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Endowments minister: We are successfully controlling sermons

The Ministry of Endowments is succeeding in controlling religious discourse, the minister said in an interview on the privately-owned channel Al-Hayat.

Mokhtar Gomaa said the ministry would “set a framework for Friday sermons.” The framework would be distributed to imams and be based on “morality and peaceful coexistence,” the state-owned daily Al-Ahram reported.

The ministry recently revoked the licenses of some 55,000 imams and banned Friday sermons in small mosques. It also restricted sermons to 20 minutes.

Mosques are often a gathering point for political movements, and have been effectively utilized by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups for political organization and messaging. Gomaa said that his ministry’s job is to separate mosques from politics and to return them to places of worship.

Before former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011, state security officers chose freelance imams who did not have official contracts with the ministry. Most of the imams whose licences were recently revoked were freelance. After Mubarak was pushed out of office, imams with Islamist ties were more common.

On Monday, a small group of students protested outside Gomaa’s home in Beni Suef to protest the controls on mosques, the privately owned daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Bahey, general coordinator of the Imams without Constraints movement, had told Mada Masr that the ministry’s movements were a good way to combat sectarianism, but in the same interview, Gomaa singled out Shiism. He said that it threatens the security and stability of the country.

Gomaa was appointed endowments minister after the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi on July 3.

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