The Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shawki Allam, has issued a fatwa forbidding the purchasing of Facebook likes, declaring it contrary to Islamic law.
The Grand Mufti’s ruling was published on the Facebook page of Dar Al-Ifta Al-Misriyyah, an institution responsible for issuing religious decrees. He condemned the practice as fraudulent and deceptive, citing the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him)’s saying “he who deceives does not belong to me” to justify his ruling.
The fatwa specifically condemned the buying of likes on Facebook to build up followers in a way that does not reflect reality. His statement explained “if likes are fake, or electronically generated, and do not resemble real individuals, then that would be considered impermissible given that it’s a form of fraud.”
However, the Grand Mufti emphasised that the ruling does not prohibit promoting content more generally. His announcement read: “Boosting content is permissible in Sharia law as long as it’s in a manner to promote an account, a product, a page or a publication in order for the content to reach a certain number of users targeted in exchange for money.”
Allam’s ruling will raise eyebrows in light of the Egyptian elections held earlier this month. President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi was re-elected with a landslide victory, winning 97 per cent of the vote and crushing his only opposition, Moussa Mustafa Moussa, who himself expressed support for Al-Sisi. Many candidates who had previously expressed their intention to stand against Al-Sisi were forced to withdraw from the race in the face of increasingly stringent crackdowns, including Mohammed Anwar Sadat, nephew of the former Egyptian leader, Anwar Sadat. International observers, including the United Nations, expressed concern over this crackdown on dissent in the weeks running up to the vote.
Al-Sisi is no stranger to harvesting Facebook likes. His official Facebook page boasts 7.2 million likes, with an additional 1.7 million followers on Twitter. Given that official election figures state only 42 per cent of Egypt’s electorate turned out to vote, such figures seem unlikely to represent reality. The Grand Mufti made no reference to the President’s social media or electoral practices.
This is not the first time the Grand Mufti has spoken out against technology. Earlier this year, Allam issued a fatwa declaring that the buying and selling of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies was prohibited under Islam. He declared the practice equivalent to gambling and noted that the use of cryptocurrencies “impinges on the state’s authority in preserving currency exchange, as well as its necessary supervising measures on domestic and foreign financial activities,” according to Ahram Online.
The Grand Mufti is required to advise on the rulings of the Egyptian military courts. Last week, one military court issued preliminary death penalties for 36 of the 48 defendants accused of the church bombings in Alexandria and Tanta on Palm Sunday April 2017. The verdict awaits the Grand Mufti’s approval, although his decision is non-binding. A verdict is expected on 15 May.