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Court bans Jewish festival in Egypt

A ruling by the Alexandria Administrative Court on Monday canceled an annual Jewish festival, saying it violates public order and morals and contradicts with the sanctity of religious rituals, state-run news agency MENA reported.

The festival commemorates the birthday of Abu Hasira, a leading 19th-century Moroccan rabbi, and was due to happen on January 9 and 10.

The ruling also erases the shrine from Egypt’s antiquities records, canceling the 2001 decision to include it on the list. This obliges the government to notify the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the decision.

The court denied a request to move the shrine to Israel, saying that Islam respects other monotheistic religions and as such rejects exhuming their dead.

The ruling reiterated that the constitution guarantees and protects freedom of religion and freedom to practice as long as it doesn’t violate public order or morals. It added that religious festivals are meant to be held in a “respectable environment,” and should not incite sedition among various religious groups.

The shrine is located in Nile Delta city of Damanhour in the coastal Beheira Governorate. It has long been a location of controversy because it attracts hundreds of Jews every January, specifically those coming from Israel.

The court said it has evidence that during the celebration visiting Jews commit “immoral acts and vices,” which contradict Islamic traditions and threaten general security and peace.

It thus considers the celebration “a violation of Egyptian traditions,” as well as “hurting the feelings of Muslims and Copts alike,” MENA said, especially as they are witnessing their places of sanctity being violated in Jerusalem.

Holding the celebration in these circumstances, the court said, would thus be a threat to security.

Last week, the censorship committee banned the movie Exodus: Gods and Kings from screening in Egyptian cinemas, due to historical inaccuracies and its personification of the prophet Moses. The committee said the movie contains misleading information, including the idea that Jews helped build the pyramids and are God’s chosen people.