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Egypt: Al-Azhar retakes control of mosques - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An Egyptian man attends the afternoon prayer at al-Azhar mosque during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, July 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

An Egyptian man attends the afternoon prayer at Al-Azhar mosque during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt, on Sunday, July 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—As part of a wider bid to prevent mosques from being used as political platforms, Egypt’s Ministry of Awqaf (religious endowments) has banned clerics who have not graduated from Al-Azhar from preaching.

On Friday, several Al-Azhar clerics delivered sermons at Egypt’s larger mosques, such as Alexandria’s Al-Qaed Ibrahim Mosque, for the first time since the January 25 revolution erupted in 2011.

Over the past few days, 527 unlicensed preachers have been barred from preaching in Egypt’s mosques, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

A senior Al-Azhar source speaking on the condition of anonymity informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the “minister of [Awqaf] has restructured the administrative boards of the larger mosques, which were teeming with the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya.”

“Pro-Mursi protests, especially on Fridays, used to depart from these mosques, such as Al-Qaed Ibrahim Mosque in Alexandria and the Mustafa Mahmoud and El-Hussari mosques in Giza,” he added.

Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Egyptian Minister of Awqaf Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa said: “The Al-Qaed Ibrahim and Al-Aziz Bellah mosques in Alexandria have been adjoined to the ministry and imams from the ministry delivered sermons for the first time yesterday [Friday].”

In previous comments, the minister told Asharq Al-Awsat that the ministry is monitoring what is happening in the larger mosques in order to ensure that da’wa (proselytizing) there does not transgress the boundaries into political or partisan work.

“Any official found guilty of this will be immediately held to account,” he said.

According to the latest figures, there are approximately 100,000 mosques registered with the Ministry of Awqaf, not including 13,000 zawyas (corner mosques). However, the actual number of zawya mosques in Egypt is estimated to be far greater, with almost every neighborhood having one.

In another development, Gomaa called for the dissolution of the Egyptian branch of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, which is led by controversial Egyptian cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi.

“We strongly denounce Qaradawi’s transgressions against the homeland and Al-Azhar. The Union has deviated from the right path and harmed Egypt’s interests and its branch in Cairo should be dissolved,” he said.