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August 4, 2016 No.
1263

Egypt's Al-Azhar Opposes Ministry Of Religious Endowments Plan For Uniform Friday Sermon

By: N. Mozes*

Introduction

Egypt's Ministry of Religious Endowments, which is headed by Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, recently called for uniform Friday sermons in ministry-funded mosques across the country, and to require preachers to deliver a sermon provided to them by the ministry. Minister Gomaa stressed that the uniform sermons initiative was part of the strategy to combat extremist Islamic ideology and to stop sermons from dealing with political matters. However, it appears that the move is also aimed at preventing anti-regime preachers from including criticism of the regime in their sermons. It should be noted that the ministry often distributes prepared sermons, but has thus far left the decision whether to use them or not up to the individual preachers.

This initiative sparked fierce resistance from Al-Azhar, Egypt's supreme religious body, which claimed that it was contrary to Islamic practice, and calling it an attempt to limit the freedom of Al-Azhar preachers - some of whom are ministry employees - and also calling it ministry overreach at Al-Azhar's expense.

Alongside practical considerations, as well as considerations related to the division of authority among the various institutions and the nature of Friday sermons in general, this rift between Al-Azhar and a government ministry under President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi reflects further erosion of the president's support base. Thus, Al-Azhar joins a series of elements in Egypt whose support for Al-Sisi appears to be waning.[1]

To prevent the decline in his status among this support base, Al-Sisi intervened in the conflict between the Ministry of Religious Endowments and Al-Azhar, and, according to reports, came down on the side of Al-Azhar. In light of the president's position, the minister of religious endowments backtracked somewhat, stating that the preachers would not be required to read out a prepared sermon and that the ministry would determine only the topic of the sermon and its length.


President Al-Sisi with Al-Azhar Sheikh Al-Tayeb (Image: Al-Ahram, August 4, 2016)

The initiative to force all preachers to deliver prepared sermons, as well as the rift between Al-Azhar and the Ministry of Religious Endowments, have sparked a public debate in Egypt. Over the past two weeks, the Egyptian press featured dozens of articles supporting and opposing the minister's initiative. Supporters argued that some preachers in Egypt use their sermons to cultivate radical thought, and that forcing them to deliver uniform sermons was vital to eliminating extremism in Egypt. Other articles criticized the ministry, arguing that it was trying to "suppress," "eliminate," and even "kill" the role of the mosque preacher. Society, they said, is far from uniform, and pluralism and differences of opinion are welcome. Prepared, uniform sermons would actually foster extremist discourse, they added, because they would prevent preachers from doing their own thinking and their own research, instead turning them into pawns of their employer - the ministry - and thus damaging their prestige and reducing their influence in society.

This report will review the rift between Egypt's Ministry of Religious Endowments and Al-Azhar regarding the ministry initiative to force preachers in ministry mosques to use uniform prepared Friday sermons, and Egyptian media reactions to it:

Ministry Of Religious Endowments Proposes Distribution Of Uniform Ministry-Prepared Sermons To Preachers

As stated, in recent weeks, the Ministry of Religious Endowments, headed by Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, has promoted an initiative for distributing uniform, prepared Friday sermons to preachers in its mosques throughout Egypt. The initiative includes both a short-term and a five-year plan, and the ministry has reached out to imams, asking them to propose topics for these sermons.[2]

On July 9, 2016, the ministry announced the establishment of "a scientific committee to prepare and formulate topics for Friday sermons on faith, morality, and everyday life in a manner befitting the times. Sermons will be uniform and prepared in advance [by the ministry] The announcement also noted that "outstanding preachers" would be allowed to deliver uniform sermons "in a spontaneous manner" after receiving permission from the ministry - that is, they would still be bound to the provided sermon's topic and length, but would be allowed to deliver it in their own words, as opposed to reading it from the prepared text.[3]

To promote the initiative, Minister Gomaa met with ministry administration directors in the various governorates, as well as with the Egyptian parliament's Religious Affairs Committee. He also gave several interviews and published articles on the subject in the official Egyptian press.

