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Egyptian authorities crack down on televised fatwas

Move is ostensibly aimed at sidelining scholars who aren't qualified to issue religious edicts
Image of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt on 1st July 2011 [Daniel Mayer/Wikipedia]
Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt on 1st July 2011 [Daniel Mayer/Wikipedia]

Egypt’s Al-Azhar University and Dar al-Iftaa, the state’s two leading religious authorities, have set restrictions on the number of Muslim scholars allowed to issue fatwas (religious rulings) on television.

“Al-Azhar University and the Dar al-Iftaa have limited the number of scholars allowed to issue Fatwas on religious television programs to 50,” Makram Muhammad Ahmed, head of Egypt’s state-run Supreme Media Council, told local media outlets on Thursday.

According to Ahmed, the move is aimed at sidelining scholars who lack the necessary qualifications to issue religious edicts.

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“The issuance of fatwas must be subject to specific rules; it’s a right that cannot be granted to everyone,” he said, stressing the move was “religious and not political”.

He went on to note that satellite television channels found violating the new regulation would be penalized, but did not elaborate further.

“Freedom of expression is a fundamental right for all,” Ahmed asserted. “But it’s our right to protect society from the chaos caused by an overabundance of fatwas.”

According to Ahmed, 30 of the 50 scholars to be granted the right to issue fatwas on television have already been selected by Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, while another 20 have been chosen by the Dar al-Iftaa.

The issue recently became the subject of fierce local media scrutiny following the issuance of several controversial fatwas on obscure and unregulated religious television programs.

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