Conceding to Al-Azhar pressure, satellite channel cancels talk show accused of insulting Islam

The controversial talk show “With Islam” will be pulled off air at Al-Azhar’s request, the privately owned satellite channel Al-Qaherah wal Nas said in a statement issued Wednesday night.

The channel made the announcement after Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb filed a lawsuit earlier in the day demanding the show’s cancellation. The prime minister, investment minister, the chairman of the board for the Television and Radio Union, the head of Al-Qaherah wal Nas and the show’s host, Islam al-Beheiry, were all named in the suit, according to the Wafd Party’s official newspaper, Al-Wafd.

In its statement, the channel said it would comply with the grand sheikh’s request to think carefully about how the media handles religion. The management at Al-Qaherah wal Nas doesn’t encourage television shows that polarize Muslims, the statement continued, particularly given that such programs have proven to have a negative influence on society by increasing conflict and friction at a time when unity and harmony are most needed.

“Freedom of thought and expression are constitutional rights for all citizens. However, protecting the country’s best interests is a greater goal,” the statement concluded.

Wednesday’s lawsuit followed a complaint filed by Al-Azhar on April 6 against Beheiry, accusing him of insulting religion, slandering Al-Azhar, propagating extremist ideology, insulting Islamic scholars and attempting to destabilize national peace.

The preacher has incited debate since his show first aired in July 2013. He reportedly disseminates religious views that run counter to the core beliefs propagated by Al-Azhar, the region’s official Islamic authority.

 

After Al-Azhar filed the complaint, the satellite television licensing authority sent a cease-and-desist letter to Al-Qahera wal Nas, ordering the channel to “stop the content in violation” within 15 days or risk losing its licence.

 

Marwa al-Toukhy, a producer on the show, told Mada Masr that the show’s team had no statement to make on the issue outside of the channel’s official statement.

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