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Egypt religious cleric conflates Sisi's bread price rise with divine law

A bread seller walks in front of Al-Azhar Mosque in central Cairo on March 23, 2018. [FETHI BELAID/AFP via Getty Images]
A bread seller walks in front of Al-Azhar Mosque in central Cairo on March 23, 2018 [FETHI BELAID/AFP via Getty Images]

Ahmad Karima, a professor of Islamic law at Al-Azhar University, has conflated Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi's decision to raise the price of subsidised bread with divine law.

"The actions of the guardian or ruler are dependent on interests, and wherever the interest is, then that's where God's law is," Karima told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

"The president has his institutions and monitoring and oversight bodies. The time has come to correct the path of wasting people's money in a means of support that does not really reach the purpose for which it was set."

His comments to state-run media are part of the government's attempts to justify Al-Sisi's position.

On Tuesday, the strongman announced that he is overseeing a plan to raise the price of subsidised bread from five piasters.

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Speaking at the inauguration of the military-owned company Silo Food Industries, Al-Sisi said: "It is unreasonable that 20 loaves of bread are worth the price of one cigarette."

The move has sparked anger in Egypt where one third of the population lives below the poverty line and rely on subsidised food to feed their families.

A 2010 report by the World Bank said that food subsidies have had a significant impact on lowering poverty levels and lifted 90 per cent of Egyptians out of poverty in 2008 and 2009.

Some 66.7 million Egyptians have access to five loaves of subsidised bread a day, which cost 0.05 Egyptian pounds ($0.0032) per loaf.

Pasta and rice are also subsidised. The government's budget for subsidised food stands at around 87.2 billion Egyptian pounds ($5.55 billion).

In 1977 former President Anwar Sadat attempted to raise the price of subsidised bread and in response, Egyptians protested until he reversed the decision.

In August last year the Egyptian administration reduced the weight of a subsidised loaf of bread from 110 grams to 90 grams.

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