Sunday,17 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1370, (23-29 November 2017)
Sunday,17 December, 2017
Issue 1370, (23-29 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

TV muftis

Salafi clerics will no longer deliver fatwas on TV, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

#Al-Huweini # Hassan
# #

The Higher Council for Media Regulation (HCMR) has announced only moderate clerics will be allowed to issue fatwas on television screens.

In a press conference late last week HCMR head Makram Mohamed Ahmed said television channels would no longer be allowed to host extremist Salafi clerics. “We have compiled an initial list of 51 moderate Islamic clerics who are the only people mandated to issue fatwas on private and public TV channels,” said Ahmed.

The move will be backed by new legislation regulating the issuing of fatwas.

“Our aim is to halt the tide of bizarre fatwas which damage Islam, undermine the spirit of moderation and centrism, spread extremism, promote violence and help foment sectarian strife.”

The initial list of approved clerics was drafted by HCMR, Al-Azhar and Dar Al-Iftaa.

Among those barred from TV screens are Mohamed Hassan, Mohamed Hussein Yacoub and Abu Ishak Al-Huweini, three Salafi clerics who have long been fixtures of religious programming.

The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb told a recent conference that fatwas issued by the three clerics have consistently undermined Islam. One of their more notorious rulings claimed it was forbidden for Muslims to congratulate Christians on their religious feasts.

Islamic teaching faces an unprecedented wave of distortion at the hands of clerics who issue fatwas in the absence of sufficient knowledge, said Al-Tayeb.

According to Ahmed, Al-Azhar and Dar Al-Iftaa will pursue all available legal channels to ensure HCMR’s decision is implemented.

The 51-name list is not final, he adds. “It is an initial list and will be expanded by the addition of the names of other moderate Muslim clerics once they have obtained the necessary licences from HCMR and Dar Al-Iftaa.”

Critics of the decision complain there is no clear criterion for approving the names of muftis.

A second list of moderate religious clerics is being prepared by the Ministry of Waqfs which Ahmed says will include 21 clerics.

Osama Al-Azhari, deputy head of parliament’s Religious Affairs Committee and one of the 21 names likely to be added to the list, told Al-Ahram Weekly that HCMR’s decision had been welcomed in religious circles.

“We have long argued that greater discipline must be imposed on the issuing of fatwas and only moderate religious scholars should be allowed to appear on TV channels to deliver them,” said Al-Azhari.

“In recent years extremist Salafi clerics have done a lot of damage to Islam by delivering bizarre fatwas,” says Galal Awara, deputy head of parliament’s Media Committee. “A radical Salafi cleric appearing on a television channel for just 10 minutes does far more damage than one delivering a radical sermon during Friday prayers.”

Osama Al-Abd, head of the Religious Affairs Committee, expects the new legislation complementing the HCMR decision to be approved by MPs soon. The four-article law, drafted by the committee’s secretary-general — Kafr Al-Sheikh MP Omar Hamroush — has already been unanimously approved by the committee’s 30 members.

“It has been praised by the Minister of Religious Endowments Mokhtar Gomaa and we are looking forward to Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal scheduling a plenary session to debate the law,” said Al-Abd.

The draft law’s first article limits the issuing of fatwas to members of the Council of Grand Scholars of Al-Azhar, Dar Al-Iftaa, the Complex of Islamic Research and the Ministry of Religious Endowments’ Department of Fatwas. Article 3 stipulates members of these organisations can only deliver fatwas on licensed media outlets. Violations can be punished by a six-year jail term and a LE5,000 fine.

Hamroush told reporters the draft will help counter religious extremism which threatens the stability and security of the state.

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