Alexandria’s leading Salafi preachers will no longer be allowed to give Friday sermons in the coastal city, Deputy Endowments Minister Mohamed Nour Othman told the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper.
After former President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster, the Endowments Ministry issued a decree revoking licenses for any imams who did not graduate from Al-Azhar University as part of a broader strategy to curb the influence of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups.
High-profile Salafi preachers including Yasser Borhamy and Abdel Moneim al-Shahat will be affected by the decision, Othman confirmed, as they do not hold official degrees from Al-Azhar.
Both preachers belong to the Alexandria-based Salafi Dawah, the parent organization of the Salafi Nour Party.
Othman justified the ministry’s move as a way to end the disunity that has harmed religious discourse in the country over the last few years.
“Mosques have become the home for the ignorant,” he added.
The Alexandria Endowments Directorate also decided to close 565 small mosques in the governorate, in compliance with another earlier decree banning prayers in spaces under 80 square meters — spaces where the ministry traditionally has had little to no control over sermon content.
Minister of Endowments Mokhtar Gomaa said months ago that these mosques were a power base for hardline Islamist organizations — referring to the Muslim Brotherhood in particular — to disseminate destructive extremist ideas.
In an article published in the privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper, Nour Party spokesperson Nader Bakkar slammed the ministry’s rulings, warning such actions would only worsen the problem of a polarized religious discourse, as opposed to solving it.
Preventing certain preachers from delivering sermons will just encourage secrete religious work, Bakkar cautioned, and could trigger an upsurge of preachers working underground to propagate their ideas.