According to Gomaa, Egyptian law gives him the authority to oversee mosques and to organize preaching and management affairs. To opponents of the initiative, and to prove his claim that prepared sermons are indeed allowed in Islam, he said that the two imams of the mosque in Mecca read sermons from a written text, but that "no clerics have condemned them for this for generations, and it has become a manner of silent consent."[4]

Minister Gomaa: We Will Not Allow Extremists To Use Mosque Pulpits

Gomaa said that the initiative had several aims, including keeping extremist elements out of mosque pulpits, and keeping political matters out of sermons. However, the initiative appears also to indicate a wish to oversee preachers who support the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which is outlawed in Egypt, as well as to prevent other anti-regime preachers from criticizing the regime. During a meeting of the parliamentary Religious Affairs Committee, he said: "I will not allow extremists to hijack mosque pulpits and spread destructive ideas and extremism. There is no room for chaos."[5]

In an article in the official Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, Gomaa stressed that the initiative would lead "to a new, modern, and enlightened structuring of thought and logic, far removed from all shades of extremism and the hijacking of minds, and in a way that prevents champions of extremist ideology from using mosque pulpits to present an extremist agenda that serves groups or parties that do not believe in the homeland and the national state..."[6] In another article, he wrote that prepared sermons serve "a religious and national interest as part of a comprehensive plan to spread enlightened Islamic thought, and to curb extremist thought and prevent any attempt by it to again hijack the religious discourse."[7]

The July 9 ministry announcement also criticized those preachers "who engage in political or partisan matters that are unrelated to the topic of the Friday sermon."[8] Minister Gomaa told the Al-Masri Al-Yawm daily that the initiative was aimed at ending the practice of introducing religion into partisan affairs, and also the political use of sermons.[9] Denying that the initiative had political or security aspects, he argued that it was part "of a clear strategy to spread the enlightened view of Islam throughout the entire world... until we can eliminate the chaos ruling the religious discourse, take it back from the hands of its captors, and restore it to the proper path."[10]

The ministry's desire to avoid controversial political topics has been amply clear, since the last three weeks of topics of the prepared ministry sermons have focused on the importance of good hygiene, avoiding sin, and ensuring food security. Sermons were limited to 15-20 minutes, since, the ministry said, "if a sermon runs too long, the listener loses concentration and becomes distracted."[11]

The ministry also reiterated that this program would be rolled out pleasantly, along with a dialogue, and that it had no intention of forcing the issue. According to Gomaa, "the era of imposing [anything] is past and will not return, and we want an enlightened preacher who believes in the topic and implements it out of love and conviction."[12] He also said that the initiative would only be enforced "for ministry imams, and we will not force it on anyone who is not a ministry imam [or who does not operate] out of a mosque under ministry oversight."[13]

Al-Azhar: Initiative Contradicts Constitution And Islamic Law; Preachers Will Become News Anchors

As expected, the initiative triggered harsh criticism among Egyptian clerics who oppose President Al-Sisi's regime. However, surprisingly, Al-Azhar, which has generally supported Al-Sisi, also joined in the criticism; Al-Azhar members did not hold back in expressing their objections to the initiative. Dr. Ahmed 'Omar Hashem, member of Al-Azhar's Council of Senior Scholars, dubbed the initiative "wretched."[14] Ahmed Karima, a professor at Al-Azhar University, said that it was "an improvised, indiscriminate, and vague decision."[15]

According to Al-Azhar, the initiative contradicts the Egyptian constitution, which states that Al-Azhar is in charge of da'wa (preaching), and adds that it would cause stagnation in religious discourse rather than reinvigorating it, as the ministry argued, and would lead to increased terrorism. Thus, a statement by Al-Azhar's Council of Senior Scholars, which is headed by the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb, read: "As part of Al-Azhar's role, which is anchored in the Egyptian constitution as the authority with regard to Islamic preaching, the council has unanimously voted to oppose prepared sermons."

