Egypt's 'revolutionary cleric' defies suspension, leads Friday prayers

Ahram Online , Friday 12 Apr 2013

Tahrir Square preacher Mazhar Shahin leads Friday prayers at Tahrir Square's Omar Makram Mosque despite recent suspension order by religious endowments ministry

Omar Makram imam, Sheikh Mazhar Shaheen, photo taken May 2011 (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

Mazhar Shahin, known for leading prayers in Cairo's Tahrir Square during and after Egypt's 18-day uprising in 2011, led Friday prayers as usual at the Omar Makram Mosque in defiance of a suspension order issued against him by Egypt's religious endowments (awqaf) ministry, Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website reported.   

The 'revolutionary cleric' was suspended from work on Tuesday by the religious endowments ministry, which is responsible for overseeing the country's mosque preachers, following charges that the preacher had criticised President Mohamed Morsi in recent sermons.

Despite the suspension order, Shahin led midday prayers on Friday, which were attended by several Al-Azhar clerics who came to show solidarity.

In his sermon, Shahin stressed that he "will continue to speak the truth and will not become a hypocrite in order to satisfy a minister, ruler or group."

He went on to criticise the suspension order against him, which was based on accusations that he was "mixing religion with politics."

"If talking about Al-Azhar is 'political,' then it should be banned for everyone and not just for those speaking the truth," he said.

The Muslim Brotherhood has recently been accused of attempting to unseat Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayyeb with the aim of assuming control of the venerable religious institution. 

Following an outbreak of food poisoning at Al-Azhar University earlier this month that saw more than 500 students hospitalised, some calls were heard for the grand imam's dismissal. 

In a recent sermon, Shahin warned against the Brotherhood's alleged "domination" of state institutions.

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