MPs this week demanded the Ministry of Awqaf (Religious Endowments) exert stricter control on mosques during the holy month of Ramadan.
Hussein Abu Gad, a member of the Future of Homeland Party, warned that extremist and takfiri clerics affiliated with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamist movements would seek to use the fasting month of Ramadan to infiltrate mosques and spread their perverted version of Islam.
“We need stricter control to prevent radical clerics from insinuating themselves, particularly in secluded and rural districts,” said Abu Gad.
Abu Gad also recommended that mosques not be allowed to overdo the use of loudspeakers.
“It is good that the Ministry of Awqaf has instructed mosques that the use of loudspeakers be confined to the calls to prayer (azan),” said Abu Gad.
“Unfortunately, in spite of these instructions most mosques insist on using loudspeakers during the taraweeh prayers [post-Ishaa prayers which are performed during Ramadan]. Even internal loudspeakers should be restricted to performing the evening, taraweeh and dawn prayers.”
A week ahead of Ramadan Minister of Awqaf Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa said strict instructions had been sent to mosques to use loudspeakers only during the call to prayer.
“When performing prayers inside mosques’ internal low-volume loudspeakers can be used,” said Gomaa. He also revealed the ministry had decided that zawaya (small mosques) be closed down during the holy month.
As part of the ministry’s District Imam initiative, launched during Ramadan, a cleric affiliated with the Ministry of Awqaf will be responsible for supervising all mosques within a given district. They will ensure takfiri or Muslim Brotherhood clerics do not infiltrate mosques.
Abu Gad hailed the decision to shut down zawaya during Ramadan as a good move.
“We know that radical clerics have long used zawaya to spread their venomous sermons,” said Abu Gad. “But instead of closing these zawaya it might be better for the ministry to exert stricter control over them since many older citizens use them out of convenience, because they are near their homes.”
Osama Al-Abd, head of parliament’s Religious Affairs Committee, told Al-Ahram Weekly that “the initiatives taken by the Ministry of Awqaf to safeguard mosques against radical clerics are a very progressive step.”
“The majority of clerics in mosques are now moderate Al-Azhar graduates who do not mix religion with politics or use mosques to spread radical ideologies or recruit cadres for their groups,” said Al-Abd.
He deplored the fact some mosques still use loudspeakers during the month of Ramadan in a random way. “They act without caring much about citizens who can’t live or sleep due to the hours the horrible megaphones are in use, in violation of the ministry’s instructions.”
Said Hassasin, parliamentary spokesperson of the Democratic Peace party, insists “the ministry should be more vigilant about mosques not using loudspeakers or megaphones during Ramadan’s long evening and dawn prayers.”
“Some imams violate these instructions and part of the function of the new district imams should be to guarantee mosques only use loudspeakers during the azan.”
Gaber Tayea, head of the Ministry of Awqaf’s Religious Affairs Department, said on 1 May that “all mosques will be placed under strict supervision in Ramadan.”
“Our instructions are firm. Mosques can use loudspeakers only during the call to prayer and Friday prayers. In cases involving big mosques like Cairo’s Amr Ibn Al-Aas which attract large numbers prior written approval is needed to use megaphones during prayers.”
Tayea revealed that a ministerial committee had been formed to supervise the performance of mosques during Ramadan.
“The committee will ensure that no takfiri clerics deliver sermons or that preachers mix religion with politics,” he said.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 9 May, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Cracking down on takfiri clerics