The Endowments Ministry warned preachers against campaigning for the upcoming elections in their Eid al-Adha sermons, as aspiring parliamentary candidates gear up for the first round of voting at the end of October.
In a statement published on its official website on Wednesday, the ministry said it would immediately “file reports against all those who violate this rule, with no exception, and will also inform the High Elections Commission of all violations.”
Since 2013, government and Islamist players have wrestled for control over mosques and prayers. Amr Ezzat, who researches religious freedoms for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, points out that sermons, religious lessons and other mosque-based activities have long represented a stronghold for Islamist movements. The state competes with these movements by wielding its direct executive control over mosques, and has recently intensified its regulations.
Endowments Minister Mokhtar Gomaa also warned against using streets and alleyways as informal prayer sites over the holidays. The faithful can only pray at ministry-sanctioned sites, he said.
A member of the Salafi Dawah — an Alexandria-based group backing the Nour Party — told the privately owned newspaper Al-Shorouk that the ministry sent them instructions to refrain from addressing politics during the Eid sermons.
Instead, they were asked to focus on tolerance and morality, and warn the congregation against extremism and militancy, he said.
The Salafi Dawah has a strong presence in several mosques in Alexandria and other cities west of Cairo.
Preachers from the group said that they asked for permission to set up outdoor spaces for Eid prayers, but the ministry did not respond to their requests.
A journalist in Alexandria who closely follows the Salafi Dawah’s activities told Mada Masr that the group’s preachers typically set up these outdoor spaces for prayer without getting permission first, and are normally allowed to do so. He confirmed that the Salafi Dawah did request the ministry’s permission this year, but to no avail.