The Ministry of Endowments announced on Monday that it will bar 55,000 unlicenced Muslim clerics from preaching.
The move is widely seen by critics as another step in a series of crackdowns that have taken place against the Muslim Brotherhood and since the 3 July ousting of President Mohamed Morsi.
Minister of Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa told Reuters that the unlicensed preachers are fundamentalists and pose a threat to Egyptian national security.
The ban will target small, unlicensed mosques and unofficial places where people congregate for prayer in an attempt to promote moderate Islam and deter radicalisation.
“The decision is only meant to legalise the preaching process during Fridays’ mass prayers and make only those authorised to do it, do it,” said Gomaa.
The Islamist Al-Nour Party disagrees with the ban and sees it as a blow to freedom of expression and freedom of religion. They fear the ruling will lead to an increase in political and religious strife.
“Right now there are barely enough mosques for the numbers who go to pray on Friday, and people end up praying on the streets. There’s going to be disappointment and anger on the streets if you close down mosques as a result of this ban,” said Al-Nour Party spokesman, Sherif Taha.
“We could see increased polarisation in the Islamist factions,” said Taha. “Islamists already think government measures are being taken against them.”
The Muslim Brotherhood has faced multiple blows since Morsi’s removal. Hundreds of Brotherhood members were killed in the 14 August dispersal of their sit-ins, and over 2,000 members have been arrested, including most of their most prominent leaders. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Social Solidarity took steps to dissolve the Brotherhood’s NGO, the Muslim Brotherhood Association.
The Ministry of Endowments could not be reached for comment.