Islamic preachers from mosques, who draw thousands of followers.
One example is the 88-year-old Islamic cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who faces charges alongside former president Morsi for a mass jail break that was allegedly carried out with the help of Hamas and Hezbollah during the 25 January uprising.
However, Jerbril was himself critical of the 25 January Revolution and supported Mubarak’s calls for clearing the square. He was interviewed on state and satellite TV and said that Mubarak does not deserve what is being done to him, adding that the “tone of the opposition is more close to the foreign powers, which indicates that there are outside powers involved”. Although he praised the youth for expressing their opinions, he regretted that “other elements were involved in the protests”.
This narrative is sometimes adopted by the Egyptian state and pro-government forces, who argue that the protests were infiltrated by foreign members of other countries’ intelligence and armies.
Jerbril is one of the many Islamic preachers who have risen into the spotlight since the 1990s, especially in high-class gatherings, clubs, and societies. He is also popular in the GCC, where he is frequently invited to tour mosques, give lectures, and present religious programmes.
He collaborated with Egyptian state media and other Arab media institutions to record the Quran in his voice.