Islam, Scripted: Egypt Reins in Friday Sermons at Mosque

By Bryant, Christa Case | The Christian Science Monitor, April 28, 2014 | Go to article overview

Islam, Scripted: Egypt Reins in Friday Sermons at Mosque


Bryant, Christa Case, The Christian Science Monitor


Sheikh Khalef Massoud used to draw about 250 people when he first started preaching in the poor Cairo neighborhood of Imbaba in 2007.

Today his Friday sermons at Al Montazah Mosque attract more than 3,000 people, filling both floors of the mosque and spilling out into the alleys. His penchant for talking about the importance of democratic freedoms has drawn listeners from all over Cairo and beyond.

But in January the government decreed that all imams must follow state-sanctioned themes each week - typically social issues like street children or drug addiction that steer well clear of politics. Authorities monitor Sheikh Massoud's sermons and keep tabs on his Facebook page and any political comments he posts on websites for imams and sheikhs. Since the military ousted an Islamist government last summer, he has twice been suspended from preaching, and ordered to stop making appearances on TV.

"They want to use religion as an anesthetic to calm people down," says Massoud, who has a PhD from Egypt's preeminent school of Islamic learning, Al Azhar University. "They're using imams to channel this idea."

The Friday sermon is perhaps the most influential institution in the Muslim world, and has long been used to inform, inspire, and rouse the public. During Egypt's 2011 uprising many of the largest protests followed Friday prayers, and during the Muslim Brotherhood's short-lived rule, it often used the mosques to rally supporters for marches and votes.

The secular government portrays its interference as essential to stabilize the country. But critics see it as a campaign to cleanse the mosques of Islamist politics and a blatant attempt to co-opt Egypt's most respected religious institutions - Al Azhar; the Ministry of Endowment, which oversees religious affairs; and mosques - to silence dissent and shape the popular narrative.

Since last summer's overthrow of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first Islamist president, the Ministry of Endowment has laid off 12,000 preachers and hired 17,000 new ones in what they say is a bid to flush out unqualified imams. On Tuesday it vowed to take legal action against unlicensed imams after a prominent Salafi preacher allegedly blocked a government-appointed imam from replacing him.

"These demagogic acts are alien to religion, ethics, and genuine Egyptian values," the ministry said in a statement, vowing to combat "extremism and intellectual thuggery."

A 'critical time' for imamsPolitical control of mosques is neither a foreign concept in Islam nor a new tactic in Egypt. But the current government exerts far more control than its Islamist predecessor, says Amr Ezzat, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights in Cairo.

"Right now all important state institutions, like the judiciary and the police, are on their side," he says.

The government controls Friday sermons primarily through Al Azhar University, which trains imams, and the Ministry of Endowment, which oversees the country's 84,000 public mosques. The ministry employs 55,000 full-time imams, in addition to about 40,000 freelance preachers, known as khateebs, who are licensed to give Friday sermons on an ad-hoc basis.

Mohamed Eid Kilani, head of public mosques for the Ministry of Endowment, says the 17,000 new recruits were all freelancers, with a thorough knowledge of the Quran and degrees from Al Azhar - though often in fields such as engineering or medicine. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Islam, Scripted: Egypt Reins in Friday Sermons at Mosque
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.