The council argued that the initiative "stagnates religious discourse" and that "imams require serious training, and must be properly educated and provided with books and libraries so they can deal with extremist and radical ideas using the proper knowledge and thought... rather than to rely on a piece of paper, [as this would] soon lead to shallow thinking. [Thus,] they will not be able to deal with deviant ideas and groups that have deviated from the straight path and use religion as a guise, and which utilize the distortion of Koranic verses and sayings of the Prophet [Muhammad] to confuse lay Muslims. [Preachers] will have a hard time arguing with, disproving, responding to, and warning people against such ideas."[16]

Another claim was that delivering prepared sermons contradicted Islamic practices. Ahmed Karima said that "according to traditions and hadiths, a sermon should be spontaneous so that it can connect with its audience." According to him, this has been the practice throughout the history of Islam, and only in the modern era have sermons been read from a prepared text, due to "some tyrannical regimes in certain countries wishing to eliminate preachers' freedom of speech, as well as due to the decline of [religious] research in some countries."[17]

Al-Azhar officials warned that "preachers will become [like] news anchors"[18] and that "mosque [maintenance] workers" or "seventh-grade pupils will be able to deliver sermons, rendering Al-Azhar alumni obsolete" - thus also eliminating the need for theology schools.[19]

The officials also that each governorate and region has its own problems that preachers deal with in their sermons. Al-Azhar Council of Senior Scholars member Dr. Ahmed 'Omar Hashem compared a preacher to a doctor who diagnoses an illness and prescribes treatment accordingly: "Egypt is a large country with [many] governorates, cities, and villages, which differ from each other in terms of practices. Therefore, [preachers] must deliver a sermon that is appropriate for the location... and for the events."[20]

Tensions Between Ministry And Al-Azhar Escalate After Al-Azhar Preacher Rejects Prepared Sermons

In response to Al-Azhar's comments, the ministry attempted to alleviate tension, stressing that this was not a conflict between the two bodies, but adding that it was determined to continue rolling out the initiative. In an article titled "Not a Struggle," Gomaa argued that the initiative "is not a conflict with anyone, nor should it be. We should all serve as an example of camaraderie and cooperation... and place the national interest above all other considerations... There is room for disagreement and difference of opinion regarding organizational matters that do not contravene the consensus or religious law... and then the ruler or his representative settles these disagreement."

Adding that this topic fell under the authority of the Ministry of Religious Endowments, Gomaa continued: "Religious and national interests require us... to continue determinedly to implement uniform, prepared sermons using dialogue and persuasion, without imposition or oppression... Our way is discourse and dialogue. There is no religious or legal ruling preventing a preacher from reading a prepared sermon from a text, so long as he believes in it... We are still in the stage of distributing sermons that serve as guidance, and a preacher can either commit to [delivering] it in full or [delivering only] its outline, provided that he stays within the 15-20-minute time frame and does not deviate from its topic or general content..."[21]

He also told Egyptian TV in an interview: "I am a student of Al-Azhar, which is the supreme source of authority, and the Sheikh of Al-Azhar is my [spiritual] father. My disagreement with [Al-Azhar Sheikh] Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb is scientific. In accordance with my authority, I have decided to implement [a policy of distributing] uniform, prepared sermons. We are determined to implement this..."[22]

However, contrary to the minister's claim that the initiative would be rolled out gradually and "pleasantly," Sheikh Hamada Al-Mut'ana, director of the religious endowments authority in the Al-Sayyida Zainab area in Cairo, warned: "If an imam does not commit to reading the [text of the] prepared sermon, he will be treated as a Muslim Brotherhood member."[23] The daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm also reported that Gomaa had threatened to dismiss preachers who refused to read the prepared sermons, or at least fine them hundreds of lira.[24]

