Cairo- The Egyptian Ministry of Awqaf, headed by Minister of Religious Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, has presented a regulatory five-year guideline tackling Friday speeches to be put forth before current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for approval.
The ministry’s statement said that it has presented the lists of topics to be broached during Friday speeches over the course of five years, featuring 54 subjects for the first year and 270 to be discussed over the next five years.
According to the statement, the national accredited scientific community has started co-writing Friday speech topics with top religious researchers and psychology and social experts.
Considered objectionable, the ministerial decision caused a large wave of controversy among Al-Azhar scholars.
The formation of the committee came after President Sisi delivered a speech commemorating the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad last December. In his speech he agreed with Gomaa who had previously said Egypt needs such a committee. Sisi said that the committee should be composed of scholars of religion, psychology, and sociology.
“The issue of improving religious discourse should not be reduced to unified Friday sermons,” Sisi said, expressing appreciation for the role played by the Al-Azhar institution in fighting extremist ideologies.
The ministry’s imposition of unified Friday sermons raised controversy among preachers who claimed the practice undermines their intellectual capacities and skills.
More so, on Dec. 20, the secretary of the Religious Committee at the Egyptian parliament, Omar Hamrouche, presented a draft law on regulating fatwas. The law will limit the issuing of religious edicts to senior scholars at Al-Azhar and Dar Al-Ifta and put an end to the numerous fatwas that incite violence and intolerance.
The draft law stipulates that issuing fatwas without licenses from Al-Azhar and Dar Al-Ifta is a crime punishable by law, facing imprisonment. Those found guilty would be taken away for no more than six months or pay a fine of around 2,000 Egyptian pounds ($110), or both.
The draft law also sparked controversy. Some supported it and viewed it as a step towards renewing religious discourse and confronting extremism. Those opposing it saw it as an attempt by the government to control religion in order to serve its own decisions.