CAIRO- Egypt’s military-installed authorities are tightening their grip on mosques by laying down the theme for the weekly Friday sermons, in the latest move to curb Islamist dissent.
The controversial measure comes as Egypt remains deeply polarized after a government crackdown on supporters of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was deposed by the army last July.
Morsi’s supporters have since capitalized on the weekly prayers to garner backing for their protests calling for his reinstatement.
The authorities accuse Islamist groups, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood to which Morsi belongs, of using mosques to spread their ideology and enrol new recruits across Egypt.
The religious endowments (Waqf) ministry in late 2013 dismissed 55,000 imams (prayer leaders) who did not hail from the state-controlled Al-Azhar university, the most prestigious institution in Sunni Islam.
They were accused of “inciting violence and using mosques to spread religious extremism and promote Islamist groups”.
Amnesty International says the crackdown on pro-Morsi supporters have already left more than 1,400 people dead since his ouster.
In January, the ministry, which has nearly 120,000 mosques on its list, decided to unify the Friday sermon by setting a common theme for the weekly prayers.
“The latest procedures aim to prevent incitement to violence and the spread of lies in mosques, which were being used by the Brotherhood to spread their ideas and fool people,” ministry official Sabry Ebada told AFP.
The decision was also taken to “spare mosques from political fights”.