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Friday, July 25, 2003
 
This can't end well

CAIRO, Jul 24 (IPS) - The same official sermon will be delivered in 88,000 mosques across Egypt from this week. The government move is a part of extensive new censorship, and penalization for mosques and preachers that do not toe the official line.

As of Friday this week, no preacher will be free to deliver his own sermon, according to a statement from the Awaqaf (religious endowments) ministry. Friday is the holy congregation day at mosques when preachers give their views on religious and political issues.

The sermon will now be written and distributed by officials from the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. The regime has been fighting Islamic groups trying to topple his secular pro-Western rule for the past 15 years.

"Preachers who do not stick to the text (provided every Friday) would be deprived of bonuses and will be subject to an investigation by the legal affairs department at the ministry," according to the statement from the Awaqaf ministry.

The plan also provides for removing independent preachers and replacing them with imams paid for and appointed by the regime.

Preachers at all newly appropriated mosques will be asked to attend state-run religious indoctrination courses. Preachers will only be appointed after clearing an examination and passing a security test.
Wow. Looks like Egyptian Muslims are going to be even more pissed off. And the best part is, a lot of 'em will blame us!

The campaign is "a part and parcel of the pressure the United States places on our regimes to try and limit the Islamic movement," [Muslim Brootherhood official Abdel Monem Abul Fotouh] told IPS. "At the same time as the government and foreign countries are calling for economic liberalization and economic freedom, they want to place restrictions on freedom of expression and religious freedoms in mosques."
No, Abdel, you've got it all wrong! You must have us confused with somebody else. We're the shining beacon of democracy and free speech on the hill (that gives your brutally repressive government $3 billion a year).

This is a deliberate provocation calculated to produce a great swell of protest. Mubarak is taking a huge gamble, that he can goad intractable religious leaders and their more militant followers into jailable offenses and reassert his authoritarian grip. Failing that, his government is history.