Egypt Targets Mosques and Preachers to Tackle Islamism

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Egypt has been stepping up efforts across the country to curb extremism and prevent radicalization through an aggressive campaign of surveillance and monitoring of preachers.

Since August this year, cameras have been placed inside mosques throughout Egypt, beginning with the major ones before they were rolled out to mosques throughout the country.

The cameras are intended to monitor sermons and other mosque activities in order to detect and rapidly respond to Islamist thought being propagated inside them.

The Ministry of Religious Endowments already closed some 27,000 unauthorized mosques in order to consolidate all religious places of worship under governmental authority. The government argued that unregulated mosques saw a proliferation of radical preachers and ideas drawing young men towards extremism.

The government has also proscribed all Muslim Brotherhood texts from mosque libraries and forbids libraries from obtaining new books without governmental approval.

It controls preachers as well. Only those with a permit from the Ministry of Religious Endowments can deliver sermons or teach classes. All imams have been forced to sign a form repudiating the Muslim Brotherhood and all terrorist groups and acts. Failure to do so will result in being called in to explain why not to a governmental panel.

Since President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi was elected, after a popularly-backed coup which overthrew the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood government, Egypt has been in a desperate fight against Islamism. Since October 2014, the Egyptian government has officially recognized the Islamic State as an ideological descendent of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Egyptian government has been heavily criticised by rights groups for its intrusive policy regarding the mosques. Although many of Sisi’s critics say he has gone too far in his pursuit of Islamists, supporters say that he is doing what needs to be done to crush the Muslim Brotherhood and protect Egypt from theocracy.

His targeting of the ideology rather than simply trying to arrest or kill Muslim Brotherhood members is an approach that tackles the root causes rather than just the symptoms.

It is not yet known whether these draconian measures are a temporary stop-gap intended to force Islamist extremism out of Egypt or if Sisi will prove to be another dictator like Mubarak.

For more information about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and their attempts to create an Islamic State there, see Clarion Project's Special Report: The Muslim Brotherhood.


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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org