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Egypt arrests Muslim influencer for promoting ‘proxy pilgrimage’ services   

September 7, 2023 at 11:21 am

Egyptian social media influencer Amir Mounir [@amirmounirofficial/Facebook]

Egyptian authorities arrested a social media influencer on Tuesday after he promoted an app charging users to perform Umrah (the lesser pilgrimage to Makkah) by proxy.

According to Middle East Eye (MEE), Amir Mounir, a “self-styled preacher”, was detained after a lawyer Hani Sameh lodged a complaint with the public prosecutor, accusing him of “committing crimes of receiving money, donations and Islamic preaching without a license from the Ministry of Endowments.”

Mounir, who has a following of 2.1 million on Instagram, describes himself in his bio as a “Pharmacist, mind builder, trainer and Islamic preacher.”

In a now-deleted Facebook video post, he sponsored and encouraged his followers to use a mobile phone app called Umrah Albadal (Umrah by proxy). According to the Google Play store, the app, launched in 2019, has been downloaded over 10,000 times and has an average rating of 3.2 stars, with many of the most recent reviewers rating it poorly and accusing it of being a scam.

The app reportedly allows users to pay for Umrah by proxy at a cost of 4,000 Egyptian pounds (around $130). The influencer also promised that this would be further discounted by using his promo codes.

Although performing Hajj or Umrah on behalf of someone else has been deemed permissible by scholars, in particular in cases where the person is unable to embark on the pilgrimage, for example due to terminal illness, old age or death, Egypt’s Al-Azhar Fatwa Global Centre yesterday issued a statement with a religious ruling against the monetising of Umrah by proxy.

“The general public’s disapproval and denunciation of such new ideas is evidence of the public’s awareness and their refusal to turn rituals and worship into a job or profession that is performed without spirit or invoking reverence,” the statement said.

READ: UAE charity sponsors Umrah trip for cancer patients