Naturally, it is difficult to assess how successful the ministry will be in its enforcement of the initiative, but it appears that Al-Azhar is determined to oppose it. Thus, on Friday, July 29, 2016, Al-Azhar mosque preacher Dr. Mohamed 'Abd Al-A'ati refrained from delivering the prepared sermon, which focused on the importance of good hygiene, and spoke instead on the recent Copt-Muslim clashes in the country and the issue of "national unity and Christian rights in Islam." Al-A'ati subsequently said that the ministry can "force its own men [to use its prepared sermons], but not Al-Azhar. It can only force the imams who are on its payroll."[25]

Al-Azhar Council of Senior Scholars member Dr. Ahmed 'Omar Hashem also stressed that he had no intention of delivering prepared sermons, as doing so constitutes "a personal offense to me and senior scholars," adding that he would rather quit than comply with the ministry initiative.[26]

Al-Sisi Sides With Al-Azhar; Minister Of Religious Endowments Backtracks

Following the escalation of tension between the Ministry of Religious Endowments and Al-Azhar, on August 3, 2016 President Al-Sisi met with Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmad  Al-Tayeb, apparently at the latter's request. Reports on this meeting indicate that Al-Sisi sided with Al-Azhar rather than the ministry, in order to avoid a clash with Al-Azhar and preserve his status among this traditional support base. After this meeting the endowments minister backtracked somewhat from his previous position on the prepared sermon.

According to the president's spokesman Alaa Youssef, during the meeting Al-Sisi emphasized "the state's full and continued support for the Al-Azhar institute... and pointed to the importance... of [its] continued [role] in presenting the true cultural model of Islam."[27] According to an announcement issued by Al-Azhar, immediately following his meeting with the president Al-Tayeb convened in his office Minister Gomaa, Egyptian Mufti Dr. Shawki 'Allam and senior Al-Azhar officials, and "directed [them] to formulate the necessary training programs to improve the level of the preachers and imams... while focusing on improving the imams' skills in preparing sermons and delivering them." The Sheikh of Al-Azhar also urged the Ministry of Religious Endowments and all religious leaders to commit to Al-Azhar's path and work together to raise the level of religious discourse and improve imams' abilities. At the same time, he expressed willingness to accept sermon topics dictated by the ministry, but demanded that sermons address social problems and that the topics be selected in coordination with Al-Azhar. According to the announcement, he demanded that "selection of the sermon and lesson topics be coordinated in a manner that would serve the needs of society."[28]

At the end of the meeting, the minister clarified that preachers were expected to comply with the ministry's directives in only two aspects - the length of the sermon and its general topic - and would not have to read out a prepared text: "The ministry will penalize a preacher only in two cases: if he deviates from the specified time frame or from the sermon's topic. I charged the preachers to thoroughly understand the topic of the sermon and deliver it to the worshipers without [reading from] the page." He emphasized, however, that selecting the sermon topic was his exclusive prerogative: "The Ministry of Religious Endowments alone is responsible for [selecting] the sermon topic. Some groups that wish to hijack the mosques oppose the prepared sermon [initiative]. The fear that the mosques will be hijacked still exists, and therefore the ministry is responsible for determining the topic of the sermon." The minister challenged his opponents to prove that the ministry obligated the preachers to a deliver a prepared sermon, stressing that no such demand exists.

Al-Azhar officials viewed the ministry's statements as a significant withdrawal from its former position. For example, Dr. Muhamad Al-Shahat Al-Jundi, member of Al-Azhar's Academy of Islamic Research, said: "The decision of the minister of religious endowments that the prepared sermon will  be [only]a guideline, not obligatory, represents a withdrawal from his [former] position [out of] a desire to appease Al-Azhar and lean in its direction, and emphasizes that the sermon will be spontaneous."[29]

Egyptian Press Articles For And Against Uniform Sermons

The Religious Endowments Ministry's initiative to force all preachers to deliver prepared sermons was widely discussed in the Egyptian press, which featured many articles both supporting and opposing the decision.

