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Egypt to Ban Thousands of Unlicensed Radical Preachers

Thu, September 12, 2013

An supporter of ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. (Photo: © Reuters)

An supporter of ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. (Photo: © Reuters)

Egypt plans to ban close to 55,000 unlicensed clerics from preaching in mosques in the country in a move to crackdown on Islamic extremism.

Minister of Religious Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa said the clerics lack licenses to preach and are considered to be fundamentalists and thus, a threat to Egypt's security. The ban will mainly target small unlicensed mosques or random praying areas. The idea behind the ban is to spread a message of moderate Islam and keep Egyptians away from radical ideas.

"The decision is only meant to legalize the preaching process during Fridays' mass prayers and make only those authorized to do it, do it," Gomaa told Reuters.

The military has attempted to subdue the Muslim Brotherhood after the overthrow of Morsi, Egypt's first democratically leader. More than 2,000 Islamist activists have been arrested and most of the Brotherhood's leaders, including Morsi, were jailed on charges of inciting or taking part in violence. Many have also been accused of terrorism or murder.

The military-led authorities consider the Brotherhood a terrorist group and talks are underway to possibly ban it.

Attacks by Islamists have mainly targeted security forces and have risen sharply since Morsi's overthrow.

A suicide car bomber recently blew himself up near Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim's convoy in a daylight attack in Cairo that killed a passerby and an unidentified person and wounded 20.

Due to the wide influence of Islamists, many secular governments have tried to ban mosques along with their fundamentalist preachers but have been unsuccessful. But now, the army and security forces have the backing from a major portion of the public which was critical of Mursi's decision to give himself sweeping powers and his management of the economy.

Amnesty International told the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, that the overthrow of Morsi unleashed an "extreme level of political violence."