Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—As the Egyptian government continues to crack down on the ousted Muslim Brotherhood, the Ministry of Awqaf (religious endowments) took control of several mosques controlled by the Islamist group on Friday.
The takeover comes three days after the government ordered the seizure of the assets of hundreds of Brotherhood members on suspicion of “funding terrorism.”
In place of Brotherhood preachers, Al-Azhar clerics delivered sermons at mosques across Egypt, including Al-Jala, and Al-Tawheed in Cairo and Dawah Al-Haq in Giza.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, a Ministry of Awqaf source said that Awqaf Minister Dr Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa has assigned imams licensed by the ministry to the mosques that used to belong to the Brotherhood’s charitable and social organizations.
In a statement released on Friday, the minister said: “Al-Azhar and the Awqaf ministry are ready to respond to any lack of preachers and to deliver Islam’s message of leniency and openness.”
Gomaa’s statement also addressed the recent cabinet decision to freeze the assets of over 1,000 NGOs accused of having links to the Brotherhood. Many in Egypt have expressed concerns freezing the charities’ funds would have an undue effect on the poor, who rely on those groups to provide basic services, particularly health care.
“The role of charities and social organizations in easing burdens off the poor is very significant,” he said.
Gomaa called for close monitoring of the financial transactions of charities, as well as a ban on any party from raising money without a permit from the government.
In a new sign of the growing rift between Islamists in Egypt, the Al-Dawa Al-Salafiya (Salafist Call) Organization cancelled a seminar by top Egyptian preacher Yasser Borhami, founder and spiritual head of the Nour Party, over threats from the Brotherhood supporters, a leading Salafist figure told Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity.
Borhami’s seminar was to be part of the Nour Party’s campaign to mobilize support for the 2013 draft constitution that will be submitted to a referendum on January 14–15.
“The seminar was cancelled [out of concern] for citizens’ safety and out fear of new bloodshed,” the source said.
Calls to attack Borhami had been circulated by several pro-Brotherhood activists on Facebook in the days before the seminar was cancelled.