Egyptian Culture Minister In Defense Of Uniform Sermons: Some Mosques Have Become Like Headquarters Of Parties Or Militias

Egyptian Culture Minister Helmy Al-Namnam came to the defense of the decision in an article that criticized "improvised" sermons. He wrote: "The improvised sermon is usually characterized by a great deal of passion and emotion, and this passion can yield expressions that do not befit a mosque pulpit... Sometimes the sermon is politically-guided, reflecting the [political] leanings and personal ideology of the preacher... [Moreover], though Islam warns us against [uttering] curses and invective, in recent years we have heard preachers cursing politicians, public figures and intellectuals just because they disagree with [these figures'] politics or ideology. Some mosques have become like headquarters of [certain] parties or militias. The improvisations of some fervent preachers led them to [make] despicable racist statements and remarks against certain countries or peoples... During a Friday sermon, the worshipper is unable to oppose the preacher's [statements]... In some instances where people protested the preachers' improvisations, this led to a riot inside the mosque, harming the spirit and the meaning of [the act of] worship... Improvised sermons have their dangers, as we are all aware... A prepared sermon, [on the other hand,] will address a central theme and secondary themes in a logical, structured sequence. The preacher will deliver it in his own words and his own pleasant way... Gentlemen, we have had enough of improvisation [in matters] that allow no improvisation."[30]

Egyptian Columnist: The Uniform Sermon - A Welcome Step Towards Eliminating Extremism In Religious Discourse

'Imad 'Arian, a columnist for the official daily Al-Ahram, wrote that the uniform sermon will protect society from the "deviant opinions" sometimes heard in mosques unsupervised by the state: "There are many reasons to support and welcome the courageous move that the Minister of Religious Endowments took when he approved [the decision] to have a prepared, uniform Friday sermon [in all mosques]. This is a welcome step towards reforming the religious discourse and purging Egypt of extremism and fanaticism... It should be noted that scandalous, disastrous and deviant Friday sermons [are delivered] in small mosques that can be called 'piratical mosques,' which are far from the supervision of the Religious Endowments Ministry [and are located] in small, remote villages but also in certain cities around the country. [In these mosques] deviant and detestable opinions and expressions [are heard], that are at odds with all logic and any religion. Everyone knows that these mosques and these dubious imams - some of whom are uneducated rhetoricians - are the ones who introduced extremism into Egypt, as well as religious zealotry that [begat] the most despicable forms of terrorism...

"The prepared sermon shields us from the damage of the nonsense that is repeatedly heard from the pulpits of unsupervised mosques, and is absolute protection for the fundamental values of society. Some Muslim countries have already understood this, and have not sufficed with [enforcing] a prepared, uniform sermon. They took it one step further by recording the entire Friday sermon [in advance] and then broadcasting it one week later, after examining it in detail to ensure that it is free of the discourse of hate and extremism and of views that do not conform to the correct faith."[31]

Opponents Of The Uniform Sermon: It Is A Hasty Decision That Harms The Imams' Prestige And Will Not Curb Extremism But Rather Encourage It

Egyptian poet and journalist Farouk Gweda, head of the culture section of the Al-Ahram daily, wrote that the attempt to standardize Friday sermons is a dictatorial measure that suppresses the imams' abilities and talents and infringes upon freedom of speech and freedom of religious opinion: "Friday sermons are supposed to broaden one's horizons... and it is inconceivable to paralyze all this with a [uniform] text that will be distributed to all mosques every week. This eliminates the clerics' abilities and prevents any attempt to interpret [texts] or present knowledge. [Moreover,] there are large ideological, cultural and religious differences between [different] clerics, and each mosque has its unique character... A [large city] mosque is on a different level than mosques in villages and non-urban areas... [Additionally,] a mosque imam has the right to cultivate [his skills], and he certainly cannot do this by reading out a [prepared] sermon, for such a sermon kills all investigative spirit, differences of opinion and [thirst for religious] knowledge among clerics. Conversely, whoever writes the Friday sermons for all of Egypt's mosques will certainly not be any better than other clerics who are [just as] adept at writing rich and influential sermons.

