File photo: Al-Muayyad Sheikh mosque
The spokesman for Egypt's Ministry of Religious Endowments Gaber Tayie said the ministry has been able to regain control of more than 95 percent of the religious discourse in the country from ultra-conservative Salafist and extremist groups.
Tayie affirmed in statements to Al-Ahram Arabic website that the Islamic religious discourse in the country before 2013 was controlled by several religiously-disguised groups such as the ultra-conservative Salafist group, Al-Gamaa Al-Islameya and the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as undercover charity and non-governmental Islamic organizations.
"The 30th of June revolution in 2013 paved the way for the complete control of the religious platforms throughout the media, lessons, seminars and forums", he said.
"The first decision issued by the Minister of Endowments Mokhtar Gomaa after assuming his role in 2013 was that mosque pulpits only be available to Al-Azhar Graduates after they undergo many tests to determine his ability to preach and sermonize as an imam."
Egypt’s Al-Azhar is the world's oldest institute of Sunni Islamic learning and considered the main institute of Islamic learning in the country.
According to Tayie, the standardization of Friday sermon across the country is one of the most important mechanisms in the strategy to control religious discourse in the country.
Tayie said the ministry has adopted measures to ensure the implementation of its strategy on religious discourse and is willing to cooperate with anyone who complies with its strategy and regulations in the country.
Egypt’s Ministry of Religious Endowments is one of the country’s top state religious bodies tasked with the administration of mosques and Islamic cultural institutes, as well as training religious preachers.
"Now, if an unqualified imam or preacher took any mosque's pulpit anywhere in the state and gave a sermon or speech in violation to the ministry's instructions on religious discourse, he will become a subject of criminal investigation for carrying out a job without a license," Tayie added.
Since 2014, Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi frequently reiterated that reforming religious discourse is a key element in defeating terrorism.
The president said during an Al-Azhar ceremony in 2017 that renewing religious discourse, dealing with all terrorist groups equally, rebuilding regional state apparatuses, and cutting off funding to terrorist groups are key factors to the elimination of terrorism and extremist ideologies.
Authorities have maintained that many unofficial religious centers and small mosques have been used for decades by the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamist groups against the country's national interest and security.