The Religious Endowments Directorate in the Suez unofficially suspended a preacher from Al-Toba Mosque, named Mohamed Ezzat, after he referred to the achievements of the Egyptian goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in his Friday sermon. Ezzat is under investigation from the Ministry of Religious Endowments who will ultimately determine if he is suspended or not.
Ezzat was trying to motivate the youth by speaking about El-Hadary’s stance throughout the AFCON matches, especially in Egypt’s semifinals match against Burkina Faso, which ended 4-3 after a penalty shootout.
The sermon that led to the preacher’s suspension was held on 3 February, two days after El-Hadary’s success in the match.
The preacher called on the youth attending the sermon to adopt El-Hadary as a role model and a symbol for achieving their goals. The preacher is not employed with the Ministry of Religous Endowments and works as a preacher in accordance to a reward system.
The endowments directorate noticed that the preacher drifted away from the topic that was decided on by the ministry for that Friday sermon, named “chivalry, help, and the rescue of those in need”.
Mansour Mandour, the top Imam at the ministry, told Daily News Egypt that he was informed “that the preacher spoke about El-Hadary’s stance throughout the sermon and did not just give a brief mention of him. This is not acceptable, as he strayed from the main topic set for the Friday sermon.”
The Imam suggested that it would have been fine if he only mentioned El-Hadary as a brief example, adding that sports is not something prohibited but discussing it in depth was not the main focus of the topic selected for the Friday sermon.
Mandour asserted that the preacher’s stance might allow other preachers to discuss further topics related to movies and artists that may be considered taboo. He concluded that the investigation will prove whether the preacher strayed away from the topic or not and that he is still not officially suspended.
Another Islamic preacher, who preferred to speak on condition of anonymity, told Daily News Egypt that the situation is not clear, as the preacher did not make a religious mistake but chose to use a timely topic and mentioned an example of a celebrity who had recently had a great achievement.
This case reveals that there are a number of imams and preachers across the nation that are straying from the topics prescribed for the Friday sermons by the Ministry of Religious Endowments on 14 July.
Previously, Al-Azhar’s top clerics, including the institute’s undersecretary Abbas Shuman, opposed the decision, citing concerns that the sermons will lack credibility, creativity, and that this decision will distort the connection between an imam and his listeners.