"This measure [of standardizing the Friday sermon] has dictatorial aspects and even more than that, because it imposes upon the entire [Egyptian] people a uniform discourse, opinion and test that cannot be challenged... Had Allah wanted to, he would have made the [Muslims] one [monolithic] ummah, [but] the differences of opinion between the four imams - [the founders of the four major Islamic schools] Al-Shafi'i, Malik, Abu Hanifa and Ibn Hanbal - is the best proof that Islam is [actually] a religion of differences and debates, for each of [these imams] had his own school and his own interpretations... I do not think there was any point in Muslim history where all Muslim countries had a uniform sermon - for pluralism, in thought and in [all aspects of] life, is one of the important principle in Islam."[32]

Hussein Al-Qadi, who writes in the Egyptian daily Al-Watan, called the Religious Endowments Ministry's decision "hasty" and said that, since it would turn imams into ignorant pawns of the state, it would actually diminish their ability to confront extremism rather than enhance it. He wrote: "The decision regarding the prepared sermon was taken hastily and hurriedly... It should have been preceded by a [public] debate involving clerics, intellectuals, imams and educators, and a survey among thousands of imams, which would have required at least three months. Instead, the decision was taken without making any investigation, and its consequences may be disastrous...

"Let me address two [of these potential] consequences. [First,] deepening the conflict between the sheikhs [of Al-Azhar] and the [Ministry of] Religious Endowments. The Minister [of Religious Endowments] issued an independent decision [in this matter], and the advisors of the Sheikh of Al-Azhar and figures from [Al-Azhar's] Council of Senior Scholars expressed their opposition to it. The minister is trying to push the decision through at any cost, while the sheikhs are trying to embarrass him by opposing it. In this way both sides are preoccupied with each other instead of dealing with the extremists and inciters.

"[Second,] the prepared sermon will not minimize extremist ideas but [only] eliminate the knowledge and education of the imam, [for it will] help turn him into an ignorant pawn [by] eliminating the value of education in his eyes. Once imams become accustomed to this situation, they will not be able to hold their own in a debate with a young person [from the MB] who has read a book by [Sayyid] Qutb or [Yousuf] Al-Qaradawi, [for example], and this will be a golden opportunity [for extremists] to spread extremist ideology.

"The extremists have long been saying that the imams of the Religious Endowments Ministry are 'government sheikhs' who say only what the government tells them to say and are persuasive [only] due to their skills of deception. Imagine that, on top of this, we have the imam read out a text that is dictated to him, while monitoring him and punishing him if he takes it into his head to explain something, interpret something or add something that does not appear in this written text. [If we do this,] then when [this imam] sets out the teachings of early and late [Muslim scholars] that oppose extremism, nobody will be persuaded by his words, because  the [Religious Endowments] Ministry lost its faith in [this imam] even before the youths lost their faith in him."[33]  


Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayeb (left) and Egyptian Minister of Religious Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa (Image: English.ahram.org.eg)

Al-Ahram Article: The Egyptian Citizen Is Embarrassed By The Clash Between Al-Azhar And Religious Endowments Ministry

Some of the articles lamented the clash between the Ministry of Religious Endowments and Al-Azhar. Al-Ahram columnist Ibrahim Al-Dasuqi argued that in this confrontation both sides were losers: "The Ministry of Religious Endowments dared to deliberately challenge Al-Azhar by refusing to make any concessions regarding its demand to standardize Friday sermons. [Rather,] it declared its commitment to this [decision] and its willingness to launch an all-out war to defend it. Soon a war of statements and declarations broke out between these [two] long-standing institutions, while the [Egyptian] citizen stood bewildered, embarrassed and torn, not knowing exactly what is happening and who is right and who is wrong...

"The hidden conflict that existed between the Religious Endowments Ministry and the sheikhs of Al-Azhar has risen to the surface and is no longer a secret... Both sides are playing a zero-sum game... whose expected results will be a painful defeat for both of them, and they will not be able to fix the damage or mend their relations very quickly. Both sides will suffer greatly from the severe loss of confidence in them, [for] the average citizen will view them with suspicion..."[34]   

Egyptian Columnist: The Minister Instigates Crises To Promote His Own Image

Zainab 'Abdallah, a columnist for the Egyptian daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi', harshly criticized the minister of religious endowments for trying to impose his initiative on the sheikhs of Al-Azhar. She wrote: "Religious Endowments Minister [Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa] deals with the mosques, their imams and the calls to reform the religious discourse as though they were his own private property... This was clearly reflected in the crisis of the prepared sermon that he instigated lately... [and which] angered the imams and the senior Al-Azhar clerics, who took it as an insult, as disrespect [for their status] and as casting doubt on their abilities... [The minister] called on the imams of the Religious Endowments Ministry to implement his decision and stick to the prepared sermon, while ignoring the decision of Al-Azhar and its clerics [who reject the prepared sermon initiative] and waging a new battle with the oldest Islamic institution in the world. [He did this] despite the fact that the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Grand Imam Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayeb, [was] his teacher and the one who proposed him for the position of endowments minister, and despite the fact that, throughout history, his ministry functioned as part of Al-Azhar. Since becoming minister of religious endowments, Dr. Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa has made efforts to work  separately from Al-Azhar and has fabricated crises in order to present himself as the bearer of the banner of [religious] reform and as one who fights extremism single-handedly... All these efforts and these crises periodically sparked by the endowments minister benefit nobody but the extremist groups [themselves], and harm the image of Al-Azhar's clerics and the sheikhs of the official religious institutions...

"[Minister Gomaa], do not deepen the crisis among the clerics and do not preoccupy them and the people with petty quarrels when the homeland is facing dangers that require the clerics and the religious institutions to unite their ranks in order to confront extremist ideology and present a moderate image of Islam."[35]

 

* N. Mozes is a research fellow at MEMRI.

 

Endnotes

 

[2] Ar.awkafonline.com, July 31, 2016.

[3] Ar.awkafonline.com, July 9, 2016.

[4] Ar.awkafonline.com, July 28, 2016.

[5] Al-Watan (Egypt), July 19, 2016.

[6] Al-Ahram (Egypt), July 22, 2016.

[7] Almokhtarone.com, July 29, 2016.

[8] Ar.awkafonline.com, July 9, 2016.

[9] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), July 20, 2016.

[10] Ar.awkafonline.com, July 22, 2016.

[11] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), July 20, 2016.

[12] Al-Ahram (Egypt), July 22, 2016.

[13] Al-Watan (Egypt), July 26, 2016.

[14] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), July 31, 2016.

[15] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), July 27, 2016.

[16] Azhar.eg, July 26, 2016.

[17] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), July 20, 2016.

[18] Al-Watan (Egypt), July 22, 2016.

[19] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), July 27, 2016.

[20] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), July 31, 2016.

[21] Almokhtarone.com, July 29, 2016.

[22] Al-Wafd (Egypt), July 31, 2016.

[23] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), July 29, 2016.

[24] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), July 20, 2016.

[25] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), July 29, 2016.

[26] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), July 22, 2016.

[27] Masralarabia.com, August 3, 2016.

[28] Azhar.eg, August 3, 2016.

[29] Elbalad.news, August 3, 2016.

[30] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), July 19, 2016.

[31] Al-Ahram (Egypt), July 25, 2016.

[32] Al-Ahram (Egypt), July 20, 2016.

[33] Al-Watan (Egypt), July 19, 2016.

[34] Al-Ahram (Egypt), August 1, 2016.

[35] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), July 31, 2016.