Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court rejected on Saturday an appeal to a ruling banning non-specialists from issuing Islamic opinions, known as fatwas, making the ruling final, according to an official statement.
The ruling, issued earlier by the lower Alexandria Administrative Court, also bans those who are not licensed by Al-Azhar or the Ministry of Endowments from “ascending the pulpits.”
This means they would not be allowed to deliver the weekly Friday sermons.
The ruling targets advocates of terrorism, the statement explained, noting that the ruling is final.
The Supreme Administrative Court said on Saturday that mosques, especially small ones, have been misused to exploit poor people and their ignorance to attract supporters and spread division and dissension among people.
The court said such practices have led to arguments and physical violence that caused the loss of lives and damage to property as a result of extremist thought.
The court affirmed that mosques should never be used for political or partisan goals or for election propaganda, noting that this contradicts with the sanctity of the mosques and harms the supreme interests of the state.
The fatwas issued by non-specialists, including on social media platforms, have led to an increase in extremism among the current and next generations, the court said.
The court said issuing fatwas should be limited to the state’s religious institutions, warning that terrorist groups use social media to harm the state.
The court called for the legislature to criminalise the issuance of fatwas by non-specialists that do not belong to Islamic institutions.
It also called on the legislature to criminalise the use of sermons to achieve political or partisan goals or for election propaganda even if the perpetrator is licensed to deliver sermons.
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has frequently called for reforming religious discourse in order to combat terrorism, especially as the country has witnessed many terrorist attacks against Christians and Muslims since 2013.
Earlier this month, El-Sisi told the heads of African constitutional courts, supreme courts, and constitutional councils that judicial institutions are imperative in the fight against terrorism and extremism.