Egyptian worshipers attend prayers at the grand mosque of al-Azhar in Cairo on February 14, 2014
Egyptian worshipers attend prayers at the grand mosque of al-Azhar in Cairo on February 14, 2014 © Khaled Desouki - AFP
Egyptian worshipers attend prayers at the grand mosque of al-Azhar in Cairo on February 14, 2014
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AFP
Last updated: March 11, 2014

Egypt moves to take control of independent mosques

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Egyptian authorities decided Tuesday to take control of independent mosques, state news agency MENA reported, in a move aimed at curbing Islamist dissent.

The measure aims to further tighten the state's grip on all mosques in the country, deeply polarised since the overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Morsi's supporters and his Muslim Brotherhood have been targets of a brutal government crackdown since the army ousted him last July.

The military-installed government accuses Islamist groups, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, of using mosques to spread their ideology and enrol new recruits.

Religious Endowments Minister Mohamed Mokhtar tasked his office with bringing all independent mosques under the ministry's control within a month, MENA said.

Egypt has around 130,000 mosques, of which 10,000 are not under the government supervision, ministry official Sabry Ebada told AFP last month.

Morsi's supporters often stage protests after the weekly Friday prayers.

In January, the ministry decided to set a theme topic sent to preachers around the country for the Friday sermon.

Scuffles have often erupted between Morsi's supporters and opponents during the Friday prayers, particularly when the sermon appears to favour one side over the other.

In late 2013, the ministry dismissed 55,000 imams (prayer leaders) who did not graduate from Cairo's Al-Azhar University, the most prestigious institution in Sunni Islam.

The ministry requires imams to receive permission to lead prayers at mosques.

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