The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) expressed concern over a new law regulating sermons and religious lectures in mosques, describing it as an extension of policies that limit religious freedom, it said in a statement Sunday.
Earlier this month, former President Adly Mansour issued a law which prohibits preaching in mosques unless by those appointed by the Ministry of Endowments or Al-Azhar.
The law stipulates a prison sentence, no less than a month and not over a year, and a fine of not less than LE20,000 and not more than LE50,000 for preaching without an officially approved license.
According to Amr Ezzat, who heads the religious freedom unit at EIPR, the new law is an extension of the state’s policies in its crackdown on religious freedom under the pretext of combating extremist currents that exploit religion for political purposes.
“In that regard, the state is failing in protecting rights and freedoms from sectarian incitement and discrimination,” he said.
The law goes hand in hand with Law 272 of 1959 and its amendments, which gives the Ministry of Endowments the right to oversee any mosque and annex it to the ministry, as well as oversee religious activity in mosques not affiliated with the ministry. The law also stipulates a prison sentence and a fine for whoever violates it.
EIPR said any laws or policies with regards to religion should enforce freedom of religion and belief. The state’s role, EIPR stressed, should be implementing policies to combat sectarian incitement.
Since former President Mohamed Morsi was overthrown by the military following mass protests last July, the Endowments Ministry has looked to stem political organization in mosques.
The ministry has sought to revoke the licenses of some 55,000 imams and banned Friday sermons in small mosques. It also restricted sermons to 20